Thursday, April 7, 2011

4-2? Who knew?

Two games into the 2011 season the Indians' record was 0-2, and they were looking at a schedule for the remainder of the homestand that included one more game with the White Sox, who had scored 23 runs in the first two games against the Indians, and then three games with the Red Sox, picked by many to win the American League pennant.

But the Indians went 4-0 in those games, and a homestand that started out looking like it would be a nightmare turned out to be anything but. In fact, Indians officials couldn't have drawn up a more encouraging four-game sequence to end the homestand.

In those four games the Indians pitched well, they got some timely hitting, they were fundamentally sound, and they caught the ball. True, it's only four games, but as former Indians manager Mike Hargrove liked to say, it sure beats the alternative.

Probably the most encourging part of that encouraging finish to the homestand was the work of the pitching staff. Starters Justin Masterson, Josh Tomlin, Mitch Talbot, and Fausto Carmona all pitched well, and, in the case of Masterson, Tomlin, and Carmona - really well. Also, the bullpen came up big, getting big outs at important times during the games.

The starting rotation was the biggest question mark coming into the season. but in the season-opening homestand, the Indians got good work from their starting pitcher in four of the six games. The Indians will gladly take that percentage for the rest of the season, because when you get good starting pitching it gives your hitters a chance to win it, and it keeps your bullpen from being overworked.

Again, it's just one week's worth of games. But the early returns on the pitching staff, and on the team overall, are very encouraging. That's especially so given the fact that the Indians played two quality opponents, and won four of six games under less than ideal weather conditions.

After Thursday's win Manager Manny Acta was clearly very happy about how his team played during the homestand. Acta desperately wants the Indians to show some progress in the early weeks of the season, and in their first six games they did. Acta himself had a very good homestand. Most of his moves worked out, his lineups worked, his pinch hitting calls and pitching changes were right on, and his gamble on a suicide squeeze in the eighth inning Thursday won the game for the Indians.

All in all, the Indians couldn't have been happier with how the first week of the season went. Now, let's see if they can do on the road.


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