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Hose. Cannon. Rifle. Laser. Whatever you want to call it, Columbus Clippers outfielder Carlos Moncrief has it. His International League leading 22 assists have left fans saying “wow” and base-runners walking back to the dugout shaking their heads all season long.
“I never knew I was doing anything spectacular because nobody said anything,” the 25-year-old Moncrief said. “It wasn’t in the newspaper or on the news. I was just in Jackson, Mississippi doing it in someone’s backyard [Laughs]. Nobody knew. But now that people talk about it I try to stay as humble as I can.”
Moncrief’s 22 outfield assists are the most in one season by a Clipper and the most in one season in the International League since Norfolk’s Chris Roberson had 22 in 2008. To put this feat into further perspective, Boston Red Sox outfielder Yoenis Cespedes currently leads the major leagues with 14 outfield assists.
Well, isn’t this a surprise.
While it seems like the Cleveland Indians have been here before, it still seems like a shock. Just a month ago after play on July 31, the Indians were 53-55 overall and 6.5 games back in the American League Central Division, stuck in third place. In the two days previous Cleveland had traded Asdrubal Cabrera and Justin Masterson to contenders for young players that may help them now, or into the future.
While Indians manager Terry Francona professed that his team would never quit, it seemed obvious that the Tribe was likely out of contention. They weren’t going into any kind of long, rebuilding mode, but more of an approach to prepare themselves to be competitive in 2015. Cabrera and Masterson were no longer in their long term plans, so dealing them for a piece that could help in 2015 made sense, but a serious contender wouldn’t trade away two veterans.
In the words of Bull Durham, “Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose and sometimes it rains. That’s baseball.”
The Indians were working on the first, when the latter interrupted their plans.
For the second consecutive inning the Indians were three outs away from completing the three-game sweep and winning 4-2 in 10 innings when heavy rains forced the game to be suspended without completion. Cleveland and Kansas City will finish the contest on September 22 in Cleveland during their final series of the season. The Tribe were three outs from victory in the ninth inning when Cody Allen blew the save in the ninth inning. Cleveland was able to make the most of what Kansas City gave them, capitalizing on two Royals’ errors to tally three of their four runs.
Lonnie Chisenhall provided the two-out double in the bottom of the 10th off Royals’ closer Greg Holland for the lead, but he would have never had the chance without Yan Gomes four hits and seven strong innings from T.J. House. In a pitching matchup that featured, flame-thrower Danny Duffy, it was the soft-tossing House that shined the brightest on the national stage.
If you were told that a team had traded away two former All-Stars, their closer, and their former setup man, all within the span of a little over two weeks, it generally is safe to say that the fire sale was in full effect and the hopes for the rest of the season would be on watching young prospects fight for their futures while the team played out their remaining schedule.
The Cleveland Indians did exactly that over the last month and have responded with their single best month of the season. In doing so, they have shrunk the gap in both the American League Central and the AL Wild Card race to just three and a half games.
It is stuff like this that makes baseball such an incredible game to follow.
Fingernails are no longer needed in this season. After Saturday evening, they’re all gone.
In a nail-biter affair, where runs were a premium but opportunity was abound it appeared the Kansas City Royals were going to steal a win in the bottom of the eighth when the Cleveland Indians played poor defense to allow an unearned run to force extra innings. But it was the hustle of Jose Ramirez—one of the error makers in the eighth—that created an 11th inning rally and gave the Indians a 3-2 win at Kauffman Stadium.
The late-inning back and forth erased quality starts from Trevor Bauer and James Shields in the decisions of the contest. Each battled in the low-scoring affair, Shields controlling the Indians bats, while Bauer skirted around trouble all evening. Kansas City stranded 15 men on base in the game and were just 2-for-18 with runners in scoring position.
The win, combined with Detroit’s doubleheader split in Chicago today, has tightened the race in the American League Central Division. Kansas City and Detroit now are tied atop the division lead and the Indians are now just 3.5 games back.
Indians owner Bill Veeck said, after a deal stalled to deal player-manager Lou Boudreau, that sometimes the best deal is the one you don’t make.
After the 1993 season, the Indians were wheeling and dealing. Although the nucleus of players that would make the Tribe an AL Central powerhouse were in place, General Manager John Hart was wheeling and dealing.
Other than the rain, it was the perfect formula the Indians have been using to win.
The Tribe took an early lead, manufactured runs and played small ball in a three-run third inning, then rode solid starting pitching and the bullpen to a 6-1 victory over Kansas City on Friday night. Danny Salazar pitched five strong innings, to out-pitch veteran Jason Vargas before a 45-minute rain delay cut his evening short. The scrappy, Indians offense used three hits in the third inning that didn’t travel more than 150-feet each to take control of the game.
Cleveland took the lead in the top of the second inning, courtesy of a bloop and a little blast. Jason Kipnis dropped a shallow single in over the infield with one out and moved to scoring position on Yan Gomes’ ground out to third base. Then, Zach Walters continued to drive in runs, gapping a double to the left center field gap, scoring Kipnis and giving the Indians a 1-0 lead.
August has been kind to the Cleveland Indians. With three days left in the month, they will need that trend to continue. The team will wrap up their best month of the season so far with three games at Kauffman Stadium against the American League Central leading Kansas City Royals with an opportunity to erase some significant distance in the standings
The Indians (68-64) won their fourth consecutive series and have now won five of their last six, failing only to split a two-game set with Arizona during that span. In three closely contested games in Chicago, they took two of three from the White Sox, a team that had won six of their first seven games against the Indians at U.S. Cellular Field this season. In ten innings on Tuesday, a two-run home run from Zach Walters lifted Cleveland to an 8-6 victory. With staff ace Corey Kluber on the mound on Wednesday, the Indians dropped a 3-2 final. They bounced back for the series win on Thursday, holding on to support another dominant outing from Carlos Carrasco and a four-out, four strikeout save from Cody Allen in a 3-2 win.
In 2011 and 2012 the Cleveland Indians had a bullpen that was good enough to develop a nickname. The 2014 Tribe bullpen does not have any special monikers but may well be better than those pens that were the backbone of struggling baseball teams.
After a 2013 season of bullpen question marks and implosions, the Indians are enjoying a fantastic relief season this year. The pen is again arguably the strongest and deepest part of the club, this time a club that will go into September with playoff aspirations still alive.
Cleveland’s relief corps of 2011 and ’12 called themselves the Bullpen Mafia. Both seasons saw five relievers put up strong numbers. Those groups were headed by closer Chris Perez and setup men Vinnie Pestano and Joe Smith. For two seasons, that trio was as good as any late-game group in the game. In 2011, Tony Sipp and Rafael Perez put up good numbers to complement the group. In 2012, it was Frank Herrmann and Esmil Rogers.
Roberto Perez caught Cody Allen’s fastball down the middle and pumped his fist immediately. The closer escaped an eighth inning jam and retired the side in the ninth, allowing the Indians to walk away from U.S. Cellular Field with their fourth straight series win following their 3-2 win over the White Sox.
Carlos Carrasco made his fourth start since his return from the bullpen and again proved why the move was made as he earned the win. He faced John Danks, who was 9-8 with a 4.96 ERA heading into the game.