Raise your hand if you were ready to give on the Indians at some point in early May. No, come on, put your hands up, I know what you said to your buddies and your family. I know that you moaned about the SI Cover “Jinx” and you knew that the bullpen was going to be a disaster all season and the offense was terrible and it was going to be a LOOOOONG Summer.
I know it because I was doing it, too.
Well, we may have been a bit premature in calling the season lost, as the Indians charged into June and took a big road series in Kansas City. Trevor Bauer was fantastic (as he has been mostly all season), the offense put up a crooked number en route to six runs on the day, and the Indians are playing like the team we knew they could be all season. Let’s break down how this game started, how it finished, and the important plays that got us there:
The Indians don’t put up a lot of crooked numbers in one inning, but that’s just what they did in the second inning against Chris Young (who has been dynamite this season for the Royals). Jason Kipnis (who else?) got it started with an RBI single to score Michael Bourn. Carlos Santana doubled to put runners on 2nd and 3rd, and then Michael Brantley fired up a single to put the Indians up 2-0. Normally, that might be all the team gets, but David Murphy (who has quietly had a monstrous year as a pinch hitter and righty specialist) crushed a ball over the head of Lorenzo Cain in Center to clear the bases and put a 4-spot on the scoreboard early in the game for the Tribe.
Trevor Bauer was great in this game, going 6.2 innings and allowing only two runs. Those two runs came on a Cain blast to dead central in the bottom of the 2nd to respond to the Indians outburst. It could have been a big swing, but Bauer would hold the Royals in check the rest of the way and the bullpen closed the door.
The other two Indians runs came on a Brandon Moss shot to the fountains in right — as of right now Moss is hitting .253 with 10 HR in early June, which is pretty much exactly what you expected from him. I have to admit that I was not super pumped about the Moss deal (it wasn’t like I was upset, either, it just seemed like a medium-impact move), but he’s really been providing the power that this team generally lacks. I like watching him play, even if he’s not a star and he’s another left handed bat — which certainly isn’t his fault.
The bullpen closed out the last 2.1 innings of this game without much trouble. More than the offense, more than the starters, the lockdown effort from the bullpen has been the key in the Tribe’s run back to .500. Is this level of performance sustainable? Probably not, but it’s certainly adding to the win column now, and we have to appreciate that.
The Indians leave KC feeling good about themselves. The Royals are certainly the class of the division right now (sorry Detroit), and the Indians played toe to toe with them all week. I think Tito has worked his offensive magic, and the team is definitely trending in the right direction (I’d honestly be shocked if the team finished under .500 at this point)… but you have to wonder if they did dig themselves too big of a hole too early in the season.
Either way, the Indians head back home for a weekend series against the Orioles, and seek to climb back to .500 once again. Getting over that hump would be a big achievement for this team, and if they can step on the gas pedal now (maybe win 5 games on this 6-game homestand?) they can really start to think about making a run at the division and the wild card.
Ah, who am I kidding with that last sentence? Tito’s teams always take it one game at a time — perhaps we as fans should follow suit.