The Indians clubbed the White Sox 11-2 at Guaranteed Rate Field Thursday night, capping a perfect 11-0 road trip through New York, Detroit and Chicago and setting a new franchise record at 15 consecutive victories.
This game hardly felt like it was ever in doubt.
Francisco Lindor welcomed Chicago’s emergency starter Mike Pelfrey with a triple to center field on the second pitch of the game. Three pitches later, Austin Jackson drove Lindor home with a double, Yandy Diaz drew a full count walk and then Edwin Encarnacion yanked a 90 mph sinker over the fence for his 33rd home run of the season and just 13 pitches into the game, the Indians led 4-0 while Corey Kluber waited in the wings.
If you turned off the TV to catch up on some reading, your confidence may be commended but you still missed one heck of a ride.
Kluber did falter unexpectedly in the bottom half of the first. Yolmer Sanchez connected on a cutter and sent it 422 feet out to right field to immediately put the White Sox on the board. Jose Abreu followed with another shot two batters later and the lead was cut to 4-2. Oddly enough, it was the second time this season that Kluber has allowed two home runs in an inning. Carlos Gomez and Rougned Odor also pulled off the feat on Opening Day in Arlington back on April 3rd.
Once he escaped the launching pad in the first, however, Kluber was his usual dominant self and the White Sox failed to score for the rest of the game. Mike Pelfrey, on the other hand, kept the good times rolling.
The Indians have faced some good Major League starters during this win streak (Chris Sale, Luis Severino), so let’s not fault them for taking an opportunity to tee off on a pitcher of Pelfrey’s ilk over the first three innings. Pelfrey (3-11, 5.51), now 33 years old, was once a first round draft pick of the Mets in 2005 (number nine overall), but is seven years removed from his last productive season. Released by Detroit late in Spring Training this year, the Tigers actually pay about $7.5 million of Pelfrey’s $8 million salary. For comparison, Kluber makes $7.7 million this season but has put up 6.6 WAR compared to Pelfrey’s donut.
Oh well, the White Sox are looking for innings of any caliber at this point in their season and they got four of them from Pelfrey tonight.
Second inning? Home run by Lindor. His 27th of the season. 5-0 Indians.
Besides the two first inning home runs, Kluber allowed just two base runners – a fifth inning single to Omar Narvaez and a leadoff walk in the seventh to Nick Delmonico. Otherwise, he was his usual dominating self while managing to strike out 13 batters in seven innings while only throwing 96 pitches. He goes to 15-4 with a 2.56 ERA for the season and continues to build his argument for his second Cy Young award. With 22 games remaining this season, Kluber has maybe four more starts to continue to lap Chris Sale. It should be an interesting two-horse race down the stretch.
A few highlights late in the game were particularly fun as the Indians of the future got into the offensive mix. Greg Allen hit his first Major League home run (he had two in double-A this season) in the seventh, and Erik Gonzalez had his first multi-homer game when he connected in the ninth inning, capping the scoring at 11 runs.
Oh, and Craig Breslow finished the ninth inning on 12 pitches. I think I remember hearing he was on the team (he’s now pitched three shutout innings), but was even more stunned that he pitched in seven games for the Tribe in 2008. Just when I think I know something about baseball, Craig Breslow comes along and gets me all confused again.
Anyway, there’s really not much to dislike over these past 15 games. Tonight’s 11 runs were tied for only third highest during the streak. They put up 12 against KC and 13 against Chris Sale and the Red Sox. They’ve outscored the opposition by an average score of 7-2. Coming into tonight, the Indians were five runs better than even the mighty Dodgers in run differential (190 vs 185) and the best in all of baseball. The Indians added another nine to that tonight while the Dodgers currently trail Colorado by eight in a game started by Clayton Kershaw.
In fact, only six teams have run differentials over 100 this season (Indians, Dodgers, Astros, Nationals, Diamondbacks and Yankees). The Indians +81 differential in their past 15 games is actually better than 22 other teams have managed all season.
This is all a long-winded way to say that the Indians are dominant right now. The formerly dominant Dodgers, still nine wins ahead of the Indians, have lost 11 of their last 12. Dominance is ephemeral in baseball and I admit that my greatest fear this postseason is that the story lines a season in the making (Dodgers win 110ish games, Indians win 15+ in a row, Astros bring some fun back to a flooded Houston) may be just as quickly wiped out by a fluky hot wild card team and a World Series that doesn’t match this memorable season. Twins/Rockies? Angels/Diamondbacks? We all deserve better.
Maybe in Joe Buck’s wildest dreams, Kyle Schwarber and the Cubs against Aroldis Chapman and the Yankees. I’m getting a little woozy over here.
Anyway, it’s only early September and the Indians have a weekend series back at home to look forward to. Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN, for that matter. Let’s give this team a warm welcome tomorrow night at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario.