CLEVELAND — The Detroit Tigers have been circling like vultures for two days, picking at the bones of the Indians after bludgeoning them in matter-of-fact fashion.
So the Indians decided it was time to circle their own wagons, and in the clubhouse shortly after Saturday’s disappointing 9-4 loss the players decided to talk it out.
With veterans leading the meeting, the talk was about how the Indians had played so poorly the first two games against the Tigers, and how they had not played their game.
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“We’re definitely not intimidated by them,” said second baseman Jason Kipnis. “We just came out flat the last couple days. We had a little bit of a meeting and we’re looking to change that.”
Kipnis became the spokesperson about the meeting because he took questions after making his first All-Star Game.
But he said the players felt the meeting was needed.
The emphasis was simple: The Indians did not have to put any pressure on themselves because Detroit is in the other dugout; they needed to play loose and smart. The meeting thing worked once this season. In Kansas City, Nick Swisher lit a fire under teammates after a bad first-game-of-a-doubleheader loss to the Royals. The Indians won the second game to start an 18-4 stretch.
This weekend, the Indians returned from a 7-4 road trip to read about this early July series being crucial, and then they were greeted by a mess of media asking about it.
“The pressure’s not really on us,” Kipnis said. “It’s got to be on them and that’s the way we need to approach it.”
Kipnis said the Tigers are the team that was in the World Series, the team with the big names and big contracts. The Tigers play loose, play carefree, and the Indians believe they should as well. Maybe the players are trying to talk themselves into something, but the general thinking is the team doing the chasing has nothing to lose — because it’s expected to lose.
The Indians didn’t play that way the first two games.
“We definitely haven’t been playing the way that we’ve been (when) winning games,” he said. “Having fun. Moving guys around. Looking to get it to the next guy. We’re looking to change that (Sunday).”
Detroit outscored the Indians 16-4 in consecutive games. It has won seven in a row over Cleveland by a combined score of 49-19. When the Tigers hit like they can and the Indians don’t play well it looks like the Tigers are toying with the Indians, patting them on the heads as they shoo them away from their first-place domain.
Carlos Carrasco was abysmal and his situation may be reaching critical mass, as he grooved home run pitches to Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder (back to back) and then threw wildly to third on a bunt attempt that allowed more runs to score. Carrasco now has a 9.10 ERA in six starts, and has given up 47 hits in 28 2/3 innings.
He looks worse than the numbers.
How long the Indians can stick with him remains a question. Because though his manager talks about his “lights out stuff,” it’s sure not showing on the mound. But with Zach McAllister on the disabled list through the All-Star break, he probably has to stay in the rotation.
As for the Tigers, even manager Terry Francona admits the losses are grating.
“We certainly need to do better against them,” he said. “They’re the team that’s directly ahead of us and they’ve kind of had their way with us.”
In two games, the Indians sent a sellout and a crowd of 28,504 home disappointed. In a city that expects pratfalls, losing like this leads to negativity that seems to feed on itself.
Evidently relief pitcher Vinnie Pestano heard it on Twitter, as he posted this after the game: “Run for the hills if you must, tell me how much you hate being a fan and how nothing has changed if it makes you feel better about yourself.”
Why anyone would vent at one of the Indians most accessible and accountable and productive guys defies explanation, but then so does the standard some seem to hold the Indians to. Two bad losses and people are ready to give up on a team that has fought and competed all season, and it’s not even the All-Star break?
The following remains true:
–The Indians played poorly the first two games of the series.
–Two games remain in the series.
–This team is capable of better than it’s shown.
–This is not the same team as 2011 and 2012.
–To truly show that, though, this team has to start beating good teams.