Last night's Tribe loss sucks, but the timing couldn't have been better.
What better time to hack up your second straight loss against a last-place team than when every other team you're tangling with loses as well?
The Indians lost 5-4 to the Devil Rays Tuesday night. It was their fourth straight home defeat against Tampa Bay. More on that later.
While the Indians were busy stubbing their toes, the White Sox lost to the Tigers 3-2, the Red Sox lost the back side of a doubleheader with the Blue Jays 7-5 and the Yankees were trounced by the Orioles 17-9.
All four teams have five games to play. The Indians, Yankees and Red Sox have identical 92-65 records. The White Sox are 94-63, two games ahead of the Indians.
While the round of losing Tuesday night allows the Indians to breathe a bit easier, winning the final two games against the Devil Rays is imperative. But that could be easier said than done.
It's a shame Lou Piniella has lost his appetite for managing the Devil Rays. For the first time in the seven-year existence of the franchise, I am intimidated by the idea of playing them with the playoffs on the line.
The Devil Rays have taken on the personality of their manager. They are aggressive, tough, blood-and-guts competitive, and believe if they work hard enough, they can take down just about any team on any given day.
It's the same mentality that took Piniella's 1990 Reds to October upsets of the more talented Pirates and Athletics, winning the last major pro sports championship for an Ohio team to date.
The Devil Rays have won five of eight from the Indians this year, using guys like Jorge Cantu, Travis Lee and Johnny Gomes to inflict the damage.
Devil Ray pitchers have by and large stymied Indian hitters, while the loser of last night's game, Scott Elarton, is 0-3 against Tampa Bay this year. If it wasn't for the Devil Rays, Elarton would be 11-5 with a much lower ERA, and would probably be on the radar for comeback player of the year.
The Devil Rays won't spend money, but general manager Chuck LaMar has done a solid job of bringing in young talent that, properly groomed, will divest the Rays of doormat status for years to come.
It has been Piniella that has done the grooming. The Devil Rays can only hope they can bottle some of Piniella's passion and give it to the team's next manager.
The Indians, meanwhile, have to overcome Piniella once again. They beat him in the 1995 ALCS. They lost to him in the 2001 Division Series. This is the rubber match. Piniella's burning desire to win versus the Indians' desire to make the playoffs.
It's a test of wills, just how Piniella likes it.