The amount of times I’ve found myself saying “ok, this is finally the turning point for the Cleveland Indians” this year, only to watch the team fall apart immediately afterwards is almost too high to count.
There was the game against the Toronto Blue Jays in which the Tribe fell behind 6-1 and rallied to win. The hot streak the team ran off in the month of May. Two separate blowout victories over a Detroit Tigers team which Cleveland always seems to make look like gods.
Each time, you thought this particular moment would spark the Indians. This would finally shake this underperforming team out of its doldrums and get it playing up to its potential. And each time, Cleveland fell back off the rails, often in the very next game.
So, when I find myself starting to think the same thing after the Indians wrapped up an impressively one-sided four-game sweep of the Tampa Bay Rays, it makes me a little nervous. Eight games out of first place, the door isn’t completely shut on Cleveland, but there’s minimal room for error. Back-to-back series against two very good teams in the Pittsburgh Pirates and Houston Astros await the Indians after their surprising performance against Tampa.
Here we are once again, asking if maybe, just maybe, Cleveland is finally about to turn the corner.
One thing is certainly clear; if the Indians choke on this chance to build significant momentum, they may not have many opportunities left this season. Yes, this past series against the Rays has helped the team regain some ground after their miserable performance against the Baltimore Orioles last weekend. At the same time, Cleveland is still below .500, still slogging through the mess they made in the first three months of the season.
Simply put, if the Indians truly want to make a run for the postseason, they cannot afford to follow up this past series by falling on their faces yet again. One more funk, yet another stretch of games where the idea of scoring runs is on par with scaling Mount Everest, and it could all but finish Cleveland off.
There’s certainly enough fuel for the team coming from their victories over Tampa. The pitching was phenomenal, from yet another impressive outing by call-up Cody Anderson to Carlos Carrasco coming within one strike of a no-hitter. The offense, which seemed beyond lifeless coming into the series, lit up Tampa pitching. Overall, Cleveland outscored the Rays 26-8 in four games.
Four straight wins is impressive enough for the Indians. However, pulling them off so convincingly is an incredible feat for a team that hardly looked capable of doing such a thing.
But, can Cleveland sustain anything from this?
If the Indians storm out of Tampa, then stumble their way through the next few series, this sweep will mean absolutely nothing. It’ll be a mere highlight in an otherwise disastrous year for a team many expected more from. It’s incredibly tough to believe the Tribe could head into the All-Star break more than seven-to-eight games back and still have a shot at clinching a postseason berth.
This is why a handful of players shifted from the “it’s still early” excuses to “we’re running out of time” after barely showing up in Baltimore. It’s why coach Terry Francona held a team meeting this past Monday, deciding against doing so the day before in order to let his emotions cool down. The writing is on the wall, and it’s time for the Indians to put up or shut up.
As mentioned, there’s a lot to love about how Cleveland opened this week. The effort they put forth in the past four games is definitely enough to make you wonder if the team is legitimately getting its act together and prepping for a run. Of course, we’ve wondered this before more than a few times this season, and we all know how it played out then.
Time is of the essence for Cleveland. If they’re going to actually start living up to their preseason hype, if they actually want to show the league they’re indeed hitting their turning point, now is the time to do it.