2018: Still Rallying Together
A common theme to most ball games for the Cleveland Indians this season has been the lineup’s inability to contribute meaningful at bats with runners in scoring position. But, as it turns out, the Indians are hardly the only team struggling to produce when opportunity knocks.
There were already significant concerns about what Cleveland was going to bring to the plate after losing the reliable, albeit occasionally inconsistent, bat of Carlos Santana in the winter. While he is hardly lighting the city of Philadelphia on fire with his production – he has slashed .151/.301/.288 for the Phillies with four doubles, two homers, and ten RBI in 21 games – he has knocked in eight runs when stepping to the plate with runners in scoring position.
Couple that with the loss of the rented Jay Bruce from the roster, and it was tough to see how the Indians might replace the departing production. Compounding the problem even further, Michael Brantley started the year on the disabled list, Lonnie Chisenhall lasted just seven games before succumbing to a strained right calf, and some of the bigger names in the lineup (Yonder Alonso, Edwin Encarnacion, Jason Kipnis, Francisco Lindor, and Jose Ramirez) are hitting .236 or lower through the club’s first 19 games.
The offensive woes have been real, but the Indians still sit atop the American League Central Division with an 11-8 (.579) record, fifth best in the AL.
When Mike Napoli signed a minor league deal with the Indians during spring training, it was thought that he could be a valuable clubhouse presence in camp and even an insurance policy if the team needed some right-handed pop or a replacement for Yonder Alonso or Edwin Encarnacion for some reason during the year.
Instead, Napoli’s season is over, and there is a chance that his career could be, too.
The Cleveland Indians will make their only trip to Camden Yards this season when they play the Baltimore Orioles for four games in a weekend wraparound series.
The Indians (9-7) make their return back to the states after a two-day vacation in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where they were hosted by the “home” Minnesota Twins in a pair of midweek games. Cleveland used strong pitching and four home runs to capture the game one win before losing a tough 2-1 decision in 16 innings on Wednesday night. They have spent more time in the last week not playing than playing, after rain outs on Saturday and Sunday and off days on Monday and Thursday. How much the lack of game activity affects consistency and routine for the club remains to be seen.
Some big names to suit up for the Cleveland Indians during the last three decades have hailed from the island of Puerto Rico. The Indians’ two-game road trip to San Juan as the visiting club against the “home” Twins on Tuesday and Wednesday will mark the team’s first regular season games in Puerto Rico and will serve as a homecoming of sorts for star shortstop Francisco Lindor and catcher Roberto Perez, who both spent a portion of their lives there.
According to the historical archives known as Baseball Reference, 242 Puerto Rican-born players have stepped into the batter’s box in Major League history.
The Cleveland Indians will face a familiar foe this week when they battle the Minnesota Twins in a pair of midweek games. The location, however, will be anything but the norm for the two clubs.
Baseball heads abroad and returns to Estadio Hiram Bithorn in San Juan, Puerto Rico, this week for the first time since June 28-30, 2010, when the Florida Marlins (and Puerto Rican interim manager Edwin Rodriguez) faced the New York Mets. San Juan has hosted 47 games in its history, with the bulk of the activity coming in 2003 and 2004 when the Montreal Expos spent a portion of the two seasons playing on the island.
For the Indians (8-6), they have a long history with Puerto Rico, as some of the island’s better players have suited up over the years for the club, including current members of the team Francisco Lindor and Roberto Perez and past players, Carlos Baerga, Juan Gonzalez, Vic Power, and the Alomar brothers Roberto and Sandy, just to name a few. The Indians have had a long layoff, as they last played on Friday night in a disappointing 8-4 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays after allowing eight unanswered runs in the ball game. That loss has sat and stewed for several extra days, as contests with the Jays on Saturday and Sunday were both postponed by heavy rains before Monday’s off day.
Over the winter there was some gnashing of teeth as the Cleveland Indians waived good-bye to Carlos Santana, Bryan Shaw and Jay Bruce. Santana and Shaw had been on the club for multiple years, while Bruce was an August trade addition last summer.
Most of the fret was focused around the offense and what losing power hitters the likes of Santana and Bruce would do to the every day lineup’s run-scoring potential. As for Shaw, some Tribe fans were all too eager to see him leave. He was the player, however, that manager Terry Francona seemed the most distraught over losing.
