2017: This Year is Next Year
The Cleveland Indians have entered into unfamiliar territory, and it was not just their once-a-year visit to one of the worst stadiums in use in Major League Baseball today in the Oakland Coliseum. The team’s losing streak hit four straight as Trevor Bauer was only able to retire two batters in a four-run first inning by the A’s as Oakland went on to complete the sweep over Cleveland with a 7-3 win.
The return of manager Terry Francona to the Indians dugout on Friday has not sparked new energy from the Tribe as they dropped their third straight to start the second half and fourth in a row overall in their longest losing skid since losing six straight from July 23-28, 2015.
On Wednesday night, the MLB Network took Cleveland Indians fans on a trip down memory lane. The network’s documentary, “The Dynasty That Almost Was,” took an in-depth look at the great 1990s Indians teams that Clevelanders came to love and cherish.
The hour-and-a-half-long program was a roller coaster ride of emotions for the Tribe faithful. It showed how a baseball team that had been stuck in a rut of losing since the 1960s put together an amazingly young and talented team through shrewd trades and smart drafting.
By 1994, the young team was ready to take flight toward becoming a powerhouse just as the Indians beautiful new ballpark, Jacob’s Field, was opening. From 1994-2001, the Cleveland Indians went on a run of success unmatched by any Tribe team before it or since. That run included six American League Central Division crowns and two trips to the World Series.
The second half has not started the way that the Cleveland Indians would have scripted.
One night after being limited to four hits in a 5-0 shutout by the Oakland Athletics, Corey Kluber allowed a game-tying solo blast in the eighth inning and Bryan Shaw gave up the game-winning two-run shot to Khris Davis in the bottom of the ninth as the A’s celebrated their seventh walk-off win in a 5-3 victory on Saturday night.
The Indians (47-42) have now opened the second half by losing games started by the top two pitchers in their rotation.
It was a rare rough road start for Carlos Carrasco and the bats of his Cleveland Indians teammates could not kick off the All-Star break rust against Sonny Gray, who led the Oakland Athletics to a 5-0 four-hit shutout late Friday night.
Gray had the daunting task of taking the mound knowing that each start could be the last in the only home that he has known in his professional career. Rumored to be one of the more heavily pursued starting pitchers potentially on the trade block, now with Chicago’s Jose Quintana off of the market, the 27-year-old right-hander had to deal with rumors of his start being scratched less than an hour before first pitch. The speculation swirled through social media and led to him having to put his cell phone away due to the flood of text messages that he received less than an hour before taking the mound from those wondering if there was validity to his participation in “Hug Watch 2017”.
All Gray did from there was pitch like the highly coveted player that interested teams envisioned him to be.
Baseball is back. Tito is back. Heck, even Tyler Naquin is back.
After two long days without any Major League Baseball action (with exception of the trade of Jose Quintana across the sprawling city limits of Chicago), the Cleveland Indians are back in action as they start a Bay Area road trip on Friday night with three games with the Oakland Athletics.
The Indians (47-40) went into the All-Star break in the spot that they belong, leading the American League Central Division. While they have been able to hold off the hard charging Minnesota Twins and Kansas City Royals in recent weeks, the true test will come down the stretch in the second half. A playoff tested Indians team would presumably have the advantage over a young Twins club with glaring deficits in its starting rotation, but the Royals still could roll the dice and go in on one last hurrah before dealing with a financial crisis in free agency following the season.
The city of Cleveland was well represented in Miami on Tuesday night. The Tribe contingent was active throughout the 88th annual All-Star Game in a contest decided on a tenth inning solo home run by Seattle’s Robinson Cano in a 2-1 American League victory over the host National League squad from Marlins Park.
Cano, an injury replacement for New York’s Starlin Castro, delivered the deciding run off of the lone Chicago Cub representative in the game, closer Wade Davis. Cano took home the Most Valuable Player award for his game-winner and the AL has won five consecutive games. The win evened up the all-time series between the two circuits at 43-43-2, while both teams have scored a total of 361 runs each.
The future was now on Sunday, even if most people missed it.
