2020: Pandemic Pandemonium
It was a nail-biting finish from the corner of Carnegie and Ontario on Monday night as the Cleveland Indians and closer Brad Hand held off the Chicago White Sox’s ninth inning threat to capture a 7-4 win in the series opener.
The Tribe’s All-Star closer came on as the fourth Tribe pitcher of the day looking to slam the door with a three-run lead. Rookie nine-hitter Nick Madrigal fought off several pitches to work the count back to even before dropping in a single to shallow center to lead off the inning. Tim Anderson launched a rocket deep to center; Delino DeShields raced back to the warning track and leapt, snagging the blast from the air at the top of the fence for the first out. Yoan Moncada grounded to Jose Ramirez’s left and off of his glove into left field for a fielder’s choice and error, bringing the tying run to the plate. James McCann, hitting for an injured Yasmani Grandal, fouled off several pitches before watching a high slider on the outside edge for a called third strike for out number two. Jose Abreu, the White Sox’s last hope and more than capable of tying the game up with one swing, left the bat on the shoulder for a called third strike on the outside corner to give the Tribe a big first win in the four-game set between the two clubs this week.
Seven games. Seven days. And just like that, the 2020 regular season will be over and the 2020 Major League Baseball playoff bracket madness will begin.
The Indians (29-24) have not punched their ticket to the postseason, but barring something horrific happening over the next week, it is almost a foregone conclusion. That said, it may seem highly unlikely given the way that the last few weeks have gone, but the Indians still could catch the White Sox (34-19) in the American League Central, although that has hardly been a topic of conversation over much of September given the inconsistent play of the Clevelanders. The Indians, after taking three of four from the Tigers in Detroit over the weekend, enter the four-game weekday set with the White Sox trailing by five games. While that task may be too steep a hill to climb in a week, the Indians could still catch up with the second place Minnesota Twins, which holds a three-game lead over the Tribe with five games left on its schedule.
The Indians come into the series with a magic number of two to ensure a playoff spot, with that number reduced at present by any combination of Cleveland victories and Seattle defeats.
The final score was hardly indicative of the game, as Carlos Carrasco allowed just one hit over seven shutout innings of work and Jose Ramirez went yard twice as the Cleveland Indians defeated the Detroit Tigers, 7-4, on Sunday afternoon.
The Indians (29-24) used a stellar performance from Carrasco and a rare offensive outburst to take care of the Tigers (22-30) for the seventh time in ten chances in 2020. The Tribe bullpen blew the shutout in the eighth inning as the Tigers made things a little more interesting than they should have been, but the relief corps ultimately closed the door on Detroit for the season with an overall lopsided result while reducing the team’s magic number for a playoff berth down to three.
Trying to protect a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the eighth inning, the Indians bullpen was tagged by the Tigers bats for four runs as Cleveland lost a 5-2 game in Detroit on Saturday night.
After coming back from an early one-run deficit, the Indians had held the lead since a two-run third pushed the club in front, 2-1. After three scoreless innings of relief from Cal Quantrill and Nick Wittgren, the Tribe turned to Phil Maton for the eighth, but he immediately ran into trouble. He walked the leadoff man Harold Castro, who was lifted for pinch-runner Derek Hill. Maton struck out Jorge Bonifacio for the first out, but his next pitch to Niko Goodrum was blooped into left for a base hit. Eric Haase, the former Indians catcher, singled to center to push in the tying run, knotting the game at two. Daz Cameron, the struggling rookie, got a hit for the second straight at bat, singling to right to score Goodrum from third to give the Tigers their first lead since the third. Miguel Cabrera pinch-hit for Isaac Paredes and drew a walk to load the bases. Cam Hill took over for Maton and promptly walked Victor Reyes to force in Haase, making it a 4-2 Tigers lead. Willi Castro lofted a fly ball to shallow right field. Tyler Naquin made the catch near the foul line and tried to throw to the plate on the run. Carlos Santana cut the ball on what may have been a close play at the plate, allowing Cameron to score to make it a 5-2 game. Jeimer Candelario flied to center to strand a pair.
Zach Plesac got back on track on Friday night, shutting down Detroit for seven and two-thirds innings while making some baseball history, and the Cleveland bullpen secured the final four outs with a couple of scares along the way as the Indians blanked the Tigers in a 1-0 contest.
