The Disappointment Zone

Musings from a Cleveland sports fan

Anyone miss Johnson?

Posted by disappointmentzone on 4 July 2006

I admit it. I fell into the hype. I heard about the 9-1 record and the sub 2 ERA and the otherworldly BB/K ratio. I followed along as he kept piling win after win, quality start after quality start, wondering if Sowers would get pulled from AAA soon enough to have a significant role in the majors this season. And I watched as Jason Johnson fell off the mountain after his seven-inning, zero-run performance against the Twins in his first start of the season. As often as Sowers was picking up quality starts Johnson was giving up eight runs in 3.2 innings, or so it seemed. Eventually Shapiro and Wedge would finally succumb to the obvious: Jeremy Sowers is a better pitcher today than Jason Johnson will ever be in his career. And then they’d trade Johnson for whatever anyone was willing to give them and call up Sowers to take his place in the rotation.

I was out of the country when I heard the news. I checked my email late one night and three different people–and the Indians organization–had sent me emails saying the Johnson was gone and Sowers was called up to replace him. And then he started his first game against the Reds and gave up two two-run homers in one inning and lost the game. But I was still out of the country and didn’t see it.

So it didn’t count.

As far as I’m concerned, last night Jeremy Sowers made his major league debut and won–against the Yankees no less–pitching seven innings, giving up six hits and two runs, but no runs after the first inning. He kept the Indians close after they took a one-run lead (something Johnson was entirely incapable of doing) and then shut the door after Todd Hollandsworth put the Indians up three with a two-run homer of his own. Sower’s performance wasn’t dominant, but it was savvy, which is an equally impressive quality from a rookie pitcher.

Smooth sailing for the Indians last night…right until Bob Wickman entered the game. Bob Wickman holds the record for most saves by an Indians pitcher, which is a nice record to have, except that he set the record pitching in an era when a three-run lead was a save opportunity, so the record is a tad diluted. After all, can anyone imagine Wicky being a closer during the 1970s? Would any manager be comfortable putting the game in Wicky’s hands if he only entered with a one- or two-run lead? Of course not. I’m not even comfortable when Wicky enters the game and the Indians have a three-run lead. And so it was last night that after Wickman entered the game he promptly allowed the Yankees to get runners on first and third, which meant that the tying run came to the plate for the, oh, I’d guess…59th straight time. But he was (thankfully) able to retire the mighty pinch-hitting combo of Posada and Reese to preserve the win.

And so the Indians have won three games in a row for the first time since the start of June and have improved to 4-2 on their unofficial quest to win 60 of their last 87 games, which puts them in perfect position to do so after six games. And when you consider how well the starting pitchers have been pitching–Sowers is, after all, the fifth starter–winning two of every three games shouldn’t be that much of a stretch, right? I mean, Sports Illustrated thought the Indians were one of the best eight teams in baseball entering the season, so we must be pretty good.

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