The Indians concluded on Sunday a nine-game trip that looked extremely daunting following their 1-4 season-opening home stand. However, the Indians pulled it together and played much better on the road, going 7-2 despite a 5-1 loss to Oakland on Sunday in the last game.
The Indians swept a three-game series in Kansas City, then won two of three games in both Seattle and Oakland. It’s the first time since 1988 that the Indians have won their first three road series.
The key was offense. In losing four of five home games to open the season, the Indians averaged just four runs per game. In the first five games of the trip, they averaged nine runs, and they scored an average of six in all nine games.
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The ring leader was DH Travis Hafner, who is in the final year of his four-year, $57 million contract. Through most of the contract, Hafner has struggled with injuries, which resulted in a drastic reduction in his offensive production.
But Hafner is off to his best start in years. He is hitting .357, with an American League-leading .509 on-base percentage. Another key for the Indians has been their patience at the plate. They are averaging just over five walks per game, and their season total of 76 leads the major leagues.
A final key to the trip was the fact that the Indians played three teams that are not considered to be playoff contenders: Kansas City, Seattle and Oakland. However, the Indians also played most of the trip without All-Star shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, who missed the last six games to return to his native Venezuela due to the death of his grandfather.
Masterson has lost command
–RHP Justin Masterson has been very shaky since striking out 10, walking one and giving up one run on two hits in eight innings on Opening Day. In his last three starts, including his loss to Oakland on Sunday, Masterson is 0-2 with a 9.88 ERA, with 11 walks and 21 hits allowed in 13 2/3 innings. “He’s struggled with his command,” manager Manny Acta said. “It’s all about attacking the strike zone.”
–C Carlos Santana, who finished third in the American League with 97 walks last year, is tied for second this year with 13. The Indians, who finished 17th in the majors in walks last year, lead with 76 this year.
–DH Travis Hafner is in the last year of his contract and is off to a great start in trying to reverse his mediocre numbers from the last few years. Hafner has reached base in 14 of his last 18 plate appearances, is hitting .357 and leads the American League with a .509 on-base percentage.
–RHP Chris Perez blew a three-run lead in his first save situation of the season, on Opening Day. But since then Perez is 6-for-6 in save situations and has held opposing batters to a .130 average.
–LHP David Huff has been activated off the disabled list and optioned to Class AAA Columbus. Huff had been on the DL since March 30 with a strained right hamstring. In a rehab start for Class AA Akron on April 20, he pitched four scoreless innings and gave up one hit and one walk while striking out three.
BY THE NUMBERS: 24 — Number of years it had been since the Indians won their first three road series, which they did this year in going 7-2 on the trip to Kansas City, Seattle and Oakland that ended Sunday.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “I couldn’t be prouder of my little cowboy.” — Manager Manny Acta, on Texas-born RHP Josh Tomlin, who on April 19 pitched eight innings and got the win, 2-1 vs. Seattle, whose starting pitcher was former Cy Young RHP Felix Hernandez.
–LHP David Huff (right hamstring strain) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 30. He began a rehab assignment with Class AA Akron on April 20, and he was activated and optioned to Class AAA Columbus on April 22.
–OF Grady Sizemore (back surgery in March 2012) went on the 60-day disabled list April 4. He was cleared to begin baseball activities in late April, and he might be able to return as soon as he is eligible.
–RHP Carlos Carrasco (Tommy John surgery in September 2011) went on the 60-day disabled list March 26. He might miss the entire season.