Cleveland Indians on a tear

Ken Fidlin, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:43 PM ET

TORONTO - When does that springtime fluke become an undeniable reality? The Cleveland Indians will get back to you on that one.

With 21 wins in their first 30 games the Indians have already ruined a lot of dire predictions for the 2011 season but there remains reluctance to accept that the resurgence will last.

“Did you ever notice that people don’t want to be wrong?” Tribe outfielder Shelley Duncan told MLB.com. “I think sometimes there might be something that’s in their head that they want to believe. But since the general consensus doesn’t want to believe it, they don’t want to put their neck on the line.”

So far, whatever the formula, the Indians are scoring three runs for every two they give up. They’re second in offensive run production and third-best in preventing runs.

The offence is a balanced attack in which eight different players each have 10 or more RBI. Seven players have an OPS above .775. On the pitching side, their starters are among the major-league leaders in quality starts, with 22 in 30 games.

It is not as if one player is carrying this team. There are no crazy performance anomalies.

“We’re not putting godly statistics up there,” Duncan said. “And we still have a couple guys who haven’t really started hitting, and we still have some young guys who are going to get better and better.”

Imposters? Not yet.

AL Central

With a perennial playoff club like the Minnesota Twins and their $113 million payroll, you might be wondering how they lost 18 of their first 29 games. More to the point, how in the world did they actually manage to win 11? This is a team that is dead last in the American League in runs scored with 89. They have an offence that is comatose with a team OPS of .615. They also trail in team ERA at 4.73. That is a lethal combination. ... The AL Central is the only division in baseball with three teams in the top 10 in payroll. The White Sox are fifth overall at $129 million, the Twins are ninth and the Tigers are 10th at $105 million. Through Thursday, those teams had a 37-56 record and they’re looking up at the Indians and the Royals, whose combined payroll is under $78 million and combined record was 38-23.

AL West

He’s made a lousy first impression in his new home, but perhaps Vernon Wells is finally snapping to attention. Twice in April Wells was invited in for a fireside chat with Angels’ manager Mike Scioscia to try to ease him out of a slump. Wells finished April with a .171 batting average and an OPS of .445, one home run and six RBI. Beginning in the cleanup spot, he slipped all the way to seventh in the LA batting order making him perhaps the most expensive ($23 million this year) No. 7 hitter in history. In a three-game series at Boston this week, Wells went 4-for-13 with two HRs and 4 RBI. He also stole his first base and, in Wednesday’s 13-inning marathon that didn’t end until 2:45 a.m., he saved the game by playing a Kevin Youkilis double high off the left-field wall and starting a relay that ended with what would have been the winning run being tagged out at the plate. “There’s so many ways I can help this team win. It’s just a matter of doing it on a consistent basis,” Wells said. “When that happens, I think we’ll win more games than we lose.” ... Despite their 9-1 start, the Texas Rangers, losers of 14 of their last 22 games, find themselves looking up at the Angels. They’re no doubt missing Josh Hamilton but, as much as anything, it’s been poor pitching that has derailed the defending AL champs. In the past 22 games, they’ve had an ERA in the high 4’s, averaging about 3 1/2 walks per nine innings. Hamilton, who broke a bone in his shoulder early in April, started hitting off a tee this week, but will likely not be back in uniform until the end of May.

NL East

The Phillies’ super-rotation is doing just what everyone expected: mowing down the opposition and putting Philadelphia in a position to run away with the division. The Marlins and Braves are hanging tough but with Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt, Cliff Lee, Joe Blanton and now, rookie Vance Worley, dealing at the front end, it’s a tall order.

The Phils as a team were 21-9 over the first 30 games and the starters were a combined 16-5. In 196 innings, the starters have walked just 40 batters.

After a 7-6 start to the season, the Phils are 14-3 in their last 17 and the pitching staff, as a whole, has been on fire, with a combined ERA of 2.34, allowing a total of 35 runs in that span.

NL Central

Lance Berkman is making a strong case as the best free agent buy of the off-season. Signed by the Cardinals for $8 million on a straight one-year contract after the Yankees had declined his $14 million option, Berkman is one of the game’s hottest hitters just now. At the age of 35, he’s hitting .392 with a 1.237 OPS. He hit his 10th home run Thursday. Last season, he didn’t hit his 10th until July 7 and during the days after he was traded from Houston to New York, he even considered retirement.

“You learn you can’t take anything for granted. I’m enjoying this run. But I also realize it doesn’t take much to put you in a tailspin,” he said. “In years past, a start like this would have me thinking I’m going to roll into a great year. I think because of last year, I’ve got to keep pushing, keep pushing, keep pushing.” ... Despite injury problems, the Reds have stayed in touch with the leaders. “We’re deep,” said Jonny Gomes. “Two of our starting five and Scott Rolen go down. I haven’t exactly been hot, and we’re in second place a game out. We’re a game out with basically our B squad.”

NL West

Troy Tulowitzki started the season on a tear for the ages. In his first 12 games, he hit .364 with an OBP of .491 and a slugging percentage of .909, bashing seven homers. Then that torrent of hits became a trickle. In his most recent 17 games, the Rockies’ shortstop is 13-for-67, no homers and just three RBI. His OPS, at 1.400 through 12 games, is at .523 through the next 17.

“Having gone through the adversity I have in my career has helped tremendously,” said Tulomwitzki. “A couple of years ago, I would have been in complete panic mode. I believe in my abilities, and I will be back where I need to be shortly. As long as we are winning, I am fine.” ... While the Rockies sit atop the division, with a bit of separation over the Giants, they shouldn’t get too comfortable. The Giants, defending World Series champs, have played 22 of their first 31 games on the road and while they’re not thrilled about a 15-16 record, they can look forward to playing 22 of their next 36 at home. “I hate to say it, but I think it has had an effect,” SF manager Bruce Bochy said. “This has been a grind. Without question, the guys have felt it a little bit. I have. The staff has.”


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