With the trade of the AL’s reigning Cy Young Award winner two weeks ago, the Cleveland Indians were essentially throwing in the towel on a season once filled with promise.
Now they’re playing like they raised the white flag too soon.
The Indians, baseball’s hottest team over the last eight games, will look for their fourth straight win and eighth in nine games on Tuesday when they continue their road series with the Los Angeles Angels, the majors’ best team.
Cleveland (44-54) had lost eight straight games when it traded impending free agent CC Sabathia to Milwaukee on July 7, opting to get prospects for their ace pitcher instead of risking losing him to free agency and getting draft picks.
That deal, combined with injuries to starters Fausto Carmona and Jake Westbrook, along with offensive stars Victor Martinez and Travis Hafner, have derailed the Indians’ hopes for a return trip to the playoffs and a shot at their first World Series title in 60 years.
Cleveland’s slide eventually reached 10 games, but it has since turned the team’s longest losing streak in 29 years practically on its head. The Indians have won seven of eight, including five wins against the teams with the two best records in baseball.
“This lineup can still do some damage, but we have to keep doing what we did tonight when we get good pitches to hit,” Blake said.
The Indians have scored 53 runs in their last eight games after scoring just 34 in their previous eight. Blake has helped lead the way, hitting .355 (11-for-31) with three homers and 10 RBIs over that stretch.
Cleveland’s offense will face Jered Weaver (8-8, 4.03 ERA) for the first time this season on Tuesday. Weaver has pitched well over the last month, going 2-1 with a 1.46 ERA, though he’ll be making his first start in nearly two weeks.
Weaver was last on the mound July 9 in Texas, where he gave up two runs over six innings, allowing six hits and working out of a number of jams. He was in line for his ninth win before a rare blown save from Francisco Rodriguez, who’s 40 for 43 in save opportunities, resulted in a 5-4 loss.
“It was one of those nights where I had to make my pitches,” Weaver told the Angels’ official Web site. “I got myself in trouble, so I had to try to keep the ball in the park.”
His counterpart will be journeyman Matt Ginter (1-0, 0.00), who was pressed into making a spot start on July 12 with Sabathia gone and Carmona and Westbrook still injured.
Ginter, who hadn’t pitched in the majors since 2005, did well in that outing, striking out five in five shutout innings against Tampa Bay. The Indians won 8-4, and Ginter got his first victory since May 21, 2004.
“If you’ve got a uniform on, you’ve got a chance,” Ginter told Cleveland’s official Web site. “As long as you go out there and do what you can do, they’ll see that and give you another chance.”
For Ginter, however, this may be his last chance this season. He’ll likely be the odd man out in the rotation come Saturday, when Carmona is expected to return after two months on the DL.
The Angels haven’t lost consecutive home games to the same opponent since losing to Atlanta on June 13 and 14.