The Indians finished off an impressive four-game series in Tampa by routing the Devil Rays 12-4. Cliff Lee pitched very well, much better than the numbers indicated. Three of the four hits he allowed came in one inning, and one of the runs was unearned. After the third inning, he retired ten straight batters.
For starters, the key to winning is not how you pitch, but when you pitch. And Lee has been picking the right games to start, tonight being no exception. Lee's run support this season (5.89 runs/game) ranks ninth in the AL. By contrast, Kevin Millwood's run support has been 4.10 runs/game; that's 43rd out of 50 qualified AL starters. There seems to be no rhyme nor reason for this inequity. Millwood's been the better pitcher in virtually every other category, yet Lee has double his wins.
Victor Martinez continues to sizzle. Victor has now brought his average up .289, a mark I thought unfathomable in late May. With Grady Sizemore and Jhonny Peralta nearing the typical end of their seasons, Martinez and Hafner might have to shoulder more of the offensive load. Peralta's swing especially has looked long lately; he doubled in his last at-bat, but he struck out four times in his previous five at-bats.
On a related note, the three Indians who have struck out five times in a game are Larry Doby, Jim Thome, and....Rick Manning. Now I like Rick on TV, but he was an absolute offensive zero when he played for the Indians in the late 70s and early 80s. So he was the last player that I expected to be on that short list. Both Doby and Thome were power hitters, but Manning was about the farthest thing from one. He slugged .358, .393, .337, .337, .304, .306, .336, .352, and .325 during his tenure with the Indians.