1. Your Cleveland Indians have the best record in baseball at 19-8.
2. They have the biggest lead of any division leader in baseball (along with Colorado), 4.5 games.
3. They have won a whopping 13 games in a row at Progressive Field.
4. They have 10 game leads on the Twins and the White Sox.
Most importantly, they are showing no signs of slowing down after a three-game sweep of division rival Detroit over the weekend. Unlike the majority of their wins early, the Indians came back in all three games to win late. The bullpen again was nails. The clutch hitting continued to appear at the right times. Dare I say it – The “Jacobs Field Magic” is back. So lets dive right in.
The finishes in all three games were something special. Friday night, Carlos Santana hit a walk-off Grand Slam in the bottom of the ninth off of the Tigers big free agent signing Joaquin Benoit. On Saturday night it was Orlando Cabrera’s 13th inning walk-off RBI single that won it for the Tribe. On Sunday, trailing by one in the bottom of the eighth, the offense provided three runs including the go-ahead single by Michael Brantley again off of Benoit. Nothing like signing a career journeyman after his one great year to a three-year, $16.5 million deal and having him implode twice in one weekend against the first place team.
Interestingly, the Tigers starting pitching in all three game stymied the Indians for the first seven innings or so. It was that fourth time through the order when the Tribe did their biggest damage. They scored seven of their nine runs Friday night in the seventh inning and beyond. On Sunday, the biggest three runs of the game came in the bottom of the eighth. That is what has to be most frustrating this morning if you are a Tiger fan. Also keep in mind, the Tribe took all three games without a single at-bat from DH Travis Hafner.
But there is no accounting for the Jacobs Field Magic.
Have Carlos Santana and Shin-Soo Choo turned the corner? The Indians have turned the page to a new month in the calendar and while the wins are there, Santana and Choo are probably ready for a fresh start. The middle of the order bats struggled mightily through the first month, but over the last week, both have shown signs of breaking out.
Choo hit .409 (9-22) with two homers, five RBIs, and four stolen bases over the last week. He has really started to look more locked in and comfortable at the plate, which is so important to the team’s success.
Santana on the other hand, has been a tad slower to come around. He did hit three homers this week and is swinging with more confidence. Carlos still is under the Mendoza line (.191) but he is in a three-way lead for most RBIs on the team (17) with Orlando Cabrera and Asdrubal Cabrera. They say battling average is an overrated stat, but he is one that will grab you. Despite hitting under .200, Santana is hitting .304 with runners in scoring position.
The Alex White debut was a success. Heading into this big series with the Tigers, the starting pitching matchups for Friday and Saturday looked like potential mismatches. The Tigers were sending young studs Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello to the hill, while the Tribe was countering with Jeanmar Gomez and White, making his Major League debut.
The Tribe stole Friday night’s game after being unable to touch Scherzer for the first six innings. On Saturday, the results were similar against Porcello, except this time, White was matching him pitch for pitch.
The Tribe’s #1 pick in 2009 got the call to replace the injured Carlos Carrasco in the rotation and as he told the media, he just wanted to come in and do his job quietly.
“My goal coming in was to really just be invisible,” said White. “This team is playing so well, I didn’t want to affect that.”
In what can be described as a successful debut, White pitched six strong innings, allowing two runs (on solo homers) on six hits. Hitting as high as 97 on the gun, White struck out four, but walked four as well. He didn’t look like an overwhelmed rookie either.
“I was more nervous at breakfast yesterday morning,” White said on Sunday.
He will get another crack this week in Anaheim against the Angels.
This bullpen continues to impress. It doesn’t seem to matter who Manny Acta goes to out of the pen these days, its working. Take Saturday’s 3-2, 13 inning marathon win. Five players (Joe Smith, Vinnie Pestano, Chris Perez, Rafael Perez, and Tony Sipp) combined to pitch seven scoreless frames.
The pen worked overtime during the three wins. Closer Chris Perez pitched in all three games, notching a win and a save. Raffy Perez has still yet to allow an earned run this season. Tony Sipp, after a couple of spotty appearances last week, was huge Saturday pitching two scoreless, earning the win. Vinnie Pestano has allowed just one earned run in 12 appearances. This pen is deep from both sides with a power closer at the back.
The Sabathia trade crew comes up big. Its been said that Matt LaPorta and Brantley must become big time regular contributors to this team or the CC trade will be a colossal failure. While Brantley has looked great as an undisputed outfield starter for the first time in his young career, LaPorta has had an up and down time over the last year and a half.
Given the first base job everyday, LaPorta has decent job, especially over the last two weeks. If someone had told you that LaPorta and Choo would have the same number of home runs and RBIs ater the first 27 games, wouldn’t you have taken that in a heartbeat? I know I would have.
Both have four homers and 15 RBIs. He drove in the first two runs yesterday with a two-out, RBI double in the second that tied the game.
Brantley, who was moved down to the seven spot with the return of Grady Sizemore, has done nothing but hit since the beginning of the season. His solo homer in the sixth tied the game on Saturday night, and his RBI single in the eighth yesterday was the go-ahead run. Brantley has been terrific no matter where he plays in the outfield and no matter where he hits in the order.
Up next for the Tribe is a second trip to the west coast (the schedule makers in MLB do the strangest things). They start Tuesday in Oakland for three games before heading back to Anaheim for a second time over the weekend.
(photo via Chuck Crow/PD – perhaps my new favorite picture. Look at how happy they all are.)