If April showers bring May flowers, the Cleveland Indians had one hell of a rain dance working for them in the opening month of the MLB season and they hope it can help lead to their first playoff berth since the 2007 season.
When the season began, it was assumed that the Indians would be bottom dwellers in the American League's Central Division, as their 20-to-1 Las Vegas odds would indicate. But they've been proving all the so-called experts wrong on their way to the best start in franchise history. They are now the 23rd team in the Wild-Card era to start a season 19-8 or better and 15 of the previous 22 have made the playoffs.
So why exactly are the Indians sitting on a four and a half game lead in their division?
It can be summed up in two words – starting pitching. Their rotation is tied for the league lead in quality starts and has been stellar this season. Much of that success comes thanks to 26-year old Justin Masterson. Masterson has a 5-0 record in 40 innings and a 2.25 ERA to accompany his 29 strikeouts. The other work horse has been Josh Tomlin, who has managed to go 4-0 with a 2.45 ERA.
The most seasoned and longest tenured Indians starter, Fausto Carmona, has yet to find any sort of rhythm though. He has a poor 5.15 ERA, having been shelled for 21 runs in 36.2 innings. The young, inexperienced Carlos Carrasco has managed to give the Indians a chance to win in each of his five starts starts but has an ERA hovering right around 5.00. Add in a bullpen that has done what they have been asked to do and it's easy to see how they are getting their wins.
Let's not forget about the Indians offense, an offense that leads the league in runs scored per game. They are led by designated hitter Travis Hafner, who is having a bit of a resurgence with his longtime team. Hafner is batting an impressive .342 and has 4 home runs and 11 RBIs. Their other big bat has been Grady Sizemore, which is no surprise. Sizemore has long been one of the Indians big bats and this year is no different, as he has 4 home runs and 9 RBIs. They have found plenty of success from the plate and they still haven't had two of their big bats, Shin-Soo Choo and Carlos Santana, get hot.
There is plenty of competition in the AL Central, so it certainly won't be easy for the Indians. For the last few seasons, the division has been regarded as one of the most competitive in the league and we certainly can't see them outlasting the Minnesota Twins or the Detroit Tigers during the marathon season.
Stranger things have happened, though.
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