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Rangers 7, Indians 3: Ryan Lewis’ 12 Walk-Off Thoughts on Corey Kluber, Lonnie Chisenhall

By Ryan Lewis Published: June 1, 2016
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Here are 12 Walk-Off Thoughts on the Indians’ 7-3 loss to the Rangers Tuesday night,.

1. After momentarily grabbing the lead in the American League Central on Saturday, the Indians have now dropped three games. Tuesday night was a story of the Indians continuing the trend of not scoring runs when Corey Kluber is on the mound and Kluber not helping his cause.

2. Kluber was tagged for six earned runs on eight hits to go with six strikeouts in his seven innings pitched. The Indians have now scored more than four runs only once in Kluber’s 11 starts. Two negatives don’t equal a positive here.

MORE: Indians notebook: Starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco to return Thursday; Shawn Armstrong promoted, Ryan Merritt demoted

3. Through the first seven innings, Kluber was pretty solid with the exception of two home runs allowed. One was to Bryan Holaday, hitting ninth. The other was to Jurickson Profar for his first home run of the season. Both of those home runs came on the first pitch.


 

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Indians bats, Corey Kluber struggle in 7-3 loss to Texas Rangers

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 31, 2016

The Indians have had often-documented struggles scoring runs with Corey Kluber on the mound. That trend continued Tuesday night as well, but the bigger issue was Kluber not helping his own cause.

Kluber wasn’t at his best and operated with little room for error, and the Indians fell to the Texas Rangers 7-3. It’s the Indians’ third straight loss since temporarily grabbing first place in the American League Central on Saturday.

The Rangers took the lead with a two-run home run for the second straight day. This time, it was an unlikely candidate. After Jared Hoying singled to open the top of the third, catcher Bryan Holaday, hitting ninth, belted a two-run home run off Kluber.

Two innings later, Jurickson Profar hit his first home run of the season, a solo shot to right field to put the Rangers up 3-0. They were the sixth and seventh home runs Kluber as allowed this season, and both came on the first pitch to each hitter.

“I think a lot of hitters want to hit off Kluber the first straight one they see because his off-speed is so good,” said Indians manager Terry Francona. “I don’t think you can go out there and throw all off-speed.”

That’d be all the offense the Rangers would need behind starter Colby Lewis.

In Lewis’ six innings, the Indians struggled to get anything going. A scoring chance in the bottom of the third that began with singles by Lonnie Chisenhall and Rajai Davis went for naught after Carlos Santana grounded out and Jason Kipnis flew out.

Two innings later, another missed scoring opportunity. Santana and Francisco Lindor each drew walks, but Lewis escaped by getting Mike Napoli to ground out to third base.

The Indians got on the board in the seventh against reliever Tony Barnette. Lonnie Chisenhall, who’s quietly been hitting better as of late, clubbed a two-run home run to right field to cut the Rangers’ lead to 3-2. It was his first home run of the season.

The Rangers got those runs back in the eighth. With two on, Ian Desmond ripped a two-RBI double to right field to make it 5-2 and end Kluber’s day. Adrian Beltre then drove in another with a double to center field against Bryan Shaw. Shawn Armstrong made his season debut with the Indians in the ninth, allowing one run on Hoying’s RBI-single.

Chisenhall added an RBI-single in the ninth, but that’s all the Indians could muster. Chisenhall hit .313 in the month of May after a slow April.

“I think he swung the bat very well tonight,” Francona said. “And he’s been starting to get his hits, but tonight he got his legs under him and drove the ball which is really good to see. That’ll help us a ton.”

Kluber was tagged for six earned runs on eight hits to go with six strikeouts in his seven innings pitched. The Indians have now scored more than four runs only once in Kluber’s 11 starts.

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Indians SP Carlos Carrasco to return Thursday

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 31, 2016

The Indians will be getting one of their Cy Young contenders back on Thursday, as Carlos Carrasco will return to the starting rotation following nearly a six-week absence.

Carrasco strained his left hamstring on April 24 in Detroit covering first base on a ground ball, warranting a stint on the 15-day disabled list. He threw a rehab outing for Double-A Akron on Saturday with positive results. Following his side session on Monday, the Indians were ready to deem him able to return.

Carrasco will have a “guideline” of about 80 pitches when he faces the Kansas City Royals.

“Everything feels good, “ Carrasco said. “I don’t feel anything different. So, everything was fine.”

