April 18, 2014

Indians 14, White Sox 3: Sox Raburned Again

Ryan RaburnAfter seemingly weeks of one close game after another, nail-biters that have kept us on the edge of our seats, your Cleveland Indians finally made it easy on all of us. Make no mistake about the Kansas City Royals – that team can play. They have hitters all up and down their lineup, a rock solid rotation, and one of the best back ends of a bullpen in baseball. The same cannot be said for the Chicago White Sox.

The South Siders are closing up shop on their worst season in more than a decade. They sit 30 games under .500 and are in full rebuild mode. Their pitching staff, both starters and the bullpen, leave a lot to be desired. More good news – entering last night, the Indians had six more games with the White Sox on their schedule. There is no better tonic for a struggling offense than seeing some Chicago pitching. 

After losing two of three to the Royals, the Indians came in game and a half back of the second Wild Card, knowing what they had to do. Right from the start, they jumped all over lefty John Danks, who ironically has never beaten the Indians in his home park U.S. Cellular Field. Nick Swisher hit his 18th homer of the year to give the Wahoos an early lead. Jason Kipnis followed with a single and Carlos Santana walked. Hitting in the five hole against the lefty was Ryan Raburn.

The Tribe’s biggest bat surprise in 2013 has sorely been missed over the past three to four weeks. He spent time on the DL with a calf injury and in general continues to battle Achilles and heel problems. Francona has only been able to pick and choose spots with him every week or so. But in his career, there has been no team he has dominated quite like the White Sox. In another big spot, Raburn delivered a three-run bomb to left and the Tribe had a four run lead just like that. It was Raburn’s 17th career homer against Chicago.

“We said coming into this series that Raburn would hopefully play a big part, because we were going to face three lefties,” manager Terry Francona said. “But he did what he’s done so often this year. He not only gets hits, but he gives us a lot of production for a guy that plays maybe half the year or not even [half]. He’s given us a lot of production out of that bat.”

It was only just the beginning for a Tribe offensive attack that exploded after a frustrating series with KC.

Kipnis added a two-out RBI double in the second. Mike Aviles’s third inning sac fly extended the Tribe’s lead to 6-1. Another sac fly in the fourth from Kipnis was the Wahoos seventh run. But it was the fifth inning that really sealed the deal.

Danks was lifted after four innings, giving up seven runs (six earned) on nine hits. He was replaced by Charlie Leesman. Everyone’s favorite shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera greeted the rookie with a solo homer (of course this comes of the solo variety with a five run lead). Leesman then couldn’t find the plate, walking both Yan Gomes and Aviles. That’s when the rains came and the umpires called for the tarp. It was one of the shorter rain delays I’ve ever seen as just as the tarp was called for, it was taken off the field.

Leesman came back out and issued his third straight free pass, this one to Drew Stubbs to load the bases with nobody out. It came back around to the top of the order where Michael Bourn singled home Gomes. Swisher kept the line moving with another RBI single, this one bringing in two Indians. Leesman then walked his fourth hitter in the inning, Kipnis, to again load the bases. That was all for him as Sox manager Robin Ventura called for Dylan Axelrod. New pitcher, same results.

Santana would single in Bourn. Raburn would bring home Swisher and Kipnis with his third hit on the night. At that point the Tribe had sent nine men to the plate in the fifth without recording an out.

“If we’re going to get where we want to go we’re going to need contributions from everybody just like this,” said Francona.

At 14-2, the Tribe would be able to cruise home to an easy victory. Corey Kluber wasn’t sharp but pitched five innings for the win. That will work against the sad sack Sox, but he is going to have to be better these next two weeks if the Tribe wants to get to October. However, pitching with a nice lead always makes things easier.

“I was a little sloppy to start out with,” Kluber said. “I didn’t have my best command early on, but the nice part about that is that the offense came out and put up a lot of runs. … I think I was kind of inconsistent with my delivery early on and I wasn’t getting my arm in a good slot, pitch after pitch. But, I kind of figured it out a little bit just playing catch during the delay and [pitched better after that].”

A real nice highlight was the return of right-hander Josh Tomlin, making his first big league appearance since August 12th of last year. “The Little Cowboy” missed a year after Tommy John surgery and pitched two innings of scoreless relief.

