Monday starts the final week of regular season baseball. For the Indians, it will be the final week in which the games have no importance, record-wise.
With a third straight American League Central Division title sewn up more than a week ago, the only thing that the Indians have had left to play for is pride and getting themselves set up for what they hope will be a long playoff run. That latter part has been big. The team, over the last week and over this coming week, will be looking to get players rested, get other players healthy, and get everyone geared up and ready to go for October baseball.
Eight strong innings from Corey Kluber and a three-run fifth powered the Cleveland Indians to a 5-3 win over the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday night from Progressive Field.
Pitcher wins have been devalued some in recent years, but that takes little away from Kluber’s effort on Tuesday, which secured him a career-best 19th victory on the year. He struck out eleven batters, his highest single-game K mark since April 9 (when he struck out 13 Tigers in his third start of the year). He ran into a brief bump in the road in the sixth inning, when the White Sox hit a pair of homers, but he otherwise contained the young and aggressive White Sox in his longest start since his August 4 shutout of the Los Angeles Angels.
The final homestand of the season continues for the Indians on Tuesday night as Cleveland hosts the Chicago White Sox in a three-game midweek set.
The Indians (83-66) continued their sleep walk through September, falling to 6-9 on the year after dropping two of three to Detroit over the weekend. While the team is winning at just a 40% clip in September, they still have managed to outscore the opposition by 12 runs. The Indians have lost or tied four of their five series in the month. They have defeated the White Sox ten times in 13 tries this season (outscoring them 73-34) with two series left in September.
With a runner at second base and two down in a one-run game against Neil Ramirez in the seventh, Ji-Man Choi blasted a 3-2 two-seamer deep to right, but hooked it foul before dropping the bat at the plate in frustration. He lofted the next pitch to center to end the inning.
He got to drop the bat again in the bottom of the ninth, but after carrying it nearly all the way to first base before beginning a slow and animated trot around the bases as his two-out, two-run home run off of Indians closer Brad Hand gave the Tampa Bay Rays a shocking 6-5 walk-off win from St. Petersburg.
The Indians will try to wrap up the American League Central Division this week in Tampa as Cleveland concludes its seven-game road trip with three games against the Rays.
Cleveland (81-62) traded wins and losses with the Toronto Blue Jays over the weekend to start its seven-game road trip before the final homestand of their year. September has been a rough one for the Tribe, as Cleveland is just 4-5 through the first nine days of the month. The pitching has provided some of the issue, as opposing players are hitting .272 against them this month, the second-worst mark in the American League. They do, however, lead the Bigs with 107 strikeouts and the league in walks with 17 in 81 1/3 innings. The Indians come into the series with a magic number to clinch the Central at five.
Is it possible that a starting pitcher with 18 wins in the first week of September could be an overlooked man? Add in that he has the game’s eighth-best ERA at 2.75 and incredible 0.95 WHIP, good for the game’s fourth lowest? Oh, and then there is the whole two Cy Young Awards thing.
Can this guy possibly be overlooked or taken for granted?
In the case of Cleveland Indians all-star and two-time Cy Young-winning Corey Kluber, that answer may just be yes.
With each start, Corey Kluber looks more and more ready for October baseball. The reigning Cy Young winner kept his name in that hat with a dominant six and two-thirds innings of two-hit baseball, striking out ten Royals in a 3-1 Indians win on Wednesday afternoon.
The Indians won back-to-back games for the first time in the month with a strong effort from their ace on getaway day. The right-hander made short work of the Royals through his 20 outs, and three men out of the bullpen combined to strike out six of the seven hitters that they faced in two and one-third perfect innings of relief.
The Indians and Royals will kick off their first of two September series with a three-game set from Progressive Field this week.
The Indians (77-59) dropped two of three in a tough series against the scrappy and young Tampa Bay Rays over the weekend in closely contested games. It marked the Tribe’s first home series loss since July 23-25 against the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Indians have been one of the better hitting teams in the second half of the season, ranking second in the AL with a .263 batting average and third in on-base percentage at .334 in that span. Cleveland was the only team in August to not record a triple, but the lineup tallied the fewest number of strikeouts of all 30 teams in those 31 days.
Corey Kluber settled in for a dominant start, Edwin Encarnacion homered late, and Cleveland tacked on a couple of insurance runs off of the Tampa bullpen on Friday night as the Indians defeated the Rays in a 3-0 shutout.
It was a return to form for a fresh-faced Kluber, who blanked the Rays over seven shutout innings, allowing just two hits and two walks while striking out eight batters to move to 17-7 on the season while earning his first win after shaving his notable, sizable beard for the first time this year. He was gripped in a tight pitching battle with young right-hander Tyler Glasnow, making his sixth start for the Rays since coming over in the Chris Archer trade at the end of July, but it would be a solo shot from Encarnacion that broke the ice and tilted the scales just in favor of the Tribe, which completed its 14th shutout of the year.
Former Indians coach Kevin Cash has done some interesting things with the Tampa Bay Rays. Those Rays are on pace for their best win total in his four years as manager and will look to build towards that end result as the club returns to Cleveland for the first time since the middle of May of last season.
The Indians (76-57) edged out a series win over the Minnesota Twins to take the season series from the second place team of the American League Central during the week. It gave the Indians season series victories over the Twins, Chicago White Sox, and Detroit Tigers, while having a sizable lead over the Kansas City Royals (8-4) prior to their visit at the beginning of next week as they go for the AL Central sweep.
The American League Central sleepwalk, coupled with a tough series with Boston earlier in the week, appear to have taken their toll on the Cleveland Indians. The Tribe dropped a season-high fourth straight game on Saturday, shelled by the Kansas City Royals, 7-1.
It was another tough start for Corey Kluber, who saw his four-game winning streak disappear in a rough outing against KC. The Royals fell behind early, but fought back and scored runs in five of their final six trips to the plate to bury the Indians with a big loss.
It will be a familiar foe for the Cleveland Indians this weekend as they face the Kansas City Royals in three straight, but there will be plenty of things different on Players’ Weekend.
The Indians (73-54) started their seven-game road trip with a four-game set in Boston against the Red Sox. After taking the first two games of the series, they dropped the latter two in short starts from the staff. The Tribe has taken the last five games with the Royals and are 7-2 against them this season. Like Kansas City, Cleveland will be sporting the special Players’ Weekend jerseys, with the Indians donning red jerseys with navy sleeves and a red cap with a blue block ‘C’ and bill.