The Indians might well feel a little deflated after the last two games of their West Coast trip, but looking at that trip as a whole, it was still a success, as Cleveland followed a 4-2 season-opening homestand with a 4-2 road trip. And of course it is an axiom in baseball that teams hope to go .500 on the road and clean up at home.
So far, in a small sampling of games, the Tribe is ahead of the curve.
On the other hand, this weekend’s opponent — the Baltimore Orioles — have to be a little frustrated, after dropping two straight in New York in a rain-shortened series against the Yankees. Last night’s game was particularly tough, as Baltimore had a 5-0 lead in the fifth, only to see New York battle all the way back, finally tying the game in the bottom of the ninth on a home run off of the Orioles’ closer, Kevin Gregg, and then winning it in the bottom of the tenth, giving Baltimore four straight losses since a 6-1 start.
However, it is not going to be easy for the Indians this weekend, as Baltimore is sending a trio of pitchers with low ERA’s, including a rookie tonight who is undefeated and has an ERA well under 1.00.
Zach Britton is that rookie. In two games this season — the only two games of his major league career — Britton is 2-0 with an 0.66 ERA. The first of those wins came against Tampa Bay on April 3, when Britton went six innings and gave up only one run on three hits and was the winner in his big league debut.
The next time out Britton was even more impressive. In 7 2/3 innings he allowed only four hits and no runs to the Texas Rangers, who can put runs on the board in a hurry. But Britton solved the Rangers and the Indians will have to make the most of opportunities tonight, unlike what they did — or didn’t do — in their 12-inning loss to the Angels on Wednesday.
The Tribe will counter with Justin Masterson, who has also gotten out of the gate fast in 2011. Masterson has defeated the White Sox and the Mariners, amassing 13 1/3 innings of work and allowing two earned runs on eleven hits for a 1.35 ERA. Masterson has walked only three and has fanned nine in the early going of the season, and has to be counted as a pleasant surprise.
Britton’s strikeout numbers are not overpowering — eight K’s in his nearly 14 innings — but these two pitchers, thus far, have been very similar in their results, and in how they achieved those results.
The opener of this someone-has-to-bust-out-of-their-losing-streak series should be a good one. Let us hope that, at the end of the evening, it will be The Good Guys celebrating as they leave the field.
Let us also hope that a few thousand more fans show up than showed up for their last five home games.