“If the Indians can just finish this brutal stretch at .500, they should be in the mix for the whole season.”
Those are the words I used to describe the Indians’ playoff chances at the outset of this ridiculously tough stretch of baseball, when they would play 25 straight games against good teams. I truly believed the Tribe would struggle, but I didn’t anticipate the offensive ineptitude, the bullpen implosions, or the eight-game losing streak that reminded us all of last August. After that first game in Texas, I think most people were just about ready to give up on the 2013 Indians.
Well, I’m pleased to say that the reports of the Indians demise may have been premature, as the Tribe have now reeled off three straight wins, the latest coming via a Jason Kipnis walk-off fielder’s choice. While it may not be the sexiest way to scrape out a win, the victory puts the Indians back at .500 (33-33) and suddenly, miraculously, the team has a chance to come out of this series feeling good about themselves again.
How did it go down?
-Justin Masterson was simply masterful tonight. He did allow one run on a third-inning wild pitch, and he did walk four batters, but he only allowed two hits and struck out 10 over 7.0 dominant innings. Cody Allen and Joe Smith combined to strike out three over two perfect innings to set up the walk-off win.
-Boy, that Jason Kipnis is hot, eh? He collected two more hits tonight, and continues to raise his batting average. I believe that if he can continue this current trend and finish out June strong, he’ll make it hard to keep him off the All-Star team. Cano is a lock, and Pedroia probably is, too, but Jason is definitely working his way into the conversation with his power, speed, and competent glove.
-Give Terry Francona a lot of credit for batting Ryan Raburn 4th. Raburn came into this game with great career numbers against Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez, and he added to them with a 4th-inning opposite field jack… since the game was 1-1 going into the bottom of the ninth, Francona’s good button-pushing deserves a mention here.
-Mark Reynolds looks absolutely lost at the plate right now. It’s not just the strikeouts, either, as Mark is routinely putting up bad at-bats. His 3-pitch strikeout with 1 out and the bases loaded in the 8th inning could have been a stomach punch if the Tribe had gone on to lose. With Lonnie Chisenhall raking at AAA Columbus, you have to wonder how long until the team puts Mark back into that DH role where he had so much success in April and early May.
-The Nationals are one of the very few NL teams that probably don’t mind playing in an American League park. Ryan Zimmerman has been awful at 3B this season, making numerous throwing errors. The addition of the DH gives the Nats a chance to keep his bat in the lineup without having to worry about his defense.
-Michael Brantley’s OPS is in danger of falling under .700, which is not good. While his AVG and OBP are respectable, Brantley has always struggled to hit for power. Don’t get me wrong, I love his professional approach at the plate, but his bat is best suited for the bottom of the order, especially right now when he’s scuffling.
The Indians will take on the Nats again tomorrow at 7:15 p.m. at Progressive Field. Lefty Scott Kazmir (3-4) will face off against RHP Jordan Zimmerman (9-3). The Indians will be going for their 4th straight win and the peace of mind knowing they cannot finish this stretch of games under the .500 mark.
Until then, Go Tribe!
Featured Image Photo Credit: Jason Miller, Getty Images