Indians show that contenders should worry

CLEVELAND — At this point, you have no choice but to be amazed by what you see.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a Cleveland Indians fan. It doesn’t matter if you’re among the Boston Red Sox fans who roared loudly on Monday night at Progressive Field. Heck, it doesn’t even matter if you like baseball.

Anyone who refers to the Indians simply as “hot” after their 3-2 victory over the Red Sox just doesn’t get it.

This team isn’t hot. This team is darn good. This team is the first in all of baseball to reach 30 wins. This team beat what was expected to be a World Series contender for the fourth time in four tries. This team had every reason to lose (again), using a makeshift lineup after a weekend sweep of Cincinnati.

The Indians weren’t phoning it in, but they were without Grady Sizemore (disabled list), Travis Hafner (ditto) and, for all but one at-bat, Carlos Santana (resting).

They were up against Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz, who was pitching a gem. They were losing, in the rain, in a game that very well could have been called when they trailed 2-1.

Actually, rain or not, the Indians seemed to want the night off. They seemed to be saying, “Hey, we just swept the Reds. Let’s chill.”

They do that a lot. Not take nights off, but lull you into thinking that it’s just not their night.

They’ve done it to the Tigers, the Mariners, the Royals, the Reds – name the opponents, and chances are, the Indians have come from behind to beat them.

So welcome to the club, Red Sox.

What makes this so intriguing isn’t the fact the Indians have beaten the Red Sox four times in four tries. Although that is impressive.

More fascinating is the idea that maybe the Red Sox need to start worrying about the Indians. Actually, there are no maybes about it. The Red Sox should be concerned. So should the Yankees, or any other team with grand plans to escape the American League.

Truth is, the Tribe is for real. And barring repeated major injuries, you can plan on this lasting for a while.

After all, it’s not like the Red Sox limped into Cleveland. They’ve had a remarkable May after a dreadful start, looking like the high-achieving (and high-priced) club everyone said they would be.

Even so, they haven’t been as good as the Indians. During a season in which every other AL club seems content to hover around .500, the Indians are starting to run away with things.

They are 19-4 at home – matching the 2007 team for the best start in franchise history after 23 games.

They have won eight games at Progressive Field in their final at-bat – and seven of those last at-bat wins have come in their past nine home victories.

They are 8-0 in home games decided by a run – and on Monday, they did it to a team that prides itself in putting games away.

That’s confidence, that’s clutch and, if you’re an Indians fan, that’s just plain cool.

What makes all of this so strange is the fact the Indians are proving to be a deep team, with a new hero emerging almost daily. That’s a different story than the one reported at the start of the season, when everyone insisted the Indians had few worthwhile starters and an even worse bench.

Then again, nobody expected Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera to start acting like Derek Jeter.

Cabrera finished 3-for-4 with a double, home run and two RBI, including one on his final at-bat (an eighth-inning two-out double that drove in Michael Brantley).

And after riding a 7-for-7 streak into the middle of Monday’s game, Cabrera now has nine hits in his past 11 plate appearances. Or try this on for size: Cabrera already has 10 homers this season. For the rest of his entire career, he has 18.

Of course, he’s just one of many storylines involving these Indians. Another is starter Justin Masterson, who surrendered four hits and two runs Monday. It was another better-than-solid outing for a man who is having one whale of a year.

There is so much more to discuss, so much more worth noting. But now it’s time to believe we’ll have all summer to do it.

Because these Indians aren’t going away anytime soon. And the Red Sox and other supposed challengers would be wise to accept that right now.

Follow Sam Amico on Twitter @SamAmicoFSO