Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, and Stephen Strasburg. Those are three pitchers that I’m sure any team would want pitching for them in a playoff series. Unfortunately for Cleveland, those were the three pitchers they faced during this three game set against the Washington Nationals. All three have top of the rotation stuff, and are certainly not the trio the Indians wanted to face in their efforts to regain success. However, after a Friday night walk-off and heartbreaking loss on Saturday, only Stephen Strasburg stood in the way of another series win. Fortunately for Cleveland, Corey Kluber pitched yet another gem and the offense mustered out 2 runs for the victory.
Kluber was easily the player of the game, as he pitched eight innings, had eight strikeouts, and issued no walks for the win. He showed tenacity and grit throughout the game as he was able to pitch out of countless jams. What impressed me most was his ability induce double play balls when they were needed most and staying focused, even when the defense behind him was faltering. I’m hoping I’m right when I say that we’re witnessing Kluber evolve right before our eyes. Even though he struggled in his early outings, his last two have been dynamite. Before today’s gem, he took down the Rangers in Arlington, one of baseball’s toughest teams. The Indians needed a strong performance after last night’s gut-wrenching loss. Kluber delivered in a very big way.
Offensively, the Tribe’s offense did what it could against a solid Stephen Strasburg. It was Strasburg’s first start since May 31st, and the Tribe struck first in the fourth inning when Carlos Santana singled home Jason Kipnis. Kipnis had stolen second, got to third on a throwing error by catcher Jhonatan Solano, and was then singled in by Santana. Kipnis also tacked on another run for the Tribe in the eighth inning with a sacrifice fly to score Michael Bourn. Bourn had doubled to open the inning, then got to third on a textbook sacrifice bunt from Mike Aviles.
One player that stood out to me the most this weekend was Jason Kipnis. He has been on a tear as of late, extending his hit streak to ten games with a single in the sixth. His average has been raised to .270, and also has 34 RBIs to go with 9 HRs. He gave the Tribe a walk-off win on Friday, and is finally playing at the level most fans had expected him to. The Indians will need him to keep up his recent success if they expect to climb out of second place in the American League Central.
Going forward, the Tribe’s schedule finally looks somewhat less scary compared to what they have been playing against lately. They face Kansas City, Minnesota, Baltimore, and Chicago looking ahead to the next four series.