Carrasco has been focusing on pitcher-fielding-practice (PFP) and covered first base in his rehab start in Double-A Akron. He hasn’t felt anything troublesome in his hamstring since he started testing it.

“I thought I was going to feel something in my bullpen [session], but I didn’t feel anything,” he said. “Actually, when I started running, I thought I was going to feel something, but I didn’t really feel anything.”

Carrasco’s return is certainly a welcomed sight for the Indians. Before he went down he was 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA to go with 20 strikeouts in 22 innings pitched. At the time of the injury, it appeared as though he might have torn his hamstring, which could have put his season in jeopardy.

“Extremely, said Indians manager Terry Francona when asked if he felt lucky, all things considered.” I think there was a chance, when it happened, that the trainers thought that maybe that was a potential surgery. … We’re very fortunate.”

It’s likely that Carrasco’s addition to the starting rotation means rookie Mike Clevinger, who’s made three starts and struggled in his last two, will be optioned to Triple-A Columbus. Clevinger was knocked around by Baltimore, raising his season ERA to 8.79.

Per Francona, Clevinger will have the night off Tuesday and then be available in the bullpen if needed on Wednesday.

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Rangers 9, Indians 2: Ryan Lewis’ 16 Walk-Off Thoughts on an ejection, Josh Tomlin, Ryan Merritt

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 30, 2016

Here are 16 Walk-Off Thoughts on the Indians’ 9-2 loss to the Texas Rangers Monday night.

1. Josh Tomlin had his first poor outing of the season and Ryan Merritt made a positive debut. But, a key play from Monday night was Indians manager Terry Francona getting ejected for the first time this season and the 41st time in his career.

2. In the third inning of a 3-0 game, the Rangers had runners on the corners with two outs. Mitch Moreland hit a slow roller down the first-base line that Tomlin fielded, but his throw hit Moreland, allowing Ian Desmond to score and the inning to continue.

3. Francona came out to argue that Moreland was running along/inside the base line, meaning it would have been interference. He eventually returned to the dugout and then was ejected by home plate umpire Manny Gonzalez. Francona came out a second time, and Gonzalez walked away from him. He finally returned to the dugout, pointing at the scoreboard showing the replay.

4. Francona was still obviously upset after the game and still awaiting an explanation.

5. Said Francona, “I probably saw it like everyone else did. If you had a chance to look at it, the runner veered back into the baseline. He started out okay, but it looked like he wanted to get in the way of the throw. I think that’s exactly why they put the rule in place. I don’t know what he saw. I didn’t get a very good explanation. I couldn’t get any explanation. … He didn’t say anything. Kept saying, ‘That’s what I have.’ When I went out the second time after he threw me out, he wouldn’t talk to me. I’m still waiting. … I saw it on the board. I couldn’t live with that.”

6. Instead of the Indians getting out of the inning down 3-0, a run scored on that play and Elvis Andrus added an RBI-single to make it 5-0.

More: Jose Ramirez leaning to play angled left-field wall; Door open for Carlos Carrasco to make next start

7. Tomlin finished with nine hits and eight runs allowed (four earned), no walks and one strikeout, raising his season ERA to 3.79. After starting the season 7-0, the first Indians pitcher to do that since Dennis Martinez started the 1995 season 9-0, this was the first time Tomlin had been roughed up. He's been one of the more reliable back-end-of-the-rotation starters in baseball. But Monday night was not a good outing.

8. Said Tomlin, “Just executing pitches and being able to go deep into the game to be able to get a decision. That was not any of my thinking going into it, knowing that I was 7-0. My job is to try to go as deep as I can, whether you get a decision or not. That's what I try to do every time out. I just didn't execute the pitches when I needed to execute them today, and put our team in a bad spot early on and they just kept building on that first inning and I didn't limit the damage enough, and once they kind of tasted blood, they just kept piling it on. My job as a starting pitcher is to try to limit that as much as I can and go as deep as I can in the game to give the guys a chance to come back, and that definitely didn't happen tonight.”



9. Mike Napoli hit his team-leading 11th home run of the season and Marlon Byrd went 4-for-4 and was a triple away from the cycle. That was the Indians’ offense Monday night.

