No-hit for more than six innings by Pittsburgh, the Cleveland Indians made their handful of late hits count as they rallied for three runs in the ninth inning to steal a 4-3 win from the Pirates on Friday night.
The stunning comeback by the Indians (34-24) moved the club back into second place as their late season charge up the standings has altered the American League playoff picture significantly. Winning for the sixth straight time, the Indians used three runs in the ninth inning to capitalize against Pittsburgh after wasting a small village of free base runners that came courtesy of Pirates top prospect Mitch Keller as part of a stat line that was hard to believe.
In one of the most anticlimactic playoff pursuits in the 120-year history of the Cleveland Indians franchise, Jose Ramirez found a way to make it a little extra special on Tuesday night. Ramirez’s three-run home run with two outs in the bottom of the tenth inning capped a four-run frame and sent the Indians home a 5-3 walk-off winner on Tuesday night, reducing the team’s magic number for a postseason berth to zero in memorable fashion.
The Indians fell behind two runs in the top of the tenth inning as the White Sox knocked in a pair against reliever Phil Maton to break a 1-1 tie. Designated runner James McCann opened the inning at second and watched as Maton won an eight-pitch exchange with Luis Robert, punching out the young star for out number one. Adam Engel, better known for his defensive work than his bat, worked the count full before driving the seventh pitch of his at bat to the gap for an RBI-triple, putting the White Sox on top for the first time on the night, 2-1. Nick Madrigal singled through the pulled in infield to score Engel to make it 3-1 before Maton got out of the inning.
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.
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.
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.
After failing to capitalize in their second-to-last homestand of the season, the Cleveland Indians will head back out on the road for the next nine games, looking to continue good results away from Progressive Field, beginning with a three-game weekend set with the second place Minnesota Twins.
The Indians (26-18) missed out on a big opportunity to pick up ground in the American League Central during the week as Kansas City beat them up three times in a four-game series, leaving the club with a disappointing 3-4 homestand against the Milwaukee Brewers and the Royals. The loss on Thursday dropped the Indians to third place in the division, a game and a half behind the first place Chicago White Sox.
The Kansas City Royals scored five times in the final three innings, overcoming an early 5-3 deficit, and held off a late rally attempt by the Indians in an 8-6 victory from Cleveland on Tuesday night.
The long ball was the story of the early scoring on the night for both clubs, but some extra opportunities provided by the Tribe defense and relief corps allowed the Royals to climb back into the game and steal away a victory from the host Clevelanders in ugly fashion in a contest that could have easily had different results for the Indians.
The Cleveland Indians tagged Kansas City’s Brad Keller for a season-high five runs and held off the struggling Royals in a 5-2 contest on Labor Day to move back into a first place tie with the idle Chicago White Sox.
Following the lead of Zach Plesac in his second start back in the rotation, the Indians scored a couple of runs early, added on in the middle innings, and tacked on some insurance late to knock off Kansas City in game one of four from Progressive Field this week. Plesac went seven innings, giving the Indians a solid quality start for the fifth straight outing to open his 2020 season.
For the second straight week, the Indians and Kansas City Royals will be staring each other down on the diamond, but this time, they will do so in Cleveland at Progressive Field in an important four-game set for the Tribe.
The Indians (25-15) kept pace with the first place Chicago White Sox over the weekend. The Sox hold a half-game lead over the Tribe as they prepare for a series with the Pittsburgh Pirates (13-26), while the Indians will host one of the junior circuit’s worst teams in the Royals. Cleveland took two of three from Milwaukee over the weekend, losing a little ground on Chicago, which has won four in a row.