Plesac’s case for the number two starter in the Tribe’s potential playoff rotation was strengthened with an impressive effort all around in the second of four games from Detroit’s Comerica Park this weekend. He made a season-high 112 pitches, throwing 76 for strikes with 21 swings and misses throughout the evening. That helped him to amass eleven strikeouts of Tigers hitters, matching his career-best established in his first start of the season against the Chicago White Sox on July 29. He walked one batter and allowed just five hits while keeping the Tigers in check all night. It marked Plesac’s seventh straight start this season of six innings or more and his fifth start overall allowing one run or less in a day’s work.
The Indians (27-23) ended an eight-game losing skid by beating up on the Tigers (21-28), something that the team has made an enjoyable habit out of over the last couple of years. Now 5-2 against the Tigers in 2020, the Indians have three more left to play against their rebuilding divisional foe over the weekend.
This is a big weekend for the Cleveland Indians. With a chance to face a team that they have had good luck with over the last couple of years, it may be just what the doctor ordered to cure all that ails the team’s struggles and depressed disposition.
The Indians (26-23), as you likely know by now, have lost eight straight contests during series with the Kansas City Royals, Minnesota Twins, and Chicago Cubs. Losses against a young Royals team was a bad look and the team missed some big opportunities to gain some ground in what once was a tightly contested American League Central during their series with the Twins. The Indians lost both games to the Cubs in walk-off fashion while showing some glimmers of hope that they would emerge from this losing skid before the end of the season. Those losses dropped them six games in back of the first place Chicago White Sox.
Some botched fundamentals kept the Indians off of the scoreboard in the top of the tenth, while everything fell into place for the Cubs in the home half. Ian Happ opened the inning at second as the designated runner and moved to third on a single to left-center by Kris Bryant. Anthony Rizzo was intentionally walked to set up the force at home. Maton struck out Willson Contreras on three straight and got Kyle Schwarber swinging for out number two. Maton got ahead of Baez on two fastballs, but his 0-2 curveball on the outside edge was yanked into shallow left field for the walk-off hit with Happ scoring the winning run.
When things are going bad, teams have a tendency of finding new ways to lose. That was exactly the case on Tuesday night in Chicago, where the visiting Clevelanders lost on a bases loaded hit by pitch in the bottom of the ninth to give the Cubs a 6-5 walk-off victory.
Trailing by a 5-3 count in the top of the ninth, the Indians pulled off a rally that felt improbable given the club’s play of late. Facing closer Jeremy Jeffress, Josh Naylor walked on five pitches. Delino DeShields, with three hits to his credit already on the night, grounded slowly to third to move the runner into scoring position. Jeffress fell behind Francisco Lindor 2-0 before the Tribe shortstop caught a sinker thigh-high and out over the plate. He lofted a fly ball the opposite way and just over the left field wall to tie the game at five. Mike Freeman followed with a walk before Jose Ramirez grounded into a double play.
The pressure is on the Cleveland Indians to figure out all that plagues them presently and they will be tasked with doing so against a World Series contender in the Chicago Cubs in a pair of games at Wrigley Field this week.
The Indians (26-21) find themselves in a bad place at the moment. Despite the offense picking up some on Sunday, the team blew a decent early lead to drop a sixth straight ball game when they were swept by the Minnesota Twins. Coupled with a Chicago White Sox win on Monday over those same Twins, the Indians are five games out of first place in the American League Central and three games in back of Minnesota with 13 games to play in the 2020 slate.
Where, oh where, have the Cleveland Indians gone?
I’ll tell you where. To the very bottom of the American League playoff bracket. Oh, and by the way, things won’t get any easier for the Tribe this week when they face off with National League Cy Young candidate Yu Darvish on Tuesday and tough left-hander Jon Lester on Wednesday in a pair of games against one of the leading squads in the Senior Circuit in the Chicago Cubs.
It’s been a bad week for the Tribe, without a doubt. Defense faltered early in the week, the offense sputtered (but this isn’t necessarily a new thing this season), and the pitching staff made the weekend set with Minnesota look more like a special Twins edition of Home Run Derby. They did their part to waken the “Bomba Squad”.
The “Bomba Squad” was back at it again at Target Field on Sunday as the Minnesota bats drove three out of the park against starter Triston McKenzie to overcome an early three-run deficit and tacked on a fourth blast for good measure as the Twins swept the Cleveland Indians with a 7-5 final.
The Indians pitching staff has been so good for much of the season, but this weekend served as a sufficient reminder that the team was going to need some offense to make any real noise come playoff time. The bats woke up slowly on Saturday and had ample opportunity on Sunday to try to support the pitching staff, but a home run barrage from the Twins lineup for the third straight day proved to be too much for the Tribe offense to contend with as the team’s tailspin continued with a sixth straight defeat.