No need for panic over Indians

Published May. 28, 2011 12:52 a.m. ET

It's time to freak out.

That's probably what most fans were thinking after watching the Indians drop a 5-0 decision to Tampa Bay on Friday night.

It was the Tribe's third straight loss, and the first game of what's likely be a tough series against one of the American League's most talented teams. Prior to Friday, the Indians had lost two straight at home to Boston — including a 14-2 hammer job before leaving for Florida.

We all knew there were bound to be difficult stretches. The overachieving Indians are this season's biggest surprise, having raced to the best record in baseball (30-18). It couldn't last forever, right?

Well, probably not.

But I am here to tell you it will be OK. You can relax. At this point, an Indians collapse is less likely than the team's first two wonderful (and entirely unexpected) months.

That's just the way the season has gone. Even when things are bad, they aren't as gruesome as they appear.

For one, it's never easy to beat the Rays in Tampa Bay, particularly when the opposing pitcher is David Price — who struck out a career-high 12 in seven innings.

Price is a former No. 1 overall draft pick and throws a fastball that often falls in the 94-96 mph range, and sometimes hits 100. And that's nothing compared to his slider, which zips toward the plate and typically breaks late (and sharp).

Prior to that, the Indians faced Red Sox standouts Josh Beckett and Jon Lester, respectively. Not too many lineups smack around the likes of Lester, Beckett and Price. Far from it.

That's not all.

Did you know the Red Sox pummeled Detroit to the tune of 14-1 just one day after posting nearly the same score against the Indians? The Red Sox won again Friday, meaning the Indians didn't lose any ground over AL Central rival Detroit.

In fact, even after three straight defeats, the Indians still lead the second-place Tigers by six games. No other first-place team has more than a three-and-half game lead. Most lead by one game or less.

So the Indians would really have to bottom out for the Tigers to surpass or even catch them. And I mean really, really bottom out.

It would probably take three straight losses to Tampa Bay, then three more in the following series in Toronto.

If that happens, well, go ahead and worry a little. But please, definitely not before then.

Keeping the faith

Tribe manager Manny Acta tinkered with the lineup for Friday's game, moving the struggling Carlos Santana to seventh in the order and Asdrubal Cabrera to the third spot. Center fielder Grady Sizemore, returning from the disabled list, batted sixth as the designated hitter.

These aren't the moves of a man who is feeling panicked. Rather, it was Acta's way of realizing there is room to experiment.

So if Acta isn't agonizing, neither should you. In a 162-game season, all you can do is dust yourself off and try again the next day. And the day after that and the day after that.

Heck, even Rays manager Joe Maddon still believes in the Indians.

"They're not going anywhere," Maddon said Friday. "They've done it in a very typical Cleveland way, very quietly. Then all of a sudden they spring it on you."

The Rays are one of two teams (along with Chicago) that have been able to fend off the Indians this season. But Maddon still called them a "good" team — and not one that has done all this by some sort of stroke of luck.

"When you really look at it, it's not that surprising," he said of the Indians' start. "They're willing to take their lumps when they have to, then they always seem to be able to put it back together."

That's not just high praise. It's the truth, and it's coming from the opposing team.

So go ahead. Kick back, grab a cold beverage and enjoy the game. And erase any thoughts of throwing your remote in disgust.

It's much too soon to get overly emotional. Especially when it comes to doubting what got the Indians here in the first place.