Francisco Lindor and Austin Jackson celebrate the Indians’ 13th straight win on Tuesday night, a 9-4 victory over the Chicago White Sox.
Danny Salazar returned from the disabled list to start Tuesday night’s game against the White Sox and never made it out of the first inning. He threw 26 pitches, walked 2, hit a batter, and gave up 4 earned runs (3 of which came on a home run from Matt Davidson). While that could have spelled doom for the Indians, they benefited from a Chicago pitcher that had a first inning almost as bad as Salazar’s. In the top of the first David Holmberg threw 38 pitches, gave up 2 solo home runs, 3 walks, and a single as the Indians jumped out to a short-lived 3-0 lead. If you count Nick Goody’s third of an inning after Salazar departed, Indians and White Sox pitchers threw 82 pitches in an inning that took more than 45 minutes.
By the second inning (which started around 9 p.m. eastern) the Indians had already burned 2 pitchers and trailed the White Sox 4-3. However, the Indians have been in this position before. Just think of the game last September 17 where Carlos Carrasco was injured in the first inning against the Detroit Tigers; the Indians’ bullpen was lights out for the rest of the game as they pulled out a 1-0 walk-off win. On Tuesday night against the White Sox, the bullpen pitched 8 scoreless innings as the Indians came from behind and ended up winning 9-4.
The Indians managed to tie the game up at 4 almost immediately as Jose Ramirez hit his second solo home run of the game in the second inning. In the third inning the Indians jumped out to a 6-4 lead that they never relinquished after a Greg Allen double scored Yan Gomes and Brandon Guyer. The Tribe put up a bit of extra insurance in the eighth inning when Yan Gomes hit a 3-run home run, plating Carlos Santana and Lonnie Chisenhall.
There were 6 different pitchers that managed to keep the White Sox off the board after the first inning – Dan Otero, Zach McAllister, Joe Smith, Tyler Olson, Bryan Shaw, and Shawn Armstrong. Terry Francona originally had Cody Allen warming up to pitch the ninth inning, but after the Gomes home run ended up opting for Armstrong instead. Armstrong quickly got the first two outs in the bottom of the ninth, and then ended up with runners at second and third. Francona actually had to get Allen back up again, in case Armstrong allowed the game to revert to a save situation. Thankfully, Armstrong was able to get Davidson to strike out to end the game.
On Wednesday night, the Indians will go for their 14th straight win, which would tie their winning streak from 2016 (a team record). While I’d love to see them match (or even surpass!) their win streak from last season, I’m just going to enjoy watching this team right now. The Indians now have an 11-game lead on the Minnesota Twins, and their magic number dropped to 14 on Tuesday night. The Los Angeles Dodgers, who just a few weeks ago looked like they may be on track to tie or surpass the 116 game record for wins, now have just 10 wins more than the Indians (at least until the Dodgers-Diamondbacks game ends, which is currently tied 1-1). As recently as August 25, the Dodgers had 20 wins more than the Tribe; a combo of the Indians’ winning streak and the Dodgers slump has narrowed the gap. The Indians also have a run differential of +186, just three behind the Dodgers’ +189 for the best run differential in baseball.
I stand behind the second half of this post I wrote at the end of June about an Indians win over the Rangers. I know a lot of people who were critical of the 2017 Indians, and who thought that they weren’t nearly as special as they were in 2016. I pointed out that this was a kind of revisionist history, that there were many times during the regular season in 2016 that I did not see a team destined to make the World Series. The Indians frustrated me at times in 2016, and they’ve frustrated me a number of times in 2017. The one common denominator that I see between last season and this season, is that this team keeps fighting. There’s a resiliency that’s keeps them going through numerous injuries, and bad moments like Salazar’s early departure before the end of the first inning. It may not have the drama and excitement of all of the walk-off wins in 2016, but that doesn’t make it any less impressive.