Going into a three game series with Detroit, the Indians guarantee they will only be losing to teams from the Central Division for the rest of the year. Since the Indians are out of it and I hate the idea of a team trying for a high draft pick, I like to set personal goals for Indians just to make the season a little more interesting. A few of these I have already stated, like Masterson getting to .500 and the Indians winning at least 63 games (just three wins away now). Here are a few more goals for these last few weeks:
- Keep the Tigers out of the playoffs. While the White Sox are almost as big a rival to the Indians as the Tigers, at least they didn't buy their whole team based on which NL All-Stars were becoming free agents. Some of the White Sox most successful players have been with them for years (Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski are two) and a lot of others are young players playing extremely well. They should be rewarded for building their team the right way and not causing unnecessary market inflation and discrepancy. The Indians have this series against the Tigers and two more against Chicago so they will have a huge say in who goes home with the Central Division title. Hopefully they will make sure it is the right team.
- Make final decisions on old, young players. Players that are out of options like Matt LaPorta, David Huff and others will need to be signed to the 25 man roster in 2013 or lost to waivers. If the Indians can decide now whether to keep or lose these players they can be used in trades or outright released before next season begins. This would allow them to get some value out of them rather than paying for them as an invitee to Spring Training and releasing them in April. Huff will be making Jeanmar Gomez's next start, while LaPorta, Vinny Rottino, Russ Canzler and Scott Maine have all found themselves getting into games of late. Decisions need to be made on these and a score of other AAAA players as soon as possible.
- At least attempt to get Chris Perez the Indians single season saves record. Perez currently sits with 36 saves, just 10 away from the record. At the half way point in the year he was on an easy pace to break the record and push it into the 50s, but then the Indians collapsed. If there are two blameless people in this collapse they are Perez and Vinnie Pestano (who already has the single season holds record). With 18 games left it is basically impossible, but with most of those games against the Royals and Twins, they could definitely string off a few wins to end the season.
- I would like to see Travis Hafner get at least one more at bat with the Cleveland Indians before he is allowed to become a free agent. If he can't come back before the last series, he should at least be used as a pinch hitter or DH during that last series against the White Sox. He is the greatest DH in Indians history and deserves a respectful departure.
As these goals become impossible I will probably come up with a few more for each series through the rest of the year.
A rain out in Chicago took away what could have been the game of the year in the Central Division with Justin Verlander going against the White Sox new ace, Chris Sale, so instead we get this terrific match-up against Corey Kluber. The good news is that unlike the White Sox (Verlander is 2-0 with a 1.64 ERA against Chicago), the Indians can beat Verlander. This year they have won both games he has pitched in despite Verlander striking out 11 in 15 innings and allowing just 3 earned runs per start. Of course in his other match-ups he has faced a little higher profile pitcher than Corey Kluber, but it should be a good test for the young starter. Like they say, a starting pitcher isn't really playing against the opposing starter, but the opposing hitters. So Kluber doesn't really have to face Verlander, just Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and the rest of those monsters. Good luck, kid.
Continuing with one of my main goals for the Indians this year, Masterson is now down to four starts left and needs to win at least two of them to reach that .500 plateau. In doing this if he could also maintain an ERA under 5.00 it would be fantastic. Masterson has pitched worse against the Tigers than Verlander has against the Tribe, but he has opposite results, going 2-1 in his three starts. The Indians have played well against Detroit all season and winning this game (and possibly the series) would put at least one small bright point on an absolutely terrible year.
Familiarity breeds contempt and the Indians and Tigers play each other a lot. Like Verlander, Porcello has pitched against the Indians twice this year and lost both games. Like Masterson, he has pitched poorly with an ERA of almost 6.00 and a WHIP just under 2.00. Ubaldo was great his last time out, but his tendency to put two bad starts between every good one makes the Indians wonder if his last start will be his last good start of the year. If he can manage to keep things under control for at least this game, the Indians should be able to beat Porcello, a feat they have already accomplished twice, and possibly win this series.