Heading into Tuesday's game with the Rays, the Tribe has tied the A's and the Yanks atop the Wild Card standings (though they are behind in percentage points, due to playing 2 more games). And, watching Monday's game, nobody can argue that this team is peaking at the right time.
Think about these stats from Monday's game:
- Grady and Coco each had 3 hits
- Jhonny went 2 for 4 with his third hit being robbed by Gaithright in DEEP centerfield
- Hafner went hitless (though his sac fly was about as good of an at-bat as there's been this year) and the team still scored 11 runs
- The always streaky Broussard hit his second HR in 9 at-bats
If, in fact, the offense turns the faucet on to a full pour after Monday's game, it may be traced to Grady beating out an infield hit in the 7th. For those who have not seen it, Grady pounded the ball off of the carpet towards second and looked like a sprinter coming out of blocks as he began his trip down the line. About halfway down, the look on his face changed to such determination that, watching later in slow motion, you knew he was going to beat the ball down the line. As he tore down the line, he looked like a halfback putting it into another gear when he hits the secondary. Finally, as Grady barely beat the play out, he reacted as you would expect only Grady to react. He simply clapped his hands once, while his face showed only his constant look of confidence and determination. He didn't go nuts or try to get rah-rah to pump up his teammates. He acted like it was an everyday occurence and sparked the 7 run seventh.
There was a question earlier this year about who the leader of this team is. I don't know if a 23 year old, with less than two years in the majors, can be the leader of a playoff team, but the whole team followed Sizemore's lead and put their collective foot on the throats of the Devil Rays. At the time that he beat out that grounder, the game was still 4-4 and Casey Blake had what could have been a disastrous K in the 6th.
That is what a leader does - he doesn't get up on the top step to lead a hollow cheer - he simply becomes the best player on a team by busting his hump every day, and carries himself in a way that makes other players want to do the same. Isn't that what Jeter does?
A big thanks to Tim for putting his ESPN Insider subscription to use for the common good as he put all of the Tribe articles on ESPN.com in yesterday's comments. Also listed on ESPN's MLB home page was a point that Jhonny has become the OPS leader among SS. But what's even more amazing is the fact that Jhonny has only 2 less HR and 16 less RBI than Tejada in 123 less at bats(!) and 2 more HR and 6 less RBI than Michael Young in 145 fewer at bats!
Omar who? Which leads me to a great comment I heard on the radio today, as WTAM was singing the praises of Jhonny and making fun of the people who are STILL upset that Omar is no longer an Indian. A Vizquel fan made the comment that Omar did more for the city than any other player since Rocky Colavito. The quick retort was that what she meant to say was that Omar had done more women in the city than any other Indian in recent memory. Well played.
Please note in the above link that Omar is 11th in OPS.
As the Tribe tries to pull themselves out of an early Westbrook sink hole (it's 4-2 in the 5th), the feeling that this offense can pull it out is starting to become a regular feeling. Not quite 1995 "we're never out of it" feeling, but it's a start.