It certainly looks like “Team Streak” is alive and well this year.
A nickname given to the Cleveland Indians last season due to their being constantly prone to stretches of either very good or really bad baseball, it once again looks like it could be an appropriate label for the club this season, too. A perfect example is the Tribe’s play coming out of the All-Star break.
The team came out of the break taking three of four games from the AL Central leading Detroit Tigers. Optimism surged, then deflated when Cleveland lost a series to the last place Minnesota Twins during a skid in which they only won three of ten games. But, things were great again when the Indians swept the miserable Texas Rangers this past weekend, then opened up the week with a 7-1 pounding of the Cincinnati Reds. However, Team Streak struck again, as the Tribe lost the next three to the Reds, getting outscored 21-5 in the process.
Somehow, by the grace of the baseball gods perhaps, Cleveland is still hanging in there despite all this. As bad as the past couple weeks have been, the Indians are only 6.5 games behind Detroit, and four games back in the wild card race. At the same time, it’ll all result in nothing if Cleveland can’t get its act together and start playing consistent baseball.
The Indians have been playing like a bipolar team more often than not this season. Other than ace Corey Kluber, it seems every starting pitcher will follow up a solid outing with a shoddy one. Josh Tomlin looked great when he made his season debut earlier this year, but now whenever he takes the mound, it’s not if he gives up a home run, but when. Danny Salazar, expected to make a big leap this season, struggled early on, was optioned to the minors, recently returned and pitched well, but got roughed up Wednesday night and was sent down to AAA again.
Of course, this lack of stability isn’t just focused on pitching. Throughout the year, the Indians’ offense has had nights where they tear the seams off the ball, followed by games in which you’re forced to wonder if they’re batting with toothpicks. If you were to go back through this year’s schedule and find a game where Cleveland won by double digits, odds are strong they barely scratched two runs across the board the very next night.
Again, though, despite all of this the Indians are still hanging in there. The team was even farther back going into the final month of last season before ripping through September. At the same time, Cleveland can’t just crawl into the last stretch of the year with the assumption of “well, we did it last year, we can just do it again.”
The Indians need to collectively get on the right track, and fast. There are plenty of winnable games throughout August, but September opens with two series against the Tigers within the first two weeks.
The team as a whole needs more balance in both hitting and pitching. If they can settle into a good groove in these last two months, the club could make a return to the postseason. If they can’t, however, it’ll ultimately be a big step back for a team who gave their city plenty of hope with last year’s playoff appearance.