10. A small positive: Ryan Merritt finally got into a game. He was called up for last Monday’s doubleheader in Chicago but has been sitting in the bullpen, as the Indians couldn’t find the right situation for him to enter the game. That came on Monday night, and he took full advantage of it. After the Rangers ripped through Tomlin and rookie Nomar Mazara absolutely crushed a three-run home run off of Austin Adams, Merritt threw 4 1/3 scoreless innings while allowing just one hit and striking out two.

11. Said Francona, “Good for him. He’s been waiting patiently. Keeping his eyes open. He came in and threw the ball over the plate. Got a double play. Really did well. I’m sure he’s taking a sigh of relief that he’s pitched. He held his nerves in check and he threw strikes.”

12. Yan Gomes was impressed, saying, “That was pretty impressive. I think I caught a couple of his bullpens and maybe a game in spring training. That was pretty impressive. That was pretty good stuff that he brought out there. He kept his cool, especially for facing a lineup that -- if you were watching from the bullpen, they were swinging pretty well. They weren't letting many mistakes go. He came in, hit his spots and did a heck of a job. That saves our bullpen for the next couple of games.”

13. After a week, Merritt was obviously nervous, saying, “Oh, yeah. Pretty nervous and a lot of anticipation, but it was worth it getting out there, getting my toes wet, getting a feel for the Major Leagues. It was fun. … I think any newcomer can be nervous, but tried to do my best to stay calm and not let the nerves get to me too much or not stress too much. But definitely nervous. I’m sure I’ll be nervous the next time I go out.”

14. The Indians will have a decision to make once Carlos Carrasco is healthy and ready to return to the rotation, which could potentially be in the next couple of days. Mike Clevinger is a natural option to be sent down. Merritt is the probably the next likeliest to get the call back to Triple-A Columbus, perhaps when Joba Chamberlain is ready to come off the disabled list. At least now, if he does, he has his major-league debut under his belt.

15. Gomes wore clear glasses for the first time Monday night. He was having trouble getting used to his contacts and decided to try them out. He’s now hitting .175 this season, so he could be trying anything at this point.

16. Said Gomes, “It's been something that I've been working on during spring training. I've tried contacts and some dirt or something got in my eye and I can't get used to them. So I got the glasses. They finally came in. I might as well try them out now. … Really, they didn't bother me at all, other than some times in the dugout, I got sweat a little bit and they fogged up. It's just like wearing sunglasses or anything like that. It's just an adjustment period.”

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Indians routed in 9-2 loss to Texas Rangers

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 30, 2016

Indians starter Josh Tomlin entered Monday’s game a perfect 7-0 this season. The Texas Rangers made sure he left with a loss and then some, as the Indians were pounded 9-2.

The Rangers scored nine runs in the first four innings that included Tomlin getting knocked around for the first time this season, reliever Austin Adams giving up a monster home run and Indians manager Terry Francona getting ejected.

The Rangers (30-21) started early. Jurickson Profar led off the game with a single and was followed by Ian Desmond, who belted a two-run home run to the bleacher seats to put the Rangers up 2-0 two batters into the game. The Rangers tacked on a third run in the second inning on Bryan Holaday’s sacrifice fly to center field.

The third inning was Francona’s last. With runners on the corners and two outs, Mitch Moreland grounded a ball along the first-base line. Tomlin fielded it, but his throw hit Moreland. A run scored and all runners were safe, prompting Francona to argue that Moreland was inside of the baseline and should have been called the final out of the inning.

Francona was eventually ejected by home plate umpire Manny Gonzalez and came out of the dugout a second time. Elvis Andrus, the next batter, then singled home another run to left field to make it 5-0.

“I don’t know what [the umpire] saw,” Francona said. “I didn’t get a very good explanation. I couldn’t get any explanation. … When I went out the second time after he threw me out, he wouldn’t talk to me. I’m still waiting.”

Tomlin didn’t escape the fourth. Prince Fielder extended the Rangers’ lead to 6-0 with a single and Juan Uribe then committed two errors one on play to end Tomlin’s day. Adams entered, and Rangers rookie Nomar Mazara crushed a three-run home run to center field that cleared the first row of trees and put the game out of reach.

Tomlin finished with nine hits and eight runs allowed (four earned), no walks and one strikeout, raising his season ERA to 3.79.

“I just didn't execute the pitches when I needed to execute them today and put our team in a bad spot early on,” Tomlin said. “They just kept building on that first inning and I didn't limit the damage enough, and once they kind of tasted blood, they just kept piling it on.”

