Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Jacobs Field Magic

After a laughable series in Washington over the weekend, my faith in the Tribe was a bit shaky coming into a four game series against Oakland. I don't care who you are, but a matchup of Cliff Lee versus Dan Haren in Game 2 isn't going to inspire much confidence. Mr. Haren hasn't had much luck in Cleveland over his career though, so there was still a ray of hope going in. The suddenly resurgent Tribe offense maintained their consistent approach against the American League's best pitching staff, racking up 8 hits, 4 walks and 3 runs against Haren, he of the 1.78 era and .90 whip.

The Tribe led 3-1 in the 3rd inning, but Cliff "can't hold a" Lee coughed it right back up an inning later. Despite a couple frustrating innings tonight, Lee continued to show off the breaking pitches from his last few starts. The A's hitters were frustrated all night with his curveball, creating 11 flyball outs. If Lee stays on course with his pitch selection and approach he should continue to be an effective fifth starter this year. It's nice to see him avoid the big inning and give his team a chance to win lately. If he can't go 7 innings, the least he can do is keep the run totals to a minimum.

Oakland brought out former Indian, Alan Embree for the 9th inning to close it out. Grady drew a 1 out walk, but nearly got doubled off first after a near double by Blake was reeled in by Shannon Stewart in left field. Grady had to go into warp speed to get back around second and avoid making the final out at first.

Now, as lame as it may sound, Jacobs Field seems to have gotten its old aura back this season. Cleveland fans know what I'm talking about, the feeling you get with your team down late in the game: top of the lineup on deck, the closer looks rattled, the crowd gets to its feet, Jon Adams' booming rally cry floats down from the bleachers, rally caps on. That aura. Mojo, swagger, grit, call it what you want, but the Jake has a ton of the stuff floating around right now. Crazy stuff happens at Jacobs Field when the offense is capable of exploding at any moment.

So, Grady and Victor on base and Pronk steps off the path he's been wearing down between the dugout and the deck. Embree tosses a fastball inside, which Pronk smokes down the alley in right-center to plate the two runners and tie it at 5 all. Oakland intentionally walks Peralta to face either Rouse or a player off the bench (there's only one left). Wedge calls up the backup catcher Shoppach to pinch hit. Shoppach may as well be Pronk Lite at this point, batting .373 with a 1.074 OPS on the season. But Embree has no choice but to pitch to him now, since he wanted no part of Jhonny Peralta.

The second pitch from Embree flies waist high, down the middle and Shoppach doesn't miss. The Jake watches Shoppach shoot the moon over the mini-monster for a walk-off 3 run homer. Shoppach races across the diamond, fist pumping as the Indian's dugout gathers around homeplate. Shoppach heads home and gets absolutely mugged by his teammates; it's a good thing he's not catching tomorrow because he's going to be sore. As the mob migrates towards the mound, poor Paul Byrd gets knocked down along with several other players, but no one seems to mind.

I really can't remember the last time the team was so charged up. If this game doesn't spark the offense somehow, nothing will. With Carmona pitching tomorrow, this team has got to be confident as hell.

This is why I love baseball. Go Tribe.


Cleveland seems to have put a hit out on the game's best pitchers this year, beating Johan Santana twice and the red-hot Cole Hamels and Dan Haren. It's a long season, but Cleveland has continued to play some of its best baseball against the league's elite pitchers, which is quite a bold statement.

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