@St. Louis: Won 6-2, Lost 2-0, Won 4-1
@Cincinnati: Lost 7-1, Lost 5-3, Lost 12-5
Pittsburgh: Won 2-0, Lost 9-2, Lost 9-5
Cincinnati: Won 8-1, Won 3-2,Won 8-1
@Houston: Won 2-0, Lost 8-1, Lost 7-1
@All That's Wrong: Lost 7-1, Lost 6-4, Lost 5-4
@Baltimore: Won 7-2, Lost 9-8, Won 11-5, Won 6-2
Anaheim: Lost 3-0, Won 9-5, Won 12-3
Tampa Bay: Won 3-1, Lost 10-3, Won 7-3, Lost 7-6
THE BIG STORY: Despite several waves of suckitude, this team just couldn't compile a disastrous steak long enough to chase us away. Oh, we thought they would, several times. Losing five of six to Cincinnati and Pittsburgh? Dreadful. But Tribe starters backed that up by allowing four runs in three games while sweeping the Reds in Cleveland. When the Indians took the first game at Houston, you were ready to fall in love again. Then, more suck. The train fell off the Cliff of Pythagoras over the next two games, which were followed by an abhorrent gut punch in that corporate soul vortex they call Yankee Stadium. Alas, before you could write your goodbye note, the offense showed some life in Baltimore, and then your Tribe took an impressive series against the Angels. Only Chris Perez's first blown save since opening day could derail your growing irrationalism heading for the break.
The offense nickel-and-nickeled its way through the month, with Lonnie Chisenhall filling in nicely for Jack Hannahan. Chisenhall walks as much as Stephen Hawking, and alarmingly, he told reporters that he doesn't really care. But he delivered a 790 OPS and seemed to lock down third base for the season at age 23 -- until he broke his ulna while being hit by a pitch in Baltimore, of freaking course. More Hannahan it is. Jack is back playing solid D while not hitting; across the diamond, Casey Kotchman used a torrid opening week of July to exhume his DOA June. All told, Casey offered a respectable 744 OPS for the month. He also offered 2.5 groundballs for every flyball in June. There are stretches when it seems he couldn't get the ball in the air if he were batting on the wing of a 747. Oh, and remember when Chris Antonetti swore by Kotchman's lasik surgery, which supposedly returned the "real" Casey Kotchman to the world in 2011? Keep that in mind when another non-hitting free agent tries to sell you a bridge next offseason.
So here we are, and something wicked this way comes. Detroit went 16-11 during this stretch, which looks an awful lot like the scenario we watched unfold in strobe-light slow motion in 2011. Treading water won't cut it for much longer, even in this division.
But perhaps the most significant story is the pulse finally rediscovered of one of the men who fed it.
IN OTHER NEWS: Mark Shapiro gave a lengthy interview in which he answered banal questions with ever-more-banal space filler. And Shapiro says -- wait, isn't Antonetti the GM? What's going on here?
Regardless, Shap hinted that pitching would be the first addition via trade if the team were still in contention. Tribe fans pined for Carlos Quentin or Alfonso Soriano or Erubiel Durazo or something, but it was the White Sox who made the first move, acquiring Kevin Youkilis from the Red Sox for a Hawk Harrelson calendar and a "He gone" ringtone on the clubhouse phone. Most Tribe fans were smart enough not to pine for Youkilis, but when the White Sox picked him up, some predictably went all Dolan flaming.
Anyway, if you're Chris Antonetti -- or is it Mark Shapiro? Christ, I don't know -- you're in a tough spot. This team doesn't look a whole lot like a contender, and the farm system isn't rippling with trade pieces. But your top pitchers are finally dealing again, and if only Travis Hafner would just stay healthy enough to dazzle us with that sub-800 OPS all season, and maybe Grady...
WHO FED IT: Ubaldo. Unlike April, when Jimenez appeared to steal the identity of
Fausto Carmona Roberto Hernandez by winning games with a half-decent ERA and dreadful peripherals, this time Ubaldo dominated. A strikeout per inning, and a walk every three. An ERA in the 2s and a WHIP barely nosing past 1. No, he's not obliterating hitters with 98mph heat like he did in Colorado on occasion, but he commanded the offspeed pitches in a way that should excite any Tribe fan not related to Drew Pomeranz. And damn, he's fun to watch when he's making the Mark Teixeiras of the world look stupid with that array of bucklers.
If only we could leave out Justin Masterson's final performance of the month, we'd feel better about both aces. Manny Acta was right to say that you'll happily take one disaster if you get five consecutive gems, and Masterson delivered on that score. His second half will say a hell of a lot about what this franchise can expect going forward.
Zach McAllister looks like more than a stopgap. After Jeanmar Gomez stopped getting anyone out, McAllister pounced on his chance, providing three starts this month with a 2.60 ERA. To my eye, his fastball is popping more than last year, and he's locating it beautifully.
On the offensive side, isn't it nice having Shin Soo Choo pummeling the world again? His month-long OPS of 980 put the Tribe in constant motion early in games, even if his teammates struggled to bring him home. Choo is driving the ball to all fields and generally looking like Scott Boars' most lascivious dream.
WHO ATE IT: You already knew that Vinnie Pestano fed it, because he always does, but the rest of the bullpen is eating it. Nick Hagadone entered the transmogrifier; he emerged as a lefty with a straight fastball, poor command, and anger management issues. Now we're left hoping Tony Sipp can handle high leverage again. Yikes. Esmil Rogers was lights out alongside Pestano, but too often the rest of this crew pours gasoline on the fire.
Jason Kipnis didn't exactly eat it, but our stud second sacker is in a rut; his last home run was June 17th and he has just two extra-base hits since then. Carlos Santana has had well documented issues with eating it, plate and all. He's made some mechanical adjustments that seem to have shortened the stride; that dude would rule at Twister, give him that.
This team is one rough week away from oblivion, but the story to this point is their refusal to acquiesce to what feels inevitable. You want to quit them. Right now, you can't. You just can't.