Even with the shortened 60-game regular season and a brief two-game playoff stint, I needed a break from coverage of the Cleveland Indians (also, some grueling hours at the job that pays the bills over the last couple of weeks made time for writing minimal). An underwhelming offseason the winter before, mixed results during the 2020 campaign, and an abysmal showing in the expanded playoff format a few weeks ago piled on to make it tough to put my thoughts into appropriate family-friendly terms. The step away helped to give me some prerogative on what transpired over the course of the last couple of months, but does not give me a lot of happy vibes about what is in store for the Indians’ organization in the months and years ahead.
Obviously, the 2020 season didn’t go as planned for anybody. Spring Training ramped up in February and was near its conclusion in March when the coronavirus began to truly run rampant across the United States, slamming the door on nearly all non-essential activities. After an uncomfortable amount of bickering as to the length of a shortened schedule shined an unpleasant light on future labor negotiations in the not-so-distant future between players and ownership, baseball returned for Spring Training 2.0. The shortened 60-game slate of games was pulled off, with only a handful of glitches in particular hot spots across the MLB landscape. Playoff bubbles were implemented to help conclude play and, shockingly to some, the World Series started Tuesday from Arlington, Texas, where the Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles Dodgers began the final leg of their championship pursuits, one which may come with an asterisk next to it in the annals of baseball history.
As for the Indians, this season is another “what if” story in the 120-year history of American League play on the shores of Lake Erie.
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.
Cesar Hernandez tied the game in the middle innings and came through once again in the clutch as he delivered the game-winning hit through five infielders to give the Cleveland Indians a walk-off victory against closer Josh Hader and the Milwaukee Brewers, 4-3, on Saturday night.
Hader’s hitless streak of 12 straight games to open the 2020 season came to a close as Cleveland got to him twice in the bottom of the ninth to send the Indians to a big victory over the Brewers in a rare clunker for the Milwaukee closer. It all transpired in the blink of an eye and a five-pitch span as Oscar Mercado laced a hustle double off of the wall in left to start Hader’s night. A wild pitch moved the speedster to third base and with five players standing around the infield looking to cut Mercado down at the plate, Hernandez split the third baseman and shortstop with a screamer through the left side to give the Tribe its first walk-off win of the year.
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.
Mike Clevinger and four relievers held Cincinnati to just three hits, while Cleveland baserunners hustled home for a pair of fifth inning runs to give the Indians a 2-0 shutout victory over the Reds on Wednesday night.
There wasn’t much offense to talk about in the third straight matchup between the two Ohio clubs, but the Indians took advantage of their four hits and some aggressive base running to swipe away a win at the expense of the visiting Reds.
Tell me if you’ve heard this one before – the Cleveland Indians got a quality start, little run support, and fell in a 3-2 final to the Cincinnati Reds on Monday night.
If that gave you a bit of déjà vu here in the 2020 Major League Baseball season, you’re not alone. There were, however, a few differences in the tale of the tape this time around – the opponent was different, the game was delayed two hours and two minutes at the outset by rain, and for the first time this season, the Indians blew a lead in order to find themselves on the short end of the stick.
Cleveland, we have a problem.
Ten games in the books and suddenly the Indians’ hot start, highlighted by near historic levels of pitching dominance, has been fully erased from the collective conscience. The Indians are 5-5, sitting in a third place tie in the American League Central and two and a half games out with 50 left to play.
It need not be a doom-and-gloom scenario yet, but this season is unlike any other. One-sixth of the season, or roughly 17%, is over. For you weird people constantly multiplying things out by 2.7 to put things in comparison to a traditional 162-game slate, the Indians are sitting at a 13.5-13.5 record through the equivalent 27th game of a full season schedule.
That’s certainly not where the team should be with the way that the pitching staff has excelled to open the season.
Early scoring and strong starting pitching provided the keys to the game again for the Cleveland Indians as they completed a doubleheader sweep of the Chicago White Sox with a 5-3 win in the nightcap on Tuesday night.
Adam Plutko stepped in with a spot start for manager Terry Francona after Monday’s rainout and did everything that could have been asked of him. He limited the White Sox to just a pair of runs over six innings, while his offense provided a big jolt right out of the gate.
Shane Bieber pitched like he was in midseason form, even though the July 24th contest between the Cleveland Indians and Kansas City Royals marked the first game of the 2020 season. The Tribe bats scratched across a pair of runs to support Bieber’s 14 strikeouts over six scoreless four-hit innings as the Indians blanked the Royals by a 2-0 final from Progressive Field.
Bieber put together a historic effort in the annals of Indians history, surpassing the team’s previous mark for strikeouts in a season-opening performance established by Gary Bell on April 19, 1960, when he struck out a dozen Tigers in a 4-2 loss to Detroit in 15 innings. Bieber tallied his 14 Ks over six innings, while Bell worked ten and one-third innings in that record-setting outing.
Baseball takes little time off in between seasons, so neither can we. Follow along at Did the Tribe Win Last Night as we count down to March 26, when the Cleveland Indians host the Detroit Tigers for game one of the 2020 season. – BT
Countdown to Opening Day – 35 days
The Cleveland Indians added a new face to the outfield picture midway through the second month of the season last year when the team recalled Oscar Mercado from Triple-A Columbus to make his Major League debut.
The Cleveland Indians used a six-run seventh to cap ten unanswered runs off of Philadelphia starter Vince Velasquez and the Phillies bullpen to earn a needed series win in a 10-1 final on Sunday night.
After falling behind a run in the third inning, the Indians rallied back for a run in the fourth and three in the fifth before blowing the game wide open in the late innings. Adam Plutko got a quick hook from manager Terry Francona in the fifth inning with the game hanging in the balance, but reliever Carlos Carrasco shut down the Phillies with two and two-thirds scoreless in relief to give the Indians an opportunity to get on top and put the game out of reach.