The Cleveland Indians haven’t been playing very well lately, but fresh off a 5-2 victory last night against the Texas Rangers, a win in today’s matinee game would give the Tribe a series win and help them stay atop the American League Central.
The best thing they had going for them was that Corey Kluber was on the mound today. To say that Kluber has been great lately would be an understatement. He’s been sensational. Over his two previous starts, Kluber had pitched 16 scoreless innings while allowing six hits, two walks, and striking out 24 batters. After battling injuries earlier in the season, Kluber has been the Cy Young-caliber pitcher we have all come to expect him to be.
Despite giving up a solo home run to Nomar Mazara in the top of the first inning, Kluber looked solid early, throwing 12 of his first 13 pitches for strikes. He also gave up a single to Rougned Odor to lead off the second inning, and Odor was able to advance to third on a pair of steals before coming back from being down 3-0 to strike out former Indian Mike Napoli to end the inning. With five strikeouts through the first two innings, it was looking like another outstanding start by Kluber.
As good as Kluber was to start, Rangers right-hander Andrew Cashner was even better, and with the help of a great leaping catch by Odor, threw two scoreless innings to start the game. Things came apart a bit for him in the bottom of the third inning as Yan Gomes and Bradley Zimmer led off the inning with a pair of singles. They each advanced a base on a wild pitch by Cashner. Gomes then scored on a ground out by Francisco Lindor, and Zimmer beat the tag to give the Indians their second lead of the game on another wild pitch by Cashner. At this point the Rangers pitcher’s frustrations were obvious, but he was able to retire Edwin Encarnacion on a deep fly to center as the Indians took a 2-1 lead.
They were able to break the game open in the bottom of the sixth inning, as Michael Brantley led off the inning with a double to right field, his second of the game, and quickly scored on a single to right by Encarnacion during which Edwin’s bat shattered with a piece catching Cashner in the right arm. Jose Ramirez then doubled to right field, advancing Encarnacion to third base. Lonnie Chisenhall then pinch-hit for Brandon Guyer and hit his own double to right field, scoring Encarnacion and Ramirez, and giving the Indians a 5-1 lead with no one out in the inning. The pair of runs gave Chisenhall an American League leading 19 pinch-hit RBI this season. He is also tied with Adam Lind of the Washington Nationals for the Major League lead. Nick Martinez relieved Cashner and was able to get out of the inning, but by then the damage was already done.
At this point, and with a sizable lead, Kluber was rolling. Over the next six innings, he allowed just two baserunners, and wound up finishing with 12 strikeouts against just one walk. This was Kluber’s fourth straight game with ten or more strikeouts, tying the club record held by Indians Legend and Hall of Famer, Bob Feller.
Bryan Shaw came on in the top of the ninth inning, and finished off the 5-1 victory, giving the Tribe the series win. With the Twins playing later tonight, the Indians took a one-game lead in the American League Central
Things I Noticed
Corey Kluber is a monster. After a slow start to the season that included some time on the disabled list, Kluber has been as good as any pitcher in baseball. His combination of great stuff, attacking mentality, and excellent control make him the most impressive pitcher to wear an Indians uniform that I have seen in my 39 years on this Earth.
Corey Kluber's June:
.150 opponents' average
.204 opponents' slugging
43 IP (6 starts)
64 K/7 BB
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) June 29, 2017
Kluber and Jose Ramirez have gotten a lot of attention for their stellar play, and deservedly so, but it must be noted that Lonnie Chisenhall has been stellar this season. Yes, he missed a good month due to injury, but he’s been excellent when he’s played, hitting .308 with a phenomenal .949 OPS. At 28 years old, Chisenhall is likely at his peak right now, and he’s come a long way from the third baseman who struggled stick stick with the Tribe for years.
The Indians head out on the road next for a four game series against the Detroit Tigers. This Tigers continue to struggle this season, and this could be a good chance for the Tribe to add some cushion to their lead in the A.L. Central. All season, the Indians have seemed to be on the verge of putting together a serious run that would help them take control of the division. We’ll see if now is the time.