Sunday Tribe Notes: Indians Look to Avoid Another Sweep, Aeros Claim Eastern League Title Again

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Isn’t it unbelievable to consider that the Cleveland Indians are 9-8 against the Detroit Tigers this season? Think of all of the things that had to go right for that to occur.

Yes, it kind of makes some sense when you hear that Detroit has won five of seven since the Indians’ latest six-week nose dive, but it’s still an unbelievable fact.

It means that even if the Tribe falls today – which would mark a scintillating seventh series sweep since July 26 – they’d still perfectly finish at .500 against the superstar-heavy Tigers.

After today’s contest at Progressive Field – which many have called Comerica Park this weekend because of the lack of Cleveland noise and influx of Motor City fans – the Indians will have 15 games remaining in 2012. It’d be a huge miracle if the team even manages 70 wins, a crazy concept if you had asked me on July 26 when we were 50-49.

So instead of sharing more doom-and-gloom about the franchise and its future, I wanted to share just a few positives as we head into the final stretch.

 

C Carlos Santana has played like the All-Star of old in the second half. In fact, he’s been the only true offensive threat in the Indians lineup during this awful 10-37 slide. Overall in the second half he is batting .284/.377/.505 with 14 doubles, 10 homers, 35 RBI, 30 walks and just 31 strikeouts. Seems like he is up to his usual antics again.

Of course, no one likes seeing 15 (!!) double play balls in just 60 contests, and he’s still only caught 26% of would-be basestealers on the season, but we’re going to need his offensive production in the future. Remember, Santana is just 26 years old. Before his nearly two-year offensive slide, he projected as the best offensive catcher in the game who played average defensively. Those second-half numbers sure are encouraging and hopefully he continues that momentum through the winter months.

 

— I’m fairly certain that RHP Cody Allen has a cult following. The youngster who was drafted just last season has been with the Indians for the entirety of this awful losing stretch. He’s been forced into some awful late-game and blowout situations, but somehow managed to maintain a perfect 0.00 ERA through his first 12 outings.

In 20 relief appearances, he now has a 2.96 ERA with 11 walks and 23 strikeouts in 24.1 IP. Those statistics are not particularly astounding, but they show how he has been very solid and consistent in nearly two months in the big leagues. One of the keys to his success those far has been that hitters are batting just .207/.250/.379 in 40 at-bats with RISP so far. It’s likely that Allen is a lock for the 2013 bullpen and could be a pivotal factor in any pending trade talks involving closer RHP Chris Perez.

 

— In 78 combined at-bats in MLB play this season, the amazing quartet of 1B/OF Matt LaPorta, OF Thomas Neal, IF Cord Phelps and IF/OF Vinny Rottino are batting an amazing .180/.210/.240 with three extra base-hits, two walks and 20 strikeouts. Oh sorry, only positive comments today, forgot about that.

 

— The Indians are second in the American League with a 20-9 (.690) record in one-run games. What?!? That doesn’t seem mathematically or scientifically or religiously possible for a team that is 60-86 (.411) overall. That means in games decided by more than one run, the Indians are by far and away the worst in the majors at 40-75 (.348).

So when people ask you why this team surged early and then faded so quickly, here’s your answer: We beat the odds to have an amazing one-run record all season long. Eventually, you start to lose the big games, and that’s exactly what happened, but it’s still amazing to consider this feat.

 

— Finally, I prefaced yesterday that I’d review the stars and storylines associated with the Eastern League Champion Akron Aeros. The Purple and Black won their fourth title in 10 years last night, taking down the long-time cross-division foe Trenton in a 6-1 Game Four victory.

When looking back at this team, it was almost as hodgepodge a roster as that 2003 squad that won the first crown since the team moved from Canton. Injuries, forced shutdowns and, obviously, tons of needed promotions had stripped this roster of all of its presumed talent by the time the playoffs began two weeks ago. Yet, the EL regular season champs held through and came up with an incredible 6-1 stretch to seal the deal.

 


The Heroes Who Aren’t Prospects:

IF/OF Adam Abraham, 25 – Your 2012 EL Championship MVP batted .300/.323/.700 in the postseason with three triples, two homers and eight RBI. Of course, the usual first/third baseman had just one triple in 108 regular-season games.

