I need some help finding a theme for writing about the Indians’ 5-2 victory over the Twins Sunday afternoon in Minneapolis.
Here are the nominees:
Taking control: Beating your chief rival (at least for now) four games in a row at their park to take first place shows potential dominance.
BUT: The Indians have 95 games remaining. The rotation that once was called the best in baseball now only has three solid starters and an embarrassing ERA (4.74 before Sunday’s game). Five of Sunday’s starters are hitting under .260.
Trevor Bauer is dominant: Allowing four hits and two walks in seven innings against a prime contender is the kind of performance he has been expected to deliver since showing up four years ago.
BUT: He clearly weakened in the eighth and Terry Francona was smart enough to yank him before too much damage was done. Even after Sunday’s strong performance, his ERA 5.54.
BUT: Allen and Miller each gave up a walk and had the tying or winning run at the plate. It’s noteworthy that Miller got the save, pitching through a portion of the Twins’ lineup featuring lefties. Allen retired three righties and walked the left-handed Joe Mauer.
BUT: The team left 19 men on base. Scoring a few more might have allowed Bauer to finish and take a load off the bullpen.
My conclusion? Let’s go with the offense on this day. Encarnacion is giving the Indians exactly what they paid for. He also scored twice and now has an OPS of .873. Ramirez appears to be on the brink of gaining national reputation with a .313 batting average and .915 OPS. The Indians are scoring despite extended problems for Francisco Lindor, 0-for-5 and .256 for the season, and Jason Kipnis, 1-for-5 and .231 for the season.
Teams rarely win consecutive pennants for the same reasons. Last season’s great starters are now being picked up by a superior bullpen. The offense appears ready to start outscoring some teams even if the pitching fails.
So it’s on to Baltimore where the Orioles are slumping. They have won only three of the last 10 games. The Indians will start Corey Kluber, Josh Tomlin, and Carlos Carrasco in the first three games with the dreaded TBD for Thursday evening’s game. The Orioles will start Dylan Bundy, Chris Tillman, Kevin Gausman and Wade Miley.