I won’t call it a comeback, as a four-game winning streak does not a playoff run make. The Indians still have a long way to go until they can be deemed to be even close to the team that fans and the media expected them to be to start the season. However, they seem to have at least turned some corner, no matter how small of a turn that may be. What exactly has been working for the Indians this past week that has finally given them some Ws?
The Indians have always had a dominant starting rotation but, this past week finally saw the rotation get some wins. Ironically, Cy Young winner Corey Kluber is still only at 1-5 this season after nine starts, though, as has been said before, the reason for the lack of wins is not entirely his fault. Kluber lost out on a win on Monday night when the Indians fell to the White Sox 2-1 in ten innings. It wasn’t poor pitching by Kluber that kept the game tied 1-1 into extra innings, but rather a lack offense that kept the Indians off the board to maintain a higher score throughout the game.
For the next three nights, the Indians starting pitching kept up their strong ways as Trevor Bauer, newcomer Shaun Marcum, and Danny Salazar held the White Sox to a combined six runs. All three starters were named the winning pitcher in their respective games, and each went at least six innings (Bauer went 7.1, while Marcum pitched 6.2 and Salazar 6). The three struck out a combined 21 batters, bringing the total to 33 batters struck out by Indians starting pitchers in their four-game meeting with the White Sox this week.
Further, the Indians bullpen hasn’t been as disastrous as it had been earlier this season. Cody Allen allowed only one run in two appearances in Chicago, and pitched 1.1 innings of shutout baseball on May 19 to secure the Indians 3-1 win over the White Sox. Although Zach McAllister gave up two hits and allowed the winning run in the Tribe’s 10-inning contest on Monday, he also had 1.1 innings of scoreless, hitless work on May 20. He has been a very strong addition to the Indians bullpen since leaving the starting rotation, which is reassuring for the team. The rest of the bullpen hasn’t come close to resolving their issues of earlier this season, but there have at least been some calming forces emerging as of late.
Offensively, the Indians seem to have gotten over their fear of lefties during their recent road trip. They defeated Wandy Rodriguez 8-3 in Houston, Jose Quintana 3-1 in Chicago (the Tribe’s first-ever win against Quintana), held Carlos Rodon 0-0 until scoring three runs off lefty Dan Jennings for a 4-3 win, and scored five runs off John Danks on Thursday. The Indians are hitting .253 against lefties this season, thanks in part to switch hitters like Nick Swisher and Mike Aviles, Ryan Raburn’s .345 average against lefties, Jason Kipnis’ overall .327 average, and Jose Ramirez’s recent surge: he has hit .318 in the last seven days and hit .429 in Chicago this past week.
The Indians committed only two errors during their trip to Chicago (both by Ramirez) and, defensively, aren’t quite as bad as they previously were. Their 28 total errors are not last in the American League (that title belongs to Oakland with 45 errors), and the average number of errors for all of Major League Baseball is 25. Opponents, however, are still hitting .260 against the Indians and have scored 187 against Tribe pitchers. Their ability to keep runs from crossing the plate is far from perfect, but it is at least improved, which, at this point, seems to be all fans can ask for.
With the impending arrival of Yan Gomes this weekend, the Indians defense should hopefully take a positive spike. Their offense could be helped, too, as Gomes had a breakout season at the plate last year. Further, the Lindor watch is continuing to be in the forefront of everyone’s minds as the renowned shortstop is improving with his bat down in Columbus and his glove work is as great as ever. His appearance with the big league team hopefully sometime soon can hardly make things worse and could simply be a spark they need to continue an upwards progression.
It’s a long road for the Indians to truly become a good team, but they took the first step this week in at least becoming better.
Photo: Matt Marton/AP Photo