The Indians’ offense came on two home runs. Mike Napoli hit his team-leading 11th home run of the season in the sixth off Rangers starter Derek Holland, and Marlon Byrd (4-for-4) hit his fifth home run of the year in the seventh off Cesar Ramos.

A rare bright spot for the Indians (26-23) on Monday night was left-handed pitcher Ryan Merritt, who made his major-league debut after a week of sitting in the Indians’ bullpen. Merritt was called up last Monday prior to the Indians’ doubleheader in Chicago but couldn’t get into a game. He finally did against the Rangers and threw 4 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing just one hit and striking out two.

But Tomlin had his first poor start of the season, and the Indians’ offense had spent two of the previous three days trying to erase early deficits. This one was too much.

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Jose Ramirez learning to play angled LF wall; Door open for Carlos Carrasco to make next start

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 30, 2016

One of the challenges of a natural infielder finding playing time in the outfield is learning how to play near the wall on deep fly balls.

In Jose Ramirez’s case, he has to deal with a 19-foot wall that includes an odd angle near the left-field line (under the Home Run Porch) and a video board that will deaden any possible carom.

Ramirez, receiving significant time in left field in Michael Brantley’s absence, is still getting some of the nuances down. It was evident Sunday, when Baltimore’s Mark Trumbo doubled off the left-field wall with the bases loaded in the first inning. Trumbo smashed a 116-mph line drive, per Statcast, right to the section of the wall where it becomes angled, just to the left of the Sherwin Williams ad. Ramirez got caught in-between trying to play a couple different possible caroms, and it got by him, allowing all three runs to score instead of, possibly, only two.

“I’m working on this,” Ramirez said though a team translator. “I still don’t know the wall all the way, because it gives different bounces at different times.”

Prior to Monday’s game, bench coach Brad Mills and Ramirez practiced in left field fielding hits off of different parts of the wall. They found that different sections of the wall will result in different caroms in addition to different angles.

“This is my fourth year here, and there's been some balls that seem to come off a little harder this year than they have other years,” Mills said. “I know Brantley has had much more experience out there, so maybe he made them look like they weren't coming off that hard. I don't know. So, I wanted to go out there and I brought Jose out. … We found a few that seemed to be a little less angled and a little not coming off quite as much.”

The Indians installed a new video board near the top of the wall. If a ball hits the screen in front of the video board, the ball won’t bounce off like if it hits the padding. Ramirez is also to dealing with the relatively new issue of knowing when to keep going toward the wall or when to back off and play the bounce. Then there’s playing the right bounce.

Ramirez added that he’s working during batting practice and watching video of Brantley and others playing bounces off the left-field wall. The Indians this spring wanted to give Ramirez additional time in the outfield to expand his versatility and get his bat in the lineup more often. Brantley’s extended absence has resulted in extended time for Ramirez in left field.

“When he first went out there, I thought there were a lot of new things. And I think he’s kind of slowly progressed,” Mills said. “There’s some other things now that I don’t want him to get comfortable with. One is a little bit of the wall, maybe. And I’m not saying that he is at all, but I just want to give him a little bit of a read of how things are going to come off and do things.”

Door open

Indians manager Terry Francona said on Monday that the possibility remains that Carlos Carrasco’s next step could be to rejoin the Indians.

Carrasco, on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left hamstring, threw a rehab outing for Double-A Akron Saturday and then threw a side session on Monday. It’s possible he could make one more rehab appearance before joining the Indians. It’s also possible he could make his next start in Cleveland, but with a pitch count. For now, the Indians will see how things progress.

“We’re going to keep the door open for him starting his next start,” Francona said. “I think we also have left the door open with wether we want to let him start, maybe piggy-back him. … We’re leaving all options open. I think we want to continue to discuss it a little bit. And mainly, when I say discuss it, I mean allow the medical people as much time as we can with him. Then we’re able to make a baseball decision based on good medical information and not guessing.”

When the Indians do reactivate Carrasco, it’s possibly Mike Clevinger or Ryan Merritt, in the bullpen are optioned to Triple-A Columbus.

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Orioles 6, Indians 4: Ryan Lewis’ 19 Walk-Off Thoughts on scoring chances, Mike Clevinger, more

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 29, 2016
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Here are 19 Walk-Off Thoughts on the Indians’ 6-4 loss to the Baltimore Orioles Sunday afternoon.

