Schedule might provide Indians some relief

DETROIT — The Cleveland Indians say their recent slide is not a collapse. It just might fit some of the qualifications of a calamity, though.
Sunday brought another loss to Detroit, giving the Tigers a three-game sweep and sending the Indians off to Texas with seven straight losses and 15 in the last 19 games.
With this one, though, there was insult involved.
Don Kelly, whose batting average was .188 as he stood at the plate, golfed a three-run home run off Justin Masterson in the sixth to give Detroit a 4-1 lead.
That was the final margin, as the Indians could do little against Jose Alvarez, who was making his major league debut. Alvarez got the win in his first try in the majors by limiting the Indians to one run in six innings — then was sent right back to the minors.
After the game, there wasn’t much to say, or ask.
Manager Terry Francona addressed the home run off Masterson, which he said wasn’t a mistake but good hitting by Kelly, and the fact that the Indians tried to do too much against Alvarez.
“We were getting rollover ground balls and things like that,” Francona said.
What to do?
Francona could call a meeting, though before the game he said he only does that if the meeting would be helpful.
“When I was young, immature, I’d have a team meeting and scream and the only person it helped was me,” he said.
He talked of a meeting in Philadelphia when he screamed at his Phillies team, then came back and asked coach Brad Mills what he had said.
“Millsie said, ‘I have no idea, and neither does anybody else,’” Francona said.
He also remembered a meeting with the Cubs when Dallas Green was GM and as a young player just called up Francona was advised not to sit in the front of the room.
“After that meeting I was like, ‘Thank God I was in the back,’” Francona said. “I’ve never seen 25 guys so scared. I mean, veteran players. I was terrified. If that was what the meeting was supposed to be about (he) accomplished it, ‘cause I  was scared to death.
“Stuff was flying everywhere.”
Did it help?
“We weren’t very good,” Francona said.
Which of course begs the question: Are the Indians any good?
Was the 18-4 stretch and 27-19 start another mirage?
Was that the real Indians team, or is it the one that has been slogging through the past few weeks with poor starting pitching and without timely hits?
A year ago the Indians fell apart after losing 11 in a row in August. That wasn’t supposed to happen again, but now they’ve lost 11 in a row on the road for the first time since 1991. It’s hard not to think it would be called a freefall if there weren’t 100 games left.
The Rangers are next, and the last three seasons in Texas the Indians are 3-9.
The half-full explanation is that the slogging on the field has coincided with a tough stretch of games, and the schedule eases up considerably after Texas.
The last seven series have been against winning teams (the Tigers, Yankees, Rays, Reds, Reds, Red Sox and Tigers). That is the stretch that has produced the 4-15 record.
From Monday on, the Indians play just 30 games in the remaining 100 against teams that (presently) have a winning record. Of their 31 series, only nine are against winning teams.
The fact that the Indians have not been winning against good teams might not bode well; teams have to beat everyone they play.
But it remains a fact that they are in the meat grinder of the schedule. Folks with the team knew the stretch that started May 21 and will end Wednesday night would not be easy. They just never figured it would be this difficult.
It’s too early to say the season is over.
“This is not last year nor will it be,” Francona said.
It’s also too soon to say this team is looking at a crisis.
But it sure is at a crossroads.