Progress. That’s what the Indians made last night at Progressive Field.
After beating the A’s 2-1 thanks to a solo shot from Carlos Santana, the Indians moved back within 5.5 games of the Tigers. Call me crazy, but this week could get the Indians back in this thing. Four very winnable games against the A’s followed by three in Kansas City and then three at home against the Tigers. The hopes for Zombie Baseball are alive and well it would seem.
Of course, like I said yesterday, the Indians also need the Tigers to lose like they’ve never lost before. Things got off to a rip-roaring good start on that front too last night thanks to the Royals. Unfortunately the Tigers’ next series is against the White Sox. That makes things a little more complicated now that they’ve leap frogged the Tribe.
Regardless of however the next week goes for the Tigers and White Sox, the Indians can only control their own destiny at this point. They need to keep finding ways to win. If that means scraping together 2 runs on 5 hits, then so be it. What other choice do they really have? This is do or die time for this team. The playoffs begin right now.
Which brings me to an interesting point. How much better off will the Indians be next year thanks to the season they’ve had this year? This is a young team with very little experience of any kind. Having their first big league experience take place in the midst of a pennant race can only help them later on down the road. Rather than getting their first big league reps in no pressure situations as they simply play out the season wouldn’t prepare them for anything. But this, playing in these high stakes games is helping build a better team for tomorrow.
This team compares nicely to the team that came out of nowhere in 2005. If you recall that was the year Grady Sizemore broke into “the bigs.” It was the first year where we had Victor Martinez and Travis Hafner as legit middle of the order hitters. We had a solid foundation with Casey Blake, Jhonny Peralta, and C.C. Sabthia. That team didn’t make the playoffs, but there is no denying that the ups and downs of that 2005 season coupled with the disappointment of 2006 led to the success of 2007. When you think about it in that sense, we couldn’t ask for a better situation going into next year.
So whether or not this year ends in a playoff birth, the 2011 season has to be viewed as a success. Sure, there are still a few questions remaining, but I’m fairly certain we have a lot more answers than we did back in April.