While it is certainly no 22-game winning streak, the Indians’ current five-game streak has done wonders to quell some of the concerns about Cleveland’s early offensive woes.
The Indians (8-5) have ripped off five straight wins and have won six of the first seven games of their ten-game homestand. After a tough 2-4 road trip through Seattle and Anaheim, the Indians came home to an AL Central battle with the Kansas City Royals, taking two of three. They completed the difficult four-game sweep during the week, handling the Detroit Tigers while the bats woke up late in the series as the weather in Cleveland took a notable turn for the better.
The Cleveland Indians will continue their ill-advised ten-game early April homestand with a four-game series this week with the Detroit Tigers.
(Seriously…I understand trying to plot out 162 games for 30 teams is no picnic, but rescheduling snow-outs and playing in near-freezing temps because of the stupidity of the schedule makers is infuriating…)
The Indians (4-5) won their first series of the season over the weekend from the Kansas City Royals, but needed a dramatic two-run walk-off homer from Yan Gomes to seal the deal. It salvaged a second strong starting performance from Mike Clevinger in the process and gave the Tribe the rubber match of the series. The previous two games were both one-run contests, with the Indians winning on Friday night by a 3-2 final before losing on Saturday afternoon by a 1-0 decision.
Mike Clevinger has done something this season that neither two-time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber or Cy Young finalist Carlos Carrasco have been able to as of yet – take the pitcher’s mound and throw up zeroes every inning that he pitched.
On Monday night, Clevinger blanked the Angels in five and one-third solid innings, helping the Indians to their second victory of the young season. It was one of just two wins on their six-game west coast road trip to open the 2018 season. The only knock one may be able to have on that outing is that it was somewhat short. He only recorded one more out than necessary to even be the pitcher of record and was two outs shy of a quality start.
Still, he kept Los Angels off the scoreboard and, when it comes to pitching, that really is the name of the game.
After a disappointing 2-4 start to the season with a pair of road series losses in Seattle and Anaheim, the Cleveland Indians return to Progressive Field to open their home schedule with a three-game series against the Kansas City Royals.
The Indians (2-4) could use some home cooking after four close games to open the year and a pair of lopsided contests against the Angels. After playing three one-run games against the Mariners to open the year while taking just one of the contests, their series with the Angels was highlighted by a pair of blowouts and another one-run defeat in walk-off fashion on Wednesday afternoon. It seems as though the collective offense is cold and the pitching staff has had its own issues to contend with. This year will mark the 25th home opener for the Indians’ jewel on the lake.
The Cleveland Indians will continue their early battles with the American League West this week as they complete the final stop of their first road trip of the year with a three-game series in Anaheim against the Los Angeles Angels.
The Indians (1-2) opened the 2018 schedule with three straight one-run games and came out on the wrong side in the bookend contests. Seattle claimed 2-1 and 5-4 wins on Thursday and Sunday, while Cleveland captured a 6-5 win on Saturday. The results on the field were mixed, as the numbers were all over for the pitching staff, while the offense had some bats in midseason form with others still trying to find their ways to the plate.
The Angels (3-1) will celebrate their home opener this week with the Indians in town. They are coming off of a good series in Oakland against their division rivals, the Athletics. After dropping the season opener 6-5, the Angels bounced back to take the remaining three games over the weekend, putting them atop the American League West Division. Los Angeles spent some time and money to restructure their roster in the offseason, adding a pair of new faces in the infield (one via trade, one through free agency), re-signing outfielder Justin Upton, and bringing in dual threat two-way player Shohei Ohtani from Japan.
If Trevor Bauer can continue the upward trajectory that he has been on since being traded to the Cleveland Indians in the winter before the 2013 season, big things could soon be in store for the Tribe’s No. 3 starting pitcher.
In his first five years with Cleveland, Bauer has done nothing but improve. He started as a minor league prospect with talent, but possibly too head-strong, and eventually became a good end of the Major League rotation guy. By 2016, he was regarded as a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter. Last season he blossomed, in the second half, as a possible All-Star and Cy Young candidate in the making.