Ten final thoughts for the Indians' 5-3 win over the Royals Wednesday night.
1. Right now, the Indians have the best bullpen in baseball. The best. Tribe relievers have stranded a Major League-leading 91.4 percent (32 of 35) inherited runners this season. And John Axford has been lights-out, converting eight of nine save chances.
2. Francona said the reason behind Axford's success that he's been "really sticking" his fastball wherever he wants, which sets up his curveball.
3. Marc Rzepczynski and Cody Allen have both been rock solid. Then there's Bryan Shaw, who got a big out tonight in the seventh inning with two runners on base. Allen, by the way, has an ERA of 0.00. Rzepczynski's is below 1.00. There are night games to be played on the West Coast, but as of this tying Axford is leading the American League in saves.
4. Axford and David Murphy were the two big additions to the team and we're viewed by many fans as "home runs." They're off to a pretty good start together considering they weren't very expensive compared to the rest of the free agent class—Axford has been about as good as any closer in baseball and Murphy is second on the team in RBI while not playing every day.
5. Jason Kipnis came up with the big hit tonight, an RBI-double to the right-center field gap to give the Tribe a 4-3 lead in the seventh. Kipnis hasn't had a terrific April but it's been much better than last year's. He talked after the game about learning how to put more stock into having a good at-bat rather than having a hit, like the good signs that come from a line-drive out to deep left field over a swinging-bunt accidental single. He said, "... You start to learn that there's quality at-bats and there's a right way to go at situational hitting. The 3-hole comes with responsibility and I think I'm handling it well so far."
6. Remember, on May 3 of last year he was hitting .203. By the end of June, he was at .301 (that number is courtesy of the talented Jordan Bastian of MLB.com). He's off to a much, much better start.
7. Kipnis said, "It was only a matter of time" before the top of the lineup started hitting. Michael Bourn went 3-for-5 with a two-RBI triple. Nick Swisher was 1-for-4 with a walk and scored all the way from first on Kipnis' double. "Even though we haven't seen the production we've wanted to with runners on base, guys are still taking good swings and swinging at the right pitches but sometimes they don't fall in. They're starting to fall in now."
8. Carlos Santana, the cleanup hitter, is now hitting .130. His on-base percentage is somehow still .310, but he's hitting .130. The guy can sure walk. But he's not hitting anything right now. Bourn, Swisher, Kipnis (1-2-3 of the lineup most nights) and Brantley (No. 5) are all hitting well or starting to hit well. The bottom of the order is hitting very well. If Santana wakes up it's all systems go.
9. The Indians have a chance to get back to .500 tomorrow, should they win. That'd be fairly impressive considering the struggles of the top of the order, and the fielding, and Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar. To come out of that playing even baseball would set up the Tribe pretty well heading into May.
10. And one thought for the Blue Jackets, who pulled off a miracle comeback to beat the Penguins 4-3 in overtime. Columbus and Cleveland were rockin' tonight (how cheesy was that?).