Reporting Matt Loede
CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – Indians players and coaches trotted back into the locker room at Progressive Field Thursday ready to face the second half of the 2012 season and make a run for an AL Central Title.
The club at 44-41 sits three games behind the White Sox for the division lead, and with still lots of divisional games left with the Tigers and Chicago, the Indians have a great shot to win the division simply by playing well against those two foes.
It won’t be easy, and to a man Thursday the sense was the team didn’t play their best baseball in the first half, something they vow to reach in the final two and half months of 2012.
“We wanna be more consistent with out hitting and I wanna see our pitching improve,” Tribe manager Manny Acta said. “I think we’re in the right path with the way (Justin) Masterson and Ubaldo (Jimenez) are throwing the ball, but can’t sit here and saying that being next to last in pitching is going to get it done.”
The Indians are 28th of 30 teams in pitching in baseball, with just the Twins and Rockies behind them. The teams ERA is at 4.50, and opposing clubs are hitting .259 against them.
The pitching at times during the season has been very good, and lately minus a poor outing on Friday the two aces of the staff – Masterson and Jimenez, have both stepped up.
Combine that with a pen that boasts two of the best in the game in setup man Vinnie Pestano and closer Chris Perez, it looks like things for the Indians could be positive as the second half starts.
“I think we are definitely in a good spot, we haven’t played up to our potential yet,” catcher Lou Marson said. “We’ve got to get both pitching and hitting clicking at the same time. I know that’s hard to do, but I think everything is going good right now we just need to stay consistent.”
The “C” word, in this case “consistent” seems to pop up over and over for the 2012 Indians. Win a few, lose a few, and that’s why the team is only 3 games over .500.
Second basemen Jason Kipnis, who could have been an AL All-Star, knows that in order to get wins in bunches, the team will need all three phases of their game going at once.
“You could tell by the games that we played and by our wins it’s not always complete games,” Kipnis said. “If we can get of our pitching and defense and our hitting all going at the same time we will be winning a lot of games in a row.”
The Indians are hitting as a team .258, and just like the pitching have been at stretches very good. The problem again is that dreaded “C” word, and that’s being consistent.
“We’re going to have to be consistent in the second half and play fundamentally sound baseball,” first basemen Casey Kotchman said.
If the Indians play as well as they did near the end of the first half, it could make for an exciting finish to the 2012 campaign. They went 7-4 over their last 11, and if Perez could have closed the door like he should have Sunday it would have been 8-3.
The club needs to play better, something even struggling outfielder Johnny Damon knows, and he knows that winning the division is an all or nothing proposition for the Indians this year.
“Our whole thing it seems is to try and go out and win the division,” Damon said. “It seems that the wild card is going to be coming out of the West and the East, so we need to go out and win the division and play better and hit better with runners in scoring position.”
It all starts with that “C” word again – and that’s being more consistent over the last 79 games of the regular season.