“Tomlin was as advertised,” said Francona. “He threw strikes and didn’t hurt himself. He’s beenn champing at the bit to get in there, but it’s been really tough to do when we’re fighting through all these games.”

Vinnie Pestano took the eighth and didn’t look too sharp. He was at 89-90 all inning and wasn’t fooling anyone. It is amazing to me that a guy can be so dominant for two years and just completely lose it a year later. I still think something is physically wrong with him.

More importantly, the 14-3 win kept the Wahoos just a game and a half back of Tampa Bay, who beat Boston 4-3 last night. The Yankees took down the Orioles 6-5, staying a half game in front of the Tribe. Baltimore fell a full game back of the Indians. Kansas City had an off day, but lost a half game in the standings.

As we’ve said, the Indians need to take care of their own business and the rest should just fall into place.

“We got to win, that’s the botton line,” said Swisher “We’ve put ourselves in a great position. The thing we’re stressing in here is that these years don’t come around every year. It’s not a guarantee that you’re going to be fighting for a playoff spot. We want to try and finish this off, regardless of how we do it. Whether it’s wild card of division. We’re going to keep fighting until the last out.”

The Tribe is now 12-2 against the Sox this year with five games still to play. This afternoon at 2:10 EST, they go for two in a row with rookie Danny Salazar (1-2, 2.92 ERA) taking the mound for most likely the first five innings. I’d expect Carlos Carrasco to be on the ready to follow him. The Sox will counter with lefty Hector Santiago (4-8, 3.44 ERA).

  • mgbode

    decided to watch the Tribe last night instead of TNF. Who knew that the Indians would outscore the Patriots?

    also, does anyone know our record in games where Raburn & Gomes both start? it likely only “feels” like we do so much better, but it sure does feel like we will win when those 2 names are on the lineup card.

  • mgbode

    interestingly, if you add up Gomes + Raburn’s PA for the season, then you get 497PA (roughly the amount of the rest of the Indians regulars). and their numbers in those PA would be far and away the best hitter on the Indians.

    Raburn 175 OPS+
    Gomes 143 OPS+
    Combined-Stats (accounting for PA%): 158 OPS+

    next best Indians regular Kipnis 134 OPS+ & Santana 133 OPS+

  • nj0

    I know people say Raburn can’t hit righties, but the way he has mashed this season I’m surprised he didn’t test the market this off-season. It sure seems like he should be an everyday player somewhere.

  • http://www.twitter.com/dconeil Hamsterdam

    What a nice win. Gotta close out this series with three more wins. Cannot let a 4-8 pitcher beat us today. Critical to win today and tomorrow night with Chris Sale on the mound Sunday afternoon. Would love to see Salazar get a win. He hasn’t done that since July 11.

  • Harv 21

    Yan Gomes is hitting .302 over 239 ABs. 72 hits and 17 walks over 74 games. And is playing pretty stellar defense.

    This just blows my mind. Whatever Francona is doing to simultaneously develop and protect this guy, hope it keeps working. Begs the: nature or nurture? I tend to think they’ve done an excellent job developing him as opposed to the big nut falling to the blind squirrel.

  • Steve

    You’ll appreciate this link: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/yan-gomes-and-clevelands-luck/

    Gomes has been making more contact, and the ball has been falling in a lot more for him when he does. Now, that BABIP is not likely to keep up, but even at a more normal level, he’s still a legit hitter. What is most interesting to me is that the Jays didn’t think he’d be able to stick at catcher at the time of the trade. Who was doing those evaluations?

  • Steve

    I’m getting 23-19

  • nj0

    I was thinking earlier this week: the Indians have basically missed on all their big money FA signings from this past off-season. Maybe that’s a little harsh on Bourn and Swisher, but you could say that neither has performed to their expected level. Yet again, it’s been the small, barely noticed trades and moves to get guys like Raburn, Aviles, Kluber, Gomes, Kazmir, etc. that have really made this team into what it is.

  • nj0

    Today’s game is the mlb.com free game of the day.