1. This game felt similar to Friday’s loss, in which the Indians dug themselves an early hole, battled back to tie but lost in the end. The main difference was that in Sunday’s game, the Indians had two golden scoring opportunities in the end. They just couldn’t convert them.

2. The Indians had two runners in scoring position with no outs in the bottom of the eighth after Jason Kipnis singled and Francisco Lindor doubled. Lindor’s hit was only a few feet from being a game-tying home run. Instead, the Orioles brought in Darren O’Day, who got Mike Napoli to ground out, intentionally walked Jose Ramirez to load the bases and then struck out both Lonnie Chisenhall and Yan Gomes to end the inning.

3. The sequence and final pitch that got Chisenhall was something else. O’Day threw eight pitches on the inner part of the plate as he and Chisenhall battled though several foul balls. The ninth pitch was a perfectly placed slider on the outside part of the plate that started off the plate and cut back in on Chisenhall, who was frozen for strike three. It was in-in-in eight times, and then the killer.



4. Said Chisenhall, “He kept pounding me in, pounding me in, close enough I couldn’t take it. I kept fouling it off and he ended up freezing me. I know it caught enough of the plate. I was frustrated with myself. Was kind of a pitch I like to hit off of guys like that. Even after throwing five or six in like that, he just got me. It’s a real tough at-bat, it’s a good situation to score some runs, felt good against him and he won.”

5. In the ninth, a similar story. Marlon Byrd and Rajai Davis each singled to open the inning, bringing the potential winning run to the plate. Carlos Santana grounded into a fielder’s choice and Kipnis and Lindor each struck out to end the game.

6. Indians manager Terry Francona has often said he’d rather have the scoring chances but not convert than not have the opportunities at all, Still, it’s a tough loss.

7. Said Francona, “It gave us a chance. That’s what you want. Those are hard games to win. … Somebody will whack one and we’ll have a walk-off if we keep doing stuff like that. I mean, I hope we don’t have to do that, but it’ll happen.”

More: Indians SP Carlos Carrasco nearing return; Jason Kipnis providing defense

8. Friday night, the Orioles beat up on Zach McAllister. Sunday afternoon, Hyun Soo Kim hit the first home run of his career off of Jeff Manship to put the Orioles up 5-4 in the seventh. After being seemingly superhuman since the start of last season, Manship has come down to earth recently. Nolan Remold then took Tommy Hunter deep for a solo home run in the ninth, so it wasn’t a great weekend for middle relievers.

9. Unless you’re Dan Otero, who tossed two scoreless innings with three strikeouts that allowed the Indians time to tie it. Otero, somewhat quietly, now has a 0.86 ERA this season.

10. Said Francona on Otero, “At the time, that completely gave us a chance to win the game. He calmed the game down for us. We didn’t win, but it was exactly what we needed. We needed to slow them down, give ourselves a chance. We had really good opportunities. We weren’t able to do much with them.”

11. Prior to that, it was another rough outing for Mike Clevinger in his third career start. The Orioles got to Clevinger early while he struggled to get ahead in the count. With the bases loaded, Mark Trumbo ripped a bases-clearing double off the left-field wall.

12. And it was really ripped. Coming into today, only 13 batted balls had an exit velocity of at least 116 miles per hour, per Statcast. Trumbo’s double was the 14th. Poor command led to being behind which led to a mistake which led to an early 3-0 deficit.

13. Said Clevinger, “With the way my fastball command was in the first inning, it was hit or miss with where that was going to go. I was trying to throw a fastball away. Usually, when I have my command going, I might not have even gone to three fastballs in a row 3-2 or two fastballs in a row 3-2 to him right there, but I kind of cornered myself into throwing that pitch either way and I left it up and he capitalized.”

More: Indians players respond to proposed rule change raising lower part of strike zone

14. It took time for Clevinger to settle in, which is a sign of trouble against a lineup like the Orioles’. Said Clevinger of how he felt after that costly first inning, “It finally felt like I was pitching instead of throwing. It kind of felt like I was throwing at the beginning and I was out of my mechanics. I wasn't there mentally, it didn't feel like, until I got into the second and started finding my groove and it at least clicked for a little bit.”

15. After three starts, Clevinger now has an ERA of 8.79. He’s about as “green” as they come. The Indians like his stuff, and it plays at this level. But he’s learning on the go, and it’s cost him.

