The Indians could not get the big hit that has plagued the offense throughout much of the first two months of the season and the Royals bullpen slammed the door on Cleveland for starter Jason Vargas as Kansas City won its second straight game of the series with a 5-2 win on Saturday afternoon.
On a day dedicated to former big league great Frank Robinson, whose number 20 was retired as part of the unveiling of a statue in his honor at Progressive Field, Cleveland could not slow down a Kansas City offense that has decided to wake up some this weekend just in time to take on their division rival. Danny Salazar struggled with command and limiting the traffic and racked up some lopsided stats, and that was after he dodged a significant first inning threat.
Rainy weather in Cleveland ended the Indians’ series with the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday, with the club losing two of three to their in-state Major League brothers before the postponement pushed their next meeting into late June. The poor results dropped the Indians’ record in interleague play to 1-5 on the season. They will return to a more familiar schedule and opponent beginning Friday night when they host the division rival Kansas City Royals in three games this weekend.
The Indians (24-21) head into play in second place in the American League Central, trailing the first place Minnesota Twins by two games in the standings while holding a two and a half game lead over the third place Detroit Tigers. The Indians will need a series win to stay above the .500 mark against the division this season, as they start the three-game set with an 11-10 record against the Central this season.
Yan Gomes matched a career-high with five RBI on Sunday as the Cleveland Indians completed a three-game sweep of the Houston Astros behind an 8-6 victory.
The Indians (23-19) have been one of the best teams on the road in the Majors this season and they used that to their advantage once again in handing the Astros (29-15) a third straight loss for just the second time this season. Cleveland’s three-game sweep in Houston completed a perfect 6-0 record in the state of Texas this season, combined with the Indians’ three-game season opening sweep of the Rangers in April.
While the Cleveland Indians were able to get that rare series opening home win this week in their matchup with Tampa Bay, the rest of the series was marred by poor starting pitching once again as the Indians fell twice to drop the set against their former friend, Kevin Cash, and his young Rays squad. Now, they return to the road for three in Houston against a very difficult Astros team in their final head-to-head already of 2017, at least within the regular season…
Houston (29-12) is not only the top team in the American League, it has the best record in all of baseball. They are winners of nine of their last ten and have not lost a series since dropping two of three to the Indians in Cleveland in the final week of April. The whole series was tightly contested, as the Astros won by two in the opener before dropping a pair of one-run decisions during one of the few times that they have lost consecutive games this season.
The Tampa Bay Rays won their Home Run Derby competition with the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on Tuesday night with a 6-4 victory to even the series at one game apiece.
While the 2019 All-Star Game’s Home Run Derby may still be several years away, Danny Salazar looked the part of the fan-driven exhibition’s pitcher in a strange outing for the Indians right-hander. He gave Cleveland five-plus innings of work on the mound, but four homers offset a nine-strikeout performance and proved to be too much to overcome, despite the Indians dealing Rays starter Jake Odorizzi his worst start since his first outing of the season.
In need of a big offensive performance on Sunday after scoring just one run in the first two games of their series against the Minnesota Twins over the weekend, manager Terry Francona shuffled some pieces in his lineup and the team responded with eight big runs as the Tribe avoided a sweep and their first four-game losing skid since July of 2015.
The Indians (19-17) will look to use the momentum gained by the big victory in their finale with the Twins to put up a more consistent effort at the plate. In the middle of the pack offensively in the American League, they are averaging 4.22 runs per game this season after their recent slide at the plate. They have been supported by a pitching staff with the fourth-best ERA (3.75) in the league overall, but the worst ERA by a starting staff at 4.73. The bullpen, a perfect 10-for-10 in save opportunities, has picked up the starting five with a 1.84 ERA and has allowed an MLB-low four home runs. The Indians enter one game in back of first place Minnesota, which has a two-game edge in the loss column, and will look to get their record back over the .500 mark at home, where they are currently 7-8.
What was supposed to be a major strength for the Cleveland Indians this season has so far been a bit of a weakness through the first six weeks of this season. That weak spot has been a starting pitching rotation that many hailed as being among the league’s best before a single meaningful pitch was thrown in 2017.
The only one of the starting five who has met or exceeded expectations thus far is Carlos Carrasco, who has been dominant. That has been needed as ace Corey Kluber has struggled with back problems and is currently on the disabled list. The other three starters in the rotation have simply failed to live up to what the back of their baseball cards say they can be.
Starting pitchers from Cleveland and Toronto were each knocked out in the third inning but the Blue Jays pecked away gradually against the Indians bullpen, delivering the final blow with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning on a bases loaded single to right to walk off with an 8-7 victory to claim the win and the series on Wednesday night from Rogers Centre.
The disappointing results for the Indians sent them home to Cleveland with an 18-15 record on the season. Their weather-shortened ten-game road trip through Detroit, Kansas City, and Toronto ended with a 4-5 record as a newly revived offense could not outslug the Jays.
After evening the score at 7-7 in the bottom of the fourth, the early offensive outbursts from both clubs came to a halt until the ninth as the Indians brought on Cody Allen to try to send the game to extra innings. Instead, it was another shaky outing from the Tribe closer in May and this time, he could not survive the high wire act as the Jays pulled out the win.
After meeting in the American League Championship Series last October, this week’s meeting between the Toronto Blue Jays and Cleveland Indians should have been an exciting series to have circled on the calendar.
That is, until the Blue Jays (11-20) came out of the gate slow and have yet to pick it up five weeks into the season. Toronto has struggled in all facets of the game, scoring the second-fewest runs in the American League while allowing 23 more runs than it has scored. They may welcome a look outside of the AL East Division, as nearly two-thirds of the Blue Jays’ games this season have come against their rivals. They have yet to face a team from the AL Central and will do so for the first time at Rogers Centre, where they are just 4-8 on the season.
Three runs in the middle innings chased Danny Salazar early and the Cleveland offense was held in check by Jason Hammel and the Kansas City bullpen as the Royals defeated the Indians 3-1 in the series opener from Kauffman Stadium on Friday night.
Pitch count problems for the Indians right-hander Salazar led to an early exit and his offense could not pick him up, despite scoring the first run of the night in the fourth inning. Hammel, who had not earned a win in nine attempts against Cleveland in his career, held the club to just three hits in a quality start to earn his first win as a member of the Royals.
With a little bit of rain interference, Cleveland’s chances of avoiding its first losing series in two weeks was spoiled as rain parked itself over the Great Lakes region for much of the day on Thursday. It made for a good reason to relocate as the Indians packed up and headed to Missouri to take on a scuffling Kansas City Royals squad in three games this weekend.
The Indians (15-12) enter the weekend leading the American League Central Division once again, tied with the 15-12 Chicago White Sox. The crowding at the top of the division is evident as just one game separates the Tribe from fourth place Detroit (14-13) after the club dropped two of three to start their three-city road trip to kick off May.
April is now several days in the rear view mirror. Much further away is the Cleveland Indians’ magical run through the postseason and into their sixth World Series appearance in franchise history.
While the excitement, pomp, and circumstance led to high hopes last year and lofty expectations for this one, the first month of the 2017 Major League Baseball season reminded Tribe fans that this season is certainly not last season.
And that’s okay.