2020: Pandemic Pandemonium
The big bats of the Minnesota Twins delivered in their usual fashion as a pair of home runs off of Cleveland starter Aaron Civale proved to be the difference in a 3-2 final from Progressive Field on Monday night.
Home runs were the story for both clubs through the first two-thirds of the game as Civale and Kenta Maeda locked into a pitchers’ duel. Both pitchers were coming off of their best outings of the season – Civale allowed a run in a complete game win over the Pittsburgh Pirates, while Maeda carried a no-hitter into the ninth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers.
The Cleveland Indians have been the epitome of inconsistency this season. This weekend was a prime example of that as the Tribe dropped two of three to the Detroit Tigers in matchups that were on paper favorable for the second seeded club in the American League Central.
The Tigers, who were 9-14 entering the series, came into Cleveland in bad shape and left with a confidence boost after putting up 23 runs against the Indians’ vaunted pitching staff to bring an end to a 20-game losing streak against the Tribe coming into the weekend. Now, the Indians will have to contend with the first place Minnesota Twins over the next three days.
Three Detroit long balls and strong pitching until the ninth paced the Tigers to a 7-4 victory over the Cleveland Indians on Sunday afternoon.
It was another short outing for Carlos Carrasco, who was shelled in the fourth inning by the Tigers in a quick extra base hit barrage that turned a tie game into a three-run Tribe deficit. Carrasco left after just three and one-third innings and turned the game over to Logan Allen, who allowed the visiting club to tack on three more runs, which loomed large in the ninth when the Indians rallied for three runs in what was by that point a six-run hole.
It was too little too late as the Indians dropped a series they should have won to fall to 17-11 on the season.
Triston McKenzie had a historic debut to remember as the 23-year-old right-hander allowed just one run on two hits with ten strikeouts and the Indians offense erupted for six runs over their final three innings at the plate to give Cleveland a 6-1 win on Saturday night from Progressive Field.
It was tough to predict how McKenzie was going to look on the mound for the Indians in the middle game of three against the Tigers. Making his first start in nearly two years after missing the entire 2019 season with a back injury, the young hurler got the call-up for the Indians and lived up to his billing as a top prospect in the Cleveland organization. He limited the Tigers to just two extra bases hits and a walk while striking out ten, putting him in rare company as just the 28th Major League pitcher to reach double digit strikeouts in his first big league appearance.
Cleveland’s 20-game winning streak over Detroit and six-game winning streak in general both came to a sudden halt on Friday night as the Tigers pummeled Adam Plutko for seven runs in a disastrous fourth inning as the Indians blew a five-run lead on the way to a 10-5 loss.
In a sudden and dramatic blink of an eye, the Indians’ substantial five-run lead evaporated on Friday as the Tigers erupted in a cathartic seven-run fourth inning to end their woes against Cleveland and turn the scales in their favor, capped by the first Major League home run, a grand slam, by rookie Isaac Paredes.
It is amazing sometimes just what a week can do for a team.
Just keeping their heads above water in a contentious American League Central Division a week ago, the Cleveland Indians sat at 10-9 with a favorable six-game road trip set in Detroit and Pittsburgh. A week later, the Indians are 16-9, winners of six straight with some impressive and needed victories to pull the club back to within a half-game of first place Minnesota.
With the way Shane Bieber has pitched so far this year, run support does not need to be a priority. Six shutout innings of six-hit baseball from the Tribe’s ace and three strong innings of relief led the Cleveland Indians to a 2-0 shutout on Thursday to complete a three-game sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Indians (16-9) put together a perfect road trip through Detroit and Pittsburgh over the last week by riding the stellar starting pitching that has dominated the opposition for the bulk of the season. The club had a frustrating night of missed opportunities at the plate, but the five pitchers to take the mound for the Indians on Thursday limited the Pirates (4-17) to just six hits and a walk in a second straight scoreless effort in Pittsburgh.
After a little extra use over the last couple of games, the Cleveland Indians bullpen was due for a break. Aaron Civale was up to providing that extra rest for his teammates, as he allowed just five hits in a complete game 6-1 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday night.
Civale packed his A-game for the Tribe’s series at PNC Park as he made his fifth start of the season in the middle game of three between the Indians and Pirates. He kept his pitch count to a minimum, surpassing his previous career high of seven innings with ease, while effectively using all four quadrants and commanding the bottom of the zone. The Pirates struggled to find their way to first base and only one time on the night did they get a runner into scoring position as Civale captured a big victory.
Carlos Santana’s three-run home run down the left field line in the tenth inning edged the Cleveland Indians past the Pittsburgh Pirates, 6-3, on Tuesday night.
Santana has had a flare for the dramatic at times throughout his career and Tuesday night was again one of those nights. Struggling at the plate for the majority of the season to date, Santana stepped to the plate against left-hander Sam Howard. Cesar Hernandez, who struck out to end the ninth, was the designated runner at second base. Jose Ramirez opened the inning with an eight-pitch battle with Howard, fouling off three straight pitches before striking out swinging. Francisco Lindor was plunked to put two on for Santana, who took a first pitch ball low before catching a fastball in on the hands. He whipped the bat around and yanked the ball high and deep down the left field line while falling off balance in the batter’s box. With Chief Wahoo peeking out from the top of his unbuttoned jersey top, Santana stopped on his jog towards first, leaned as if trying to move the ball with his body, and briefly took a step back towards home plate before the home run call went up, beginning his slow trot around the bases to cap his three-run blast.
The Detroit Tigers provided the Cleveland Indians with everything that they needed over the weekend, getting the team back on track after a tough portion of the schedule. Now, they continue their road trip against another lackluster opponent, heading to Pittsburgh’s PNC Park for three games with the Pirates.
The Indians moved to 13-9 on the year with a strong three-game sweep of the Tigers to extend their winning streak over Detroit to 20 straight decisions, now within striking distance of the most consecutive wins against one opponent in Major League Baseball history. Cleveland got its share of strong starting pitching and quality work out of the bullpen, but the bats came to life against a shaky pitching staff in Motown, dropping 21 runs on the Tigers arms during the three-game set.
In a move appearing necessary over the last couple of weeks, slumping outfielder Oscar Mercado was optioned by the Cleveland Indians to their alternate training site in Lake County on Monday.
The move creates a vacancy on the Indians’ 28-man roster that would presumably be filled prior to the team’s series in Pittsburgh beginning Tuesday night. Early speculation would lead most to believe that the spot was created for catcher Roberto Perez, who appeared close to be activated from the 10-day injured list while the team was in Detroit over the weekend.
The series finale from Comerica Park between the Indians and Tigers on Sunday was hardly a clinic in pitching, but the game did provide plenty of fireworks on and off the field as Cleveland used five homers to push past Detroit, 8-5.
Cleveland (13-9) used a well-timed power display to pick up starter Adam Plutko while the bullpen allowed just two runs over six and one-third innings of needed relief. It was more of the same from the Tigers (9-10), which are still looking for answers to solve the riddle that has become the Indians lineup and pitching staff. Their fifth straight loss extended their losing streak against the Indians to 20 consecutive games, dating back to last April.