16. Specifically, he’s learning that mistakes don’t get covered up like they do in the minor leagues. They get exposed.

17. Said Clevinger, “It's just how easily a mistake is capitalized on, whether it's a walk two hitters beforehand and it turns into a single scores a run or it pushes a single after an out and a sac fly gets him in. It's still attacking, but staying within myself. … There have to be fewer mistakes made. The one thing I can take out of all three of these is there's a lot that I've learned that this level has shown me. I'm a quick learner. I'm not getting down. I can definitely say I've learned a lot. … There's no part of me that doesn't think I belong. That's not there. It's consistency and finding that even keel.”

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Indians battle back from early deficit but eventually fall to Baltimore Orioles 6-4

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 29, 2016

For the second time in three games, the Indians fell behind the Baltimore Orioles, fought their way back to a tie but couldn’t keep up in the end in a 6-4 loss.

The Indians’ offense successfully climbed their way back into the game after an early deficit, but the key scoring opportunities eluded them in the bottom the eighth and ninth innings.

Facing Brad Brach, Jason Kipnis singled and Francisco Lindor followed with a double off the wall in right field that missed being a go-ahead home run by just a few feet, putting two runners in scoring position with nobody out. The Orioles went to Darren O’Day, and the Indians couldn’t convert.

O’Day got Mike Napoli to ground out to third base for the first out and then walked Jose Ramirez to load the bases. Lonnie Chisenhall was frozen for strike three in a nine-pitch at-bat and Yan Gomes struck out swinging to end the inning.

Against Orioles closer Zach Britton in the ninth, the Indians again threatened but came up short.

Marlon Byrd and Rajai Davis opened the inning with singles, bringing the potential winning run to the plate. Carlos Santana grounded a ball to third base that was originally called a double play, but Santana beat the throw at first base. Then, a familiar ending. Britton struck out Kipnis and Lindor back-to-back to end the game, just as O’Day had done in the eighth.

“It gave us a chance,” said Indians manager Terry Francona. “That’s what you want. Those are hard games to win. … Somebody will whack one and we’ll have a walk-off if we keep doing stuff like that. I mean, I hope we don’t have to do that, but it’ll happen.”

Prior to that, the Indians played catch-up all day.

The Orioles took a 3-0 lead in the first inning against Indians starter Mike Clevinger, just as they did on Friday against Trevor Bauer. Clevinger struggled to find the strike zone, throwing more balls than strikes in the first inning. He walked two and allowed a single to Manny Machado to load the bases. Mark Trumbo then made it all costly with a bases-clearing double off the left-field wall.

In the fourth, Jonathan Schoop doubled and later scored on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Ryan Flaherty, putting the Orioles up 4-0.

Clevinger lasted only four innings, allowed those four runs on four hits and three walks and struck out four. Clevinger has been hit hard in his last two starts and now owns an 8.79 ERA.

“It finally felt like I was pitching instead of throwing,” Clevinger said of how he felt after the rough first inning. “It kind of felt like I was throwing at the beginning and I was out of my mechanics. I wasn’t there mentally, it didn’t feel like, untiL i got into the second and started finding my groove and it at least clicked for a little bit.”

Just like Friday, the Indians came back to erase that deficit. This time, they did it with power. Carlos Santana hit a solo home run in the fourth inning, his ninth of the year, that temporarily tied him with Napoli for the team lead. Three batters later, Napoli took back the lead with a two-run shot, his 10th, to cut the Orioles lead to 4-3.

In the sixth, the Indians finally caught up when Kipnis drove a solo home run to right field, his seventh of the season.

And, just like Friday, the Orioles got to the Indians’ bullpen. Facing Jeff Manship in the seventh, Hyun Soo Kim hit a line-drive solo home run, the first of his career, to put the Orioles up 5-4.

In the top of the ninth, Nolan Reimold added a solo home run against Tommy Hunter. It was just an insurance run, as the Indians’ offense couldn’t convert those two late scoring chances into runs.

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Indians SP Carlos Carrasco nearing return; Jason Kipnis providing defense

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 29, 2016

The Indians have spent most of the season waiting for two key pieces to return from the disabled list. It appears as though they’ll be getting at least one of them back soon.