RHP Paolo Espino, 25 – It seems like Espino’s been with Akron for ages, but he’s just 5-foot-9, so he’s never been on Cleveland’s radar. He was 1-1 with a 3.18 ERA in two starts, keeping the team in every game he appears in like usual.

RHP Toru Murata, 27 – The Game Four starter, Murata was 1-0 with a 1.46 ERA in his two postseason starts. He also finished the season strong once moving from the bullpen, posting a 1.17 ERA in six starts spanning 30.2 IP in August.

 

The Regulars:

OF Tyler Holt, 23 – The speedy outfielder and 2010 10th-rounder batted .333/.389/.455 with six runs scored in playoff action. He’s a bit more of a prospect than his similarly-skilled counterpart below.

OF Jordan Henry, 24 – The Indians’ 7th-rounder in 2009, Henry struggled a bit in the playoffs after a nice half season following several injuries. He batted just .242/.359/.273 in his nine games.

1B/DH Chun Chen, 24 – Once a top 10 prospect in the system, it will be intriguing to see how far Chen falls pre-2013. He batted just .212/.297/.242 as a singles-hitting DH in the playoffs.

 

The Intriguing Relievers:

RHP Preston Guilmet, 25 – The strength of this team was always its bullpen, and that ended with the closer. He worked five shutout performances for five saves, holding opponents to a .143 batting average in 6.1 IP.

RHP Shawn Armstrong, 22 – This year’s Bryce Stowell (more on that later), Armstrong began 2012 at Lake County but finished with a AA title. He also worked four scoreless games, striking out five in 3.2 IP.

RHP Trey Haley, 22 – He also had five strikeouts but in just 2.2 IP over two games. He didn’t allow a run and also earned a win in Akron’s impressive Western Division comeback series.

RHP Kyle Landis, 26 – A steady arm in the ‘pen all season, he worked just two games and finished with a 3.38 ERA. Not as much of a prospect as the younger lads above him, but he still should began next year in Columbus.

 

The Recent Promotions:

1B/DH Jesus Aguilar, 22 – The best prospect on this roster only played 20 games with them in the regular season. He then proceeded to hit .182/.229/.333 in nine playoff contests with 15 strikeouts against two walks. Yikes. He’ll be with Akron for most, if not all, of the 2013 season.

RHP Danny Salazar, 22 – That random young pitcher added to the 40-man in the offseason, Salazar was 1-0 with a 4.76 ERA in his two starts. He also somehow had 17 strikeouts in 11.1 IP.

RHP Jose Flores, 23 and 2B/SS Ronny Rodriguez, 20 – Carolina’s closer and star infielder for most of the season, Flores and Rodriguez were with Akron along this playoff journey. Neither appeared in any contests, however. Still a phenomenal experience for both young prospects.

 

The “Oh, I Remember You” Guys:

RHP Hector Rondon, 24 – Finally returning to regular action following August 2010 Tommy John surgery, the former top prospect had three shutout innings out of Akron’s bullpen in the playoffs. Should be interesting to see what the Indians decide to do with him next year.

RHP Rob Bryson, 24 – Acquired in the C.C. Sabathia trade in 2009, Bryson has been mostly with Akron since late 2010. He had a 3.38 ERA in three games and 2.2 IP in the playoffs.

RHP Bryce Stowell, 25 – Stowell emerged as an intriguing prospect in 2010 in posting a 2.14 ERA between Kinston-Columbus. He’s battled injuries and inconsistency since then, and posted a 6.75 ERA in three postseason relief appearances.

RHP Carlos Carrasco, 25 – Returning from 2011 Tommy John surgery, Carrasco made three limited rehab starts in the playoffs. He allowed four runs on four hits with four strikeouts, which should be at least decent enough to lead him to fight for a rotation spot with CLE in 2013.

 

Obviously, there were some other storylines I didn’t touch on – such as 3B Ryan Rohlinger’s two postseason homers – but this was a fun bunch to follow yet again in 2012. Congratulations to manager Chris Tremie and his crew, many of whom were on the 2010 Lake County team that won the Midwest League title.

Sources: David Maxwell/Getty Images North America and Akron Aeros Facebook page