Short Nerd Chief

Tribe-Royals Wrap: The Return of C.C. Edition

Posted by Fred on April 25, 2008

With a sweep of yesterday’s straight doubleheader (hooray for the old school twin bill, and not another of those day-night, can’t lose gate receipts even if it screws the fans travesties) and a sweep of the three-game set in KC, the Tribe secured their first three-game winning streak of the season.  The series showed flashes of the team everyone expected to see, with 25 runs scored in the first two games and some brilliant pitching.  C.C. Sabathia is starting to emerge from his April funk, throwing some good sliders on Tuesday night and striking out 11, and Cliff Lee just gets better with each start.

The Good

  1. Cliff Lee.  Everyone expected the Tribe to have a great 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation, but nobody expected it to be Sabathia and Lee.  Following an 8 inning, 2 hit, no run gem in his previous start, Lee outdid himself against the Royals, with a 3 hit, complete game shutout (the first of his career).  He struck out 9 and walked none.  For the season, he’s now 4-0 with an infinitesimal 0.28 ERA.  In his last two starts, he’s pitched 17 innings, giving up 5 hits and 0 ER while striking out 17 and walking none.  He’s got a ridiculous 29-2 K/BB ratio.  Perhaps most impressive was the bottom of the fifth – after giving up a leadoff double to Jose Guillen, Lee proceeded to strike out Billy Butler, Alex Gordon and Miguel Olivo to end the threat.  In that 16 pitch sequence, Lee threw 11 strikes.
  2. C.C. Sabathia.  C.C.’s two previous starts resulted in 18 ER, as Sabathia had serious control problems.  In six inning Tuesday night, the big lefthander struck out 11, giving up 4 hits and walking only 2.  Of his 102 pitches, 67% were strikes (only to be outdone two games later by Lee, who threw 72% of his 120 pitches for strikes).  Most encouraging for Tribe fans is that Sabathia rediscovered his slider, getting most of those 11 Ks on sliders.
  3. Rafael Betancourt.  In his first save opportunity since taking over for the injured and ineffective Joe Borowski, Betancourt gave up one hit in picking up the save.  For the series, he have up a hit and a walk while striking out 3 in two innings.  The bullpen generally pitched well, as Betancourt, Jensen Lewis, Masahide Kobayashi and Jorge Julio combined to pitch 7 innings, giving up a run on 4 hits, 2 walks and 3 strikeouts.  They didn’t give up any homers, which has been the downfall of the pen this year.
  4. Casey Blake. The offense was pretty good overall in this series, hitting .322 with 5 HR and 12 doubles, for a .894 OPS.  Blake had 6 hits and 8 RBI in his 8 AB, including two doubles and a grand slam.  After an incredibly slow start in which his average fell as low as .118, Casey is now hitting .250.

Honorable mention to most of the rest of the lineup.  David Dellucci hit .333 for the series, including the solo homer off Brian Bannister last night that was the difference in the game.  Grady Sizemore hit .357 with a .971 OPS, Jhonny Peralta hit .385 with a 1.077 OPS, and Victor Martinez hit .400 with a 1.000 OPS.

The Bad

  1. Rafael Perez.  While the rest of the bullpen was good, Perez had the one bad outing, managing to make the 9-6 victory in the opening game of the doubleheader closer than it should have been.  Perez allowed 2 runs on 3 hits and a walk in one inning, with the big blast coming on Miguel Olivo’s 2-run homer.
  2. Ryan Garko and Travis Hafner.  While Garko has been one of the Tribe’s few consistent hitters in 2008, he didn’t fare well against the Royals, with just one hit in 13 AB.  Hafner didn’t do much better, with just 3 hits in 14 AB. 

The Ugly

  1. Fausto Carmona.  The resurgence of Cliff Lee couldn’t have come at a better time, as Carmona continues to have trouble locating his sinker.  While his previous start was better, Fausto reverted to form yesterday, walking 4 and giving up 9 hits in 5 innings.  He picked up the win thanks to an offensive outburst, but he’s walking way too many hitters, and won’t always be able to rely on the timely double play ball.  For the year, Carmona has walked 22 in 28 innings over 5 starts.  His WHIP stands at 1.714, up half a runner per inning over 2007.

Up next: the Indians return home for four games against the Yankees in a rematch of the 2007 ALDS.  Paul Byrd (0-2, 4.43 ERA) faces Andy Pettitte (3-1, 2.45) in the opener.  Two youngsters take the mound on Saturday, with Jeremy Sowers called up from Buffalo to fill in for the injured Jake Westbrook.  He’ll be opposed by Ian Kennedy (0-2, 9.64), who needed 86 pitches to get through 2 innings. Sunday is a battle of putative aces, with C.C. Sabathia (1-3, 10.13) facing Chien-Ming Wang (4-0, 3.94).  The doubleheader in KC means that Monday’s finale pits spot starter Aaron Laffey against Mike Mussina (2-3, 4.94).  Laffey was a six-year-old living in Cumberland, MD when Mussina made his debut with the Orioles in 1991.

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