If only every series this season had turned out as favorable as the Cleveland Indians trip through the Bronx this season, the month of September would have a completely different level of interest from Tribe fans.
For those hopeful that the Indians (58-65) can make a run at the American League Wild Card race, they did gain some ground by taking three of four from the New York Yankees over the weekend to finish the season with five wins in seven opportunities against their one-time rivals. That stretch, combined with another good run from the Toronto Blue Jays, has given the AL two new leaders in the Wild Card spots, the Yankees and the Texas Rangers. The Indians now reside six games in back of the Rangers.
The Tribe messed up the Yankees plans by improving to 34-31 on the road this season and surprising the New York club that entered the series with a 35-21 record at home this year. The Indians held off a late push by the Yankees on Thursday night in a 3-2 win. A three-run ninth inning gave the Tribe some much needed insurance runs in a 7-3 victory Friday. Five runs in the first two innings were plenty for the Yankees on Saturday afternoon as they gave rookie starter Luis Severino his first MLB win in a 6-2 final. On Sunday, the Yankees scored two in the seventh to tie the game, but Francisco Lindor homered off of All-Star reliever Dellin Betances in the eighth to give the Indians a 4-3 win to take the series.
The Cubs (71-51) are winners of four straight after sweeping the Atlanta Braves over the weekend. Their potent offense put up 30 runs in the four-game set, including nine in each of the final two games, while allowing the opponent Braves to score 14 combined. They won the finale behind five homers, including two from super rookie Kris Bryant, to improve to 19-4 in August while holding onto their lead for the second of the National League’s Wild Card spots.
PITCHING PROBABLES and GAME NOTES
A fantastic pitching matchup on Monday’s makeup game pits two of the top arms in the game in Kluber and Lester. Kluber will make his first career start against the Cubs. Interleague play has been to his benefit; he is 10-1 and has factored in the decision in all eleven of those appearances while earning a 1.87 ERA and striking out an average of 10.3 batters per nine innings. Lester, the Cubs’ big check signed in the offseason, has been on the losing end quite a bit this season. Having spent the majority of his career with the Boston Red Sox, he has had 14 starts against the Indians and has generally owned them, averaging more than a strikeout per inning while holding a 7-1 lifetime record with a 3.23 ERA. He has not lost a start against Cleveland since 2010.
Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio and WGN will provide the makeup game call from Wrigley Field. WMMS 100.7 FM and WTAM 1100 AM will provide radio calls in the Cleveland market, while WBBM 780 AM will make the call in Chicago. The radio affiliates of both the Cleveland Indians Radio Network and the Cubs Radio Network will provide additional radio options.
AL CENTRAL STANDINGS
TEAM W-L PCT. GB WCGB STREAK
Kansas City 75-48 .610 – – W2
Minnesota 63-61 .508 12.5 1.5 W4
Detroit 59-64 .480 16.0 5.0 L3
Chicago 58-64 .475 16.5 5.5 L1
Cleveland 58-65 .472 17.0 6.0 W1
Cleveland took a 9-8 lead in the short all-time series between the two very old ball clubs when they won a 4-3 decision at Progressive Field on June 18th to earn at least a split in the season series with Chicago. The Indians won a 6-0 shutout in the lone game in Chicago on June 16th, one day after the series opener was rained out. When the two teams came to Cleveland for the home-and-home series, they issued a 17-0 embarrassment to the Indians that saw outfielders Ryan Raburn and David Murphy surrender seven unearned runs in the ninth inning.
The Indians are 6-5 at home and 3-3 on the road against the Cubs.
ON THE MOVE and ON THE MEND
Cody Anderson (SP) – 15-day disabled list (August 8) – left oblique strain; will begin rehab assignment Monday
Gavin Floyd (SP) – 60-day disabled list (April 5) – recovery from March 2015 right elbow surgery
Nick Hagadone (RP) – 15-day disabled list (July 8) – recovery from July 2015 left elbow surgery
Chris Johnson (UTL) – 15-day disabled list (August 18) – swollen finger
Neil Ramirez (RP) – 15-day disabled list (July 29) – left abdominal soreness
Rafael Soriano (RP) – 15-day disabled list (August 4) – right shoulder inflammation
Jacob Turner (RP) – 60-day disabled list (April 19) – right shoulder inflammation
BY THE NUMBERS
Lindor continued his torrid pace at the plate with a pair of three-hit games to conclude the series in the Bronx. He was 7-for-17 (.412) there with a double, two homers, and three RBI. He has just four hitless games in August and has hit in 16 of 18 games. After hitting just .211 in his first 15 games, he has hit .295 in July and .361 in August.
Lonnie Chisenhall has taken full advantage of his opportunities in Terry Francona’s lineup in right field. Since rejoining the Tribe, he has hit .397 with two homers and ten RBI. He has hits in each of his last six games and eleven of his last 12.
While the bat of Yan Gomes has not fully recovered from the knee injury that tapped him out of the Indians lineup very early in the season, he has still found a way to be productive in clutch opportunities. He is the AL leader amongst all catchers with RBI in the second half with 21, doubles with six, and walks with ten. He is hitting .234 since the break with five homers.
Dexter Fowler leads the Cubs in the second half with a .320 batting average.
All-Star representative Anthony Rizzo has hit .273 in the second half with nine homers and 28 RBI. Prior to the trip to Cincinnati, he led the team with a .298 average, 16 homers, and was second with 48 RBI. He is tied for third in the National League with 30 doubles and is sixth with 25 homers this season.
Kyle Schwarber made his Major League debut against the Indians in the middle of June, but looked the part of a grizzled veteran. The 22-year-old Ohio native was the Cubs’ first round pick in the 2014 draft, but that has not stopped him at the plate, where he has hit .287 with ten homers and 31 RBI in just 39 games of action. He was 6-for-10 against the Indians and appeared in all three earlier games, hitting his first MLB single, triple, and home run while driving in his first four career RBI.
The Indians will finally head home to Cleveland after eleven games on the road in four different cities. They will not get a chance to catch their breath any as they will immediately host the Milwaukee Brewers for a pair beginning Tuesday before welcoming in the Los Angeles Angels for three over the weekend before returning to the road. The Cubs will head west for a tough six-game road trip against potential playoff teams, facing the Giants for three games in San Francisco before moving south to Los Angeles for three with the Dodgers over the weekend.
Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images