Weather not putting a damper on Indians

BY foxsports • April 15, 2011

CLEVELAND -- Right now, about the only thing wrong with Cleveland baseball is the weather.

As for the team, well, so far it has been just dandy. The latest example came Friday, when the Indians blasted their way past Baltimore by an 8-2 count.

That's nine wins in 11 games. That's another victory in front of the home fans, who are starting to pay attention after five straight at Progressive Field, not to mention four in six games on the West Coast.

Granted, April just hit the halfway point. And granted, the Indians are just 9-4, with 149 games still to go.

But hey, it sure beats the alternative, right? It sure beats living up to expectations. Or in the Indians' case, down to expectations -- as everyone assumed they would be 0-13 by now. At least, that seemed to be the doomed prediction from most of the experts.

No pitching, they said.

Who's gonna hit, they asked?

The AL Central is too powerful for Cleveland, they insisted.

Maybe. But maybe not.

One thing's for certain, most of those experts never predicted Justin Masterson (3-0) to pitch this well. On Friday, Masterson went seven innings, surrendering just four singles and a run. He also threw 90 pitches, a whopping 66 of them for strikes.

How's that for mastery?

And a lot of people never expected Asdrubal Cabrera to light it up so early. After Friday's four-RBI performance, he now has 14 on the year.

But sometimes, experts don't pay attention to guys like Cabrera.

"Not too many people know this, but this guy already hit over .300 at this level," said Indians manager Manny Acta. "He's done a phenomenal job for us."

Or how about Travis Hafner?

Remember him? The slugger formerly known as Pronk?

Well, it may be time to come up with a new nickname, because Hafner is suddenly placing the ball in perfect spots again, hitting his third home run of the year to give the Indians a 5-1 lead (and loads of confidence) against the Orioles.

"We need Haf so much, especially his power," Acta said. "That wasn't there last year on a consistent basis, mostly because of the shoulder (injury). But he's healthy now. We need the big boy to do that for us, to pick us up."

Acta has also continuously pointed to fielding as a reason the Indians can keep this thing going, and be more than just a pretender.

That's easy to believe when you see how Indians left fielder Shelley Duncan chased down a powerful pop-up by Vladimir Guerrero -- or how third baseman Jack Hannahan practically fell into the dugout to make a play on a foul ball.

Guerrero's hit could have started an Orioles rally, but so far, these overachieving Indians seem determined not to allow those types of things to happen.

Even their two road losses in Anaheim could be considered "good" losses. The first was a 2-0 game that lasted until the final at-bat. The other loss took 12 innings before the Indians dropped a 4-3 decision.

So even in defeat, the Indians are battling. And despite the less-than-ideal (and probably about to get worse) temperatures, fans are beginning to notice.

Friday's announced attendance was 16,000, and for the first time all the season, the stands made it look as if those figures were actually real -- and not inflated.

"This is fun," Masterson said.

Yeah, it sure is. So just enjoy it, Tribe fans. You may still be getting Cleveland weather, but the baseball team is making it seem not so bad.

And whoever thought we'd be saying that in April?


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