Cleveland at Cincinnati, 7:10 p.m. (STO)
Cincinnati: Matt Belisle (4.48 ERA, 25 PRC)
Cleveland: "Lucky" Sowers (6.63 ERA, 12 PRC)
In the long run, what does "depth" really get you? We start the season with eight reasonable options for five rotation spots: Sabathia, Westbrook, Lee, Sowers, Byrd, Carmona, Slocum and Miller. Our #3 man got injured, and when he came back our #2 got injured. Our #7 and #8 options have both been on the minor-league DL for a month. And other than our #1, everyone else has swapped roles, as #5 and #6 have each looked like a #2, while #3 and #4 have been pitching ... well, like the other kind of #2.
All of which leaves us, of course, in first place. And that's what depth gets you. It always seems worthless right up to the moment it saves your season.
Still, it can't be denied that Lee and Sowers' six-week bed-crapping duel has become a problem not only in the pure run-prevention sense, but also in straining a bullpen that remains a little shy of anyone's definition of solid. In their 19 starts, the Indians are a stunning 6-13. In all other starts, the Indians are an equally stunning 30-10.
Here's the #41 through #66 AL pitchers with 40+ IP, as ranked by ERA. Out of the 66, Lee and Sowers come in #56 and #61. Sadly, the reality is actually worse than those rankings indicate. The entire Texas rotation (including Millwood) and most of Tampa's have taken up residence at the bottom of those rankings. So if we look at only teams that aren't in last place -- Texas, Tampa and KC -- then we find that Lee and Sowers are ranked #49 and #51 out of a total of 51 pitchers.
So yeah ... they've sucked. But I would submit that it's still not time to panic. None of our three felled starters are out with anything serious, or for very long. And the fact is, we don't need for all these guys to have a solid second half. Fact is, if any one of them can have a strong second half -- Lee, Sowers, Westbrook, even Miller or Slocum -- then it's going to be tough to keep this team out of the postseason. And the odds that at least one of them can put it back together are pretty damned good.
UPDATE: Strictly as a point of retaliation, I'd rather live in a city that manages not to have race riots in the 21st century. The fire on the lake was almost 40 years ago -- and nobody died.