Indians give another reason to feel good

CLEVELAND — That’s more like it.

Indians fans everywhere are likely feeling that way after watching their team dismantle Kansas City by a 9-4 count Tuesday.

It was a win the Indians needed — for themselves, for their fans, for all those wondering if The Big Collapse was ready to move full steam ahead.

Prior to Tuesday, the Indians had lost three straight. One of those losses was really bad (10-3 at Minnesota).

The other two made you speculate they aren’t equipped to overcome mistakes (3-2 at Kansas City, and 4-3 at Minnesota).

All of it led to the theory that the real Indians were finally standing up. They’re mostly young, with no real power in the lineup and a questionable rotation.

At least, that’s what the detractors have been saying.

And why not?

This team wasn’t supposed to be any good. It sure wasn’t supposed to be leading the AL Central over the likes of Chicago and Minnesota. Not now, not ever.

Nor were the Indians expected to receive anything special from the likes of third baseman Jack Hannahan, starter Justin Masterson or even supposedly washed-up designated hitter Travis Hafner.

But all Hannahan did was hit two home runs Tuesday. All Masterson did was improve to 5-0 after striking out seven and allowing three runs in 6 2/3 innings. Not bad, when you consider the right-hander started 0-5 last season on his way to a 6-13 finish.

As for Hafner, he was hardly a hero on this night, finishing just 1-for-3 with a double. But the timeliness of his hits and his overall leadership cannot be overlooked. Plus, in the previous 10 games, Hafner is batting .424 (14-for-33) with two homers and four RBI.

Of course, let’s not forget about Grady Sizemore. The Indians’ centerfielder missed most of last season following micro-fracture knee surgery in June. But he’s been outstanding in eight games this year, compiling a .407 average. That includes Tuesday’s 3-for-4 performance, in which he homered, doubled and drove in two runs.

The best news of all is the Indians actually looked ready to fold Tuesday — and didn’t. They built a 2-0 lead after three innings, before Masterson’s struggles in the fourth resulted in a 2-all tie.

Later, they built the lead to 7-3 (behind home runs from Matt LaPorta and Shin-Soo Choo), only to have reliever Tony Sipp load the bases with no outs. In came Vinnie Pestano, who retired three straight via two pop-ups and a strikeout.

There are other reasons to feel excited about this year’s team, now 14-8 and riding an eight-game winning streak at Progressive Field:

* The Indians last won eight in a row at home in 2007, when they won 96 games. Last year, they won their eighth home game May 25.

* The Indians are also 11-2 when they score first.

* As for Masterson, the last time an Indians starter won each of his first five games was in 2008. That pitcher’s name? Cliff Lee.

* Masterson didn’t win his fifth game last season until late August — in his 26th start. Today, he owns an ERA of 2.18.

Now for the bad news.

Despite the fact the Indians are in first place, played fairly well on their recent road trip and have been nearly unstoppable at home, they still aren’t drawing a crowd.

Tuesday ‘s announced attendance was a mere 9,650, which was likely only slightly better than the minor-league hockey game taking place across the street.

Still, every last member of the Indians will tell you that if you build it, they will come. And right now, their sole motivation is to keep on playing like a contender.

“It’s a matter of us not looking too far into the future,” LaPorta said. “We still have a long season ahead of us and we still have to do our work and focus.”

As for the fact it’s only April, well, the Indians aren’t going to let that bother them, either.

“Despite how early it is, we’re happy about it,” manager Manny Acta said.

Right now, so are Indians fans everywhere.