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The Indians got six and one-third innings of scoreless baseball from Trevor Bauer and the bullpen tandem of Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen retired the final eight outs without a hit as Cleveland blanked the Kansas City Royals, 5-0, on Saturday night.
Bauer got a little help from his friends, who provided some early runs and some good work in the field behind him as the Tribe starter won his 12th game of the season, joining Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco to form the Majors’ only pitching staff with three different dozen-game winners. Bauer has now won each of his last five decisions, the longest streak of his career, and has not taken a loss in over a month.
Even after watching it live, and watching it again, and again and again and again, it was hard to describe what Indians fans witnessed a year ago Saturday because it was something I had never seen in my lifetime.
With a swing and a drive, a mistimed jump, a wild sprint around the bases, a head first dive into the plate, and a rock star fist pump to the skies, Tyler Naquin cemented a place in Cleveland Indians history with an improbable walk-off inside-the-park homer against the Toronto Blue Jays to give the Tribe a 3-2 victory.
A year later, the Indians will send Trevor Bauer to the mound to start against the Kansas City Royals, just as he had on that surreal night against Toronto, but Naquin will not be with the team to remember the event. He instead will be in Columbus, more than two hours away from Progressive Field, where the magic and miracle occurred. A third place finish in the American League’s Rookie of the Year race at season’s end was not enough for him to maintain a spot with the Major League club this season, as he lasted less than two weeks with the Indians at the outset of the season. He has since been surpassed by top prospect Bradley Zimmer for the job in center field for the immediate future.
Cleveland manager Terry Francona tried to loosen up the Indians clubhouse a little bit heading into a key weekend series in Kansas City with the Royals. The results appeared evident on the field, as the Indians routed the Royals by a 10-1 final, but had a scare in the sixth inning when starting pitcher Corey Kluber had to exit the ball game early with an injury.
In a game that had plenty of positives to draw upon, Indians’ players, brass, and fans were all collectively holding their breath in the sixth when Kluber broke from the mound and appeared hobbled as he attempted to cover first base on an infield single. He was able to talk his way back onto the mound in what was then a 6-1 contest and pitched to another batter, but after the base hit, Francona and the team trainer were back out to the mound to escort Kluber from the game.
It was announced late in the game that Kluber left with a right ankle sprain.
A lengthy eleven-game road trip has proven to be little problem for the Cleveland Indians as they return to Kauffman Stadium for a three-game set with the Kansas City Royals this weekend.
It will be a clash of the top two clubs in the American League Central, as the Royals (61-59) have slipped a half-game in front of the Minnesota Twins for the second spot in the division. After ignoring any urges to sell at the deadline, the Royals instead attempted to bulk up the roster, adding to the outfield, bullpen, and starting rotation. They have hung around the Wild Card race, trailing the second spot by a half game going into action on Friday, and have kept close enough in the AL Central to keep that divisional battle alive and well. A big weekend for the club could cut the gap significantly.
The Indians (66-53) saw their six-game winning streak come to an end on Thursday night, but the club is still riding a wave of strong performances on the road. After dropping the first game of their long roadie in Tampa, they won three straight from the Rays, took a one-game makeup date in Boston with the Red Sox, and defeated the Twins in the opener on Tuesday and in game one of a doubleheader on Thursday. The Indians will now look to expand on their divisional lead, currently sitting at five and a half games over the Royals.
Outfielder Conner Capel once again caught the eyes of those in the Midwest League with another solid week of play for the Lake County Captains. He was recognized by his league on Monday with his second Player of the Week award of the season.
The 20-year-old Capel has made good use of his playing time for Lake County this season, putting on a strong display of power for the Class-A Captains. In his first full season in the organization after being selected in the fifth round of the 2016 draft by the Indians, the Katy, Texas, native is hitting .248 through 105 games with 20 doubles, six triples, 19 homers, and 52 RBI. His good week last week has continued on this week, as he has an eight-game hitting streak heading into action on Friday night.
That streak is his second longest of the season, trailing just a 10-gamer that ended earlier in the month.
A battle of minor league starters went in favor of the Twins on Thursday night, as Minnesota and rookie Aaron Slegers avoided a sweep with a 4-2 win in game two of the day’s doubleheader.
The 6’10” right-hander Slegers got the call for the Twins as the club’s 26th man for the second game of the day’s double dip and stood tall, both in effort and in stature, in his Major League debut at Target Field. He carried a one-hitter into the seventh inning and after Max Kepler‘s lost footing cost the Twins the lead, the outfielder put Minnesota back on top for good with an eighth inning blast off of Mike Clevinger.
Home field advantage has not applied to Target Field for the Minnesota Twins when facing the Cleveland Indians this season. The Tribe improved to 9-0 in Minneapolis this season behind a 9-3 victory in game one of a day-night doubleheader on Thursday afternoon.
The game was a bit closer than the final score indicated, as the Indians tacked on six runs in the final two frames to blow open the contest. Carlos Carrasco worked around some early difficulties and five relievers had to combine to close out the game, temporarily making things close in the bottom of the seventh before the bats came to the rescue.