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Saturday, December 16, 2017 Elyria 30°
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Jim Ingraham

Commentary: Ho-hum start not what anyone expected from Indians this season

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It doesn’t feel right, does it?

This Indians season, nearly seven weeks old, is just sort of sitting there, staring right back at us.

There’s nothing there but a big old pile of nothing

Given the dramatic denouement from that unforgettable early November evening last year, attached, it seemed, to the promise of an even better tomorrow, many expected their 2017 season to come roaring out of the gate with the same acceleration that Rajai Davis’ eighth-inning line drive had when it went roaring over the left-field wall and forever into Indians lore.

“Wait till next year” never sounded so legitimate. So delicious.

Yet, here we are — “next year” — still waiting for the rubber to meet the road.

Nearly seven weeks into this Indians season, the vibe has more of an Abe Almonte feel than Francisco Lindor.

It’s nothing that can’t be cured by an eight- or 10-game winning streak, a 14-3 run, or something like that. You know, the way the Astros have started. The Indians were supposed to start their season like that, and stay like that. Like the Astros. Not like, well, THIS.

The bandwagon is gassed up, tricked out and freshly upholstered. The only thing missing is, say, a walk-off inside-the-park home run to turn over the engine.

But Tyler Naquin isn’t even on the team right now, and “Party at Encarnacion’s” sounds like a sad, pathetic reach.

So far, the Indians’ 2017 season has been a burp, not a belch.

Win one, lose one. Win two, lose two. Six weeks of hardball yada, yada, yada. Where’s the momentum in that?

Easy. Take a deep breath.

It’s not like they’re playing awful.

It’s that they’re playing not great, when great was anticipated.

That’s where the Indians are right now: better than awful, worse than great. And there are only 4ᄑ months left in the season! What are they waiting for?

Well, better starting pitching would help. That would help a lot.

In the last turn through the Corey Kluber-less rotation, the Tribe’s five starters had a combined 9.28 ERA.

“We need to do some things better,” manager Terry Francona said of the Tribe’s wobbly wotation.

“We’ve got to do a better job as a unit, top to bottom,” Josh Tomlin said. “It starts with us. We need to be better, and we understand that.”

Last year’s ride on the World Series Bullet Train thrilled everyone. But because the Indians got kicked off the train by the Cubs one stop before Jubilation Junction, it felt a little empty at the end.

Just as this year feels a little empty at the beginning.

Their won-loss record has ranged from four games above .500 to two games below .500. In other words, nothing too great, nothing too awful. For the first six weeks of the season the Indians have mostly just existed.

They’ve been so good at being mediocre that, despite the dramatic increase in attendance, they are a Twins-ish 8-10 at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario, one of just three teams in the American League with losing records at home.

Actually, just hanging around might not be so bad, considering what they’ve had to deal with. The ace of their pitching staff, and his 5.06 ERA, is on the disabled list. Their No. 2 starter, Carlos Carrasco, had to leave his last start due to injury.

Their No. 3 starter, Danny Salazar, was selected to the All-Star team last year, when through his first eight starts he was 4-2 with a 1.80 ERA. Salazar through eight starts this year: 2-4, 5.66.

Trevor Bauer? Never mind.

Edwin Encarnacion, the $60 million free agent, has fewer RBIs this year than Taylor Motter and fewer home runs than Tim Beckham.

With Toronto last year, Encarnacion led the American League with 127 RBIs.

This year with the Indians he’s hitting .108 with runners in scoring position (4-for-37).

In Wednesday’s loss, with the Indians losing 6-2, two outs and the bases loaded in the third inning, Encarnacion was at the plate with a chance to do some damage.

Here’s the pitch.

Strike three.

Looking.

“He got overanxious early in the count, then took a called strike. Those things happen,” said Francona of Encarnacion, who has six home runs and 14 RBIs, as compared to, oh, just to grab a name at random, Mike Napoli’s eight homers and 20 RBIs for Texas.

“He knows what’s going on and what he’s supposed to do. It’s not been the best six weeks for him, but he’ll get it,” said Francona two days after demoting his slumbering slugger from fourth to fifth in the lineup.

Now it’s on to Houston, to face the mighty Astros, who lose about once a fortnight.

Since April 30 the Astros are 14-3 and the Indians are 7-9.

But it’s a jazzy 7-9.

Contact Jim Ingraham at 329-7136 or jingraham4@gmail.com and follow him @Jim_Ingraham on Twitter.



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