After a string of tight games and Chris-Perez-fueled bullpen implosions, the Cleveland Indians cruised to an easy victory over the Minnesota Twins by a score of 12-6, the team’s 8th in a row.
The Indians attacked early and often against Twins starter Pedro Hernandez, who surrendered 7 runs in 1.2 IP in this game. Essentially, by the time the bottom of the second inning rolled around, the Indians were watching the scores in Texas and Toronto while playing out the string in Minneapolis.
Yes, the game did have a little drama, as Tribe starter Corey Kluber struggled to hold the Twins down after the game was out of reach. At one point, the Twins got as close as 9-6, but the Indians continued to add on and stopped the bleeding right there. If this were a game in June or July, I’d probably have more to say about Kluber’s performance, but ultimately his stat line didn’t matter as the Indians won easily and maintained their hold on the American League Wild Card.
The win moved the Indians to 17-2 in the month of September versus teams not originating in Kansas City, and it proved necessary, as the Texas Rangers won yet again to remain just a single game behind the Tribe. With only two games remaining, however, the Indians need only one more win to ensure a share of the second wild card spot.
The Tampa Bay Rays, however, finally lost a game to fall into a tie with the Indians atop the Wild Card standings. Obviously, the Indians first priority is getting into the Wild Card game, but now they can also get a bit greedy and hope to have that game within the friendly confines of Progressive Field. Right now, however, only one thing is for sure: we are in for a wild finish in the American League Wild Card chase, and I couldn’t be happier that my team is in the middle of it.
The Indians play again at 1:05 EST tomorrow, as the game has been picked up by FOX. Don’t forget to tune in!
A Quick Note About Signature Wins
A couple weeks ago, when the Indians were struggling against Kansas City, I said on Twitter that a comeback win could be the big signature win that the Indians would need in order to properly stamp a playoff season. It turns out that such a win was coming, when Jason Giambi put the team on his back three nights ago, but I just wanted to take a second to re-address the point by talking about the last signature win the Indians had in a playoff-bound season:
The year was 2007, and the Indians held a 3.5 game lead over the Detroit Tigers as the Motor City Kitties rolled into town for a three-game series beginning on September 17th. While the Indians were feeling good, a sweep by the Tigers could flip the division race in an instant.
That Friday night, the Tigers took a 3-run lead into the bottom of the 8th inning… after a ground-out that scored Grady Sizemore, Jhonny Peralta took a Joel Zumaya pitch deep into the night to tie the game and send us all into extra innings. Then, in the bottom of the 12th inning, Casey Blake sent us all home happy with a deep drive to left field, setting the stage for what would be an Indians sweep and victory lap towards their first division crown since 2001.
I still remember this game even though I was in college and had no access to Indians games. I caught the box score sometime after the game had concluded and knew immediately what a big win this game was… and to this day I still point to this game as the game when we all collectively realized this team is for real, and this team is not going to back down.
Giambi’s home run, for all its magic and splendor, had the same impact. That was the moment we all realized this team was not going to go quietly into the night, and they were going to do everything in their power to bring some postseason baseball to the North Coast. Perhaps a signature win isn’t actually a prerequisite to the playoffs, but it sure seems that every team needs a huge win in September to set the stage for the postseason. The Indians got one in 2007, and they got one in 2013.
Justin Masterson = John Smoltz?
I keep waiting and waiting for someone to bring up John Smoltz when referring to Justin Masterson’s current role on the Indians. No, I’m not comparing the two pitchers’ resumes, I’m merely pointing out the similarities in the roles these pitchers have been asked to play on their teams. Smoltz, as you should know, was a prolific starter, but also a prolific closer, depending on what his team needed each season.
Masterson has experience coming out of the bullpen in his career, and the Indians have a dire need at closer right now. If the Indians feel it is unrealistic to get the big fella stretched out to start before the ALCS, I think it would be completely reasonable to tab him as the closer for the rest of the season and the postseason. No one knows if he could handle the role, but I think he has the stuff and the mentality to handle it in the short-term. He’s certainly looked pretty good in his first two appearances. Just something to think about.
Two more games, folks. By Sunday afternoon we will know the postseason fate of this team… if you aren’t excited, you might want to check your pulse.