Major League Baseball has done an effective job of hiding the All-Star Futures Game, a collection of some of the best and brightest upcoming stars on the minor league stage. With a great opportunity to get the names of these young budding prospects out on a national level, the game was stashed away in the middle of the day Sunday while the big boys in the Majors wrapped up the first half of the 2017 playing schedule.
Michael Fulmer pitched at his All-Star level through the first six innings and the Cleveland bullpen could not keep the score tied in the middle innings as the Detroit Tigers dealt the Indians a 5-3 loss to close out the first half of the 2017 regular season schedule.
Sunday’s national broadcast put the Indians and Tigers in the spotlight with an impressive pitching matchup between a pair of All-Stars in Fulmer and Corey Kluber.
Charismatic, outgoing, flashy, defensive wizard. Those are all words that can describe Francisco Lindor. They are likely the biggest reasons that his peers voted him into this Tuesday’s All-Star Game despite a two-month struggle at the plate, representing Lindor’s worst hitting slump since he made his Major League debut a little more than two years ago on June 14, 2015.
When Lindor was named to the American League roster via the player’s vote, for this year’s Midsummer Classic, some were surprised. There was little shock that Houston’s Carlos Correa, who edged out Lindor in the 2015 A.L. Rookie of the Year balloting, was named the starter. However, Lindor was picked as Correa’s back up over the likes of the Red Sox’s Xander Bogaerts and the Angels’ Andrelton Simmons. Both of those players are having excellent statistical seasons at the plate – better than Lindor.
Lindor was named to his second straight All-Star squad on June 30, just as his worst full hitting month as a Major Leaguer was coming to a close. The now two-time All-Star hit just .214 in June, following a so-so month of May that saw him hit .248. This all was coming from a guy who, through this April, had only had one full month in the big leagues that was something of a struggle (he hit just .238 last September). That was forgiven as it was his first full year with the Tribe and he did rebound nicely to be one of the club’s hitting leaders during its memorable postseason run. Otherwise, Lindor has been one of the Tribe’s more consistent hitters since the June 2015 promotion.
Mike Clevinger and the Cleveland bullpen blanked the Detroit Tigers on four hits as the Indians completed their ninth shutout of the season with a 4-0 win on Saturday.
Fans at Progressive Field were treated to an old fashion pitchers’ duel for much of the game as Clevinger and Justin Verlander went toe-to-toe in a rematch of last Sunday’s game at Comerica Park. Verlander looked much more like his former Cy Young self than the pitcher that the Indians had seen in two of his first three outings against them this season, but Clevinger matched him pitch for pitch in another solid start against the Tigers by the young right-hander.
Both pitchers dealt with obstacles on the base paths, but both teams were able to work around potential big innings.
With the way Carlos Carrasco was pitching on Friday night at Progressive Field, he was not going to need too much run support. So, of course, the Cleveland bats put up eleven runs as the Indians destroyed the Detroit Tigers in an 11-2 final.
Carrasco got the help that he did not necessarily need as he fired seven innings of two-run baseball while striking out eleven Tigers hitters to win his fifth straight decision. He improved to 10-3 in his final start of the first half. He pitched with a big lead after a five-run third inning by the Tribe off of Detroit starter Jordan Zimmermann and never looked back.
His effort was also a historic one for the record books as he pulled off the “immaculate inning” in the fifth by striking out the side while needing just nine pitches, becoming just the second pitcher in Cleveland Indians history to accomplish the feat and just the 84th to do so in Major League Baseball history (Justin Masterson was the only Tribe pitcher to do it previously, recording his in 2014).
A pair of key members of the Cleveland Indians All-Star contingent will miss Tuesday’s All-Star Game in Miami, the team announced on Friday.
Manager Terry Francona will not be at the helm for the American League All-Stars after undergoing a cardiac ablation at the Cleveland Clinic on Thursday to address a heart arrhythmia. Francona missed the entire series with the San Diego Padres this week and will not be with the club through the weekend while recovering from the procedure.
The beloved Tribe skipper is expected to rejoin the Indians for their first series after the All-Star break when the club opens the second half on a west coast trip, starting next Friday in Oakland.