  • Steve

    Gomes and Raburn have batted against LHP, their platoon advantage, 38% of the time, compared to 26% for the rest of the team. Now, their numbers are still good vs RHP, but these guys have certainly been helped by Francona picking his spots.

  • Steve

    And yet, next offseason, fans will be clamoring that the Tribe spend big in FA to get a name, thinking that will be the difference maker.

  • nj0

    Francona is doing the obvious thing by playing to the his player’s platoon strengths, but he still needs to be given credit for it. Many managers don’t do it.

    And it’s not just Gomes and Raburn. Francona has used Rzepczynski properly too and has been rewarded with 15 innings of an ERA around one. Matheny in STL wasn’t smart enough to use him that way.

    Remember when everyone was making fun of getting Rzepszynski? Turned out to be a pretty great little deal.

  • Steve

    Agree 100%.

  • Harv 21

    Thx, interesting link. I’m not smart enough to reconcile the change in his offensive stats with what I’m seeing with my eyes, but defensively it’s obvious he’s improved just since the opener. And now he looks like one of those guys that totally trust their good throwing arm to the point of cockiness, which in turn forces the opponent to adjust. Maybe this is Sandy Alomar’s first coaching success story. Never saw much improvement from either Santana or Marson under Sandy’s care.

  • mgbode

    yes, I agree that using them in their proper platoons is helping their numbers. as NJ noted, Francona gets credit there.

    but, also, they still get credit for coming through. we have had many “platoon” players in the past that still managed to not be very good when called upon. kudos all around for developing the “Goburn” monster hitter.

  • mgbode

    boooo……hissssss……that means there will be more interruptions during the feed.

    #selfish_me

  • nj0

    Interesting point made in the comments of that article about him eliminating a high leg kick and reworking his mechanics. Sure there’s video/pics out there somewhere that can show if that’s the case or not.

  • nj0

    Absolutely.
    Manager puts employee in place to succeed.
    Employee executes and knocks it out of the park.
    Beautiful thing that.

    Seriously, how can people not love the 2013 Indians? Personality, perseverance, over-achieving. Was a time when fans latched onto underdog teams with grit.

  • nj0

    So I just read that the reason today’s game was moved from evening to afternoon was because it’s Yom Kippur. Interesting. The same thing happened with the White Sox/Indians last year.

  • nj0

    Man, Salazar is dominant.

  • mgbode

    and done for the day? man, they are being strict with his 80pitch count.

  • nj0

    which really sucks for a strike out pitcher like him

  • woofersus

    This prompted me to look at his minor league stats, and interestingly it appears he started out as a catcher and Toronto decided to make him a corner infielder, which he never got particularly good at. I’m not sure what the rest of their farm system looks like, but they must have felt like there was a logjam at that position. (or that he wouldn’t make a good Catcher) What is really surprising to me is that they didn’t consider converting him back when he turned out to be not a very good first or third baseman.

  • Steve

    Save those bullets for when they really matter. Can beat the White Sox without him.

  • woofersus

    It’s possible he has altered his swing mechanics, but despite his struggles in his first ML action in Toronto last year, (.204/.264/.367/.631) that was a fairly small sample size of 43 games and 98 AB’s. Last year was also his first full year at AAA, and in 334 AB’s in Las Vegas he put up a line of .328/.380/.557/.938. Doesn’t look like the slash line of a guy with a jacked up swing. He even finished the year in Toronto on a hot streak, batting .368 in his last 10 games.

    The only year he really struggled was 2011, when he first went to AA, and then briefly to AAA. His BA was .250 for that year. As I look at his progression through the minors it looks like Toronto wrote off his 2012 AAA performance as an aberration against bad pitching when he struggled like he did in his first major league action. His offensive stats actually declined in his first three years in the minors as he progressed up to better competition, but his first two years were hardly bad, so looking back at it now, maybe his bad year at AA was the aberration. Clearly that’s what the Indians thought. Tito said early on they mostly liked him for his bat, and were taking a chance that he’d be able to be a good catcher. (probably because they knew he wasn’t so good at 3b)

  • woofersus

    Where did you get the splits on that? I’m a little curious how they do when both Gomes and Santana are in the lineup at the same time.