Indians starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco took an important step in his rehab from a strained left hamstring on Saturday, throwing four innings, allowing one earned run on seven hits and striking out six for Double-A Akron. He threw 53 pitches and then roughly another 10 in the bullpen. The feedback was positive.
“I think pretty good,” said Indians manager Terry Francona. “Covered first in the first inning … Handled all that. It was good. By all accounts, by his own account, looked healthy and seemed raring to go.”

It’s the first time he had thrown anything above a simulated game or a bullpen session. Carrasco has been on the DL since straining his hamstring trying to cover first base in a game in Detroit on April 24. He was given an original timetable of 4-to-6 weeks, of which he’s currently near the middle.

Carrasco will have a side day of work on Monday, but the next step is still undetermined. It’s possible Carrasco needs a second rehab appearance. Though, when asked if the next move could be to rejoin the Indians, Francona only said, “We’ll sit and figure it out.”

Carrasco was 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 22 innings pitched before going down with that injury. Trevor Bauer took his spot in the rotation, and Mike Clevinger and Cody Anderson have made starts during his absence.

Kipnis in the field

Indian second basemen Jason Kipnis hasn’t had the kind of torrid offensive start to this season that he had in 2015 when he earned an All-Star selection, this year hitting .271 with a .320 on-base percentage, six home runs and eight doubles. He has, recently, been making as many plays with his glove than with his bat.

By most measurements, Kipins has been better defensively since the start of last season than he had ever been in his first four years. Specifically, his range has been improved. Last year Kipnis has a range runs above average (RngR) of 4.3, the first year that had been a positive number, according to FanGraphs. A positive number indicates above league average. This year, it’s 2.2.

Kipnis’ ultimate zone rating, a more complete defensive rating, was 4.3 last year and is 4.5 this year, the two highest marks of his career.

Kipnis made a couple diving plays during the Indians’ 5-1 homestand earlier in May. He made another in Saturday’s 11-4 win against the Baltimore Orioles. He also made a catch in shallow right field in Cincinnati that would rival some of Francisco Lindor’s best highlights this season.

Francona has been impressed with Kipnis’ defense in his time in Cleveland, especially from a player who didn’t grow up only playing that position. Kipnis is a converted second basemen.

“It’s funny, and he’ll probably tell you, it’s not his natural position and he has to really work at it,” Francona said. “He doesn’t have the luxury of not working at it. But because he’s athletic and he does work at it, he does a hell of a job and he’s got a good arm and he’s athletic. … He doesn’t have the ability to not take ground balls for a week. He’s a natural outfielder, but he’s done a hell of a job.”

In a way, that outfielder’s background helps him make plays Francona sees other middle infielders struggle to consistently make, like that catch in Cincinnati.

“Some guys, for whatever reason, might be really good infielders but shy away on that ball in the air. That was one of the things they were saying [when I got here], that he has a radar.”

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Indians 11, Orioles 4: Ryan Lewis' 17 Walk-Off Thoughts on Danny Salazar, Ubaldo Jimenez, 1st place

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 28, 2016

Here are 17 Walk-Off Thoughts after the Indians’ 11-4 win against the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday.

1. The Indians are now a first-place team. As they were knocking around old friend Ubaldo Jimenez, the Chicago White Sox were blowing a six-run lead in the ninth inning to the Kansas City Royals. Now, the Indians hold a half-game lead over both teams and a 2.5-game lead over the Detroit Tigers.

2. It’s the first time the Indians have been in first place since they were 1-0 on March 31, 2014. That’s more than two calendar years ago. It’s also the latest in the season the Indians have been in first place since July 2, 2013, the year they ended up earning a wild card berth.

3. Perhaps the best sign for the Indians: They’re also close to getting Carlos Carrasco back into the starting rotation and, potentially, Michael Brantley into the middle of the lineup. Carrasco, who threw 53 pitches in four innings and allowed one run for Double-A Akron Saturday night, is the No. 2 starter and was a legitimate Cy Young contender in the spring whose return will give the Indians options in the rotation. Brantley, of course, will return to the heart of the order, though he is still operating without a specific timeline and has already had two setbacks this year.

More: Indians, Michael Brantley hoping his shoulder holds up this time around

4. Those are two major assets the Indians have had to play without for most of the season. Still, they now sit in first place and have some momentum.

5. Said Mike Napoli, “There's people filling in. They're doing a good job of coming up here and competing and doing what they can. It's going to take all of us to do this. We can't just have individuals out there on their own playing. I think we've done a good job of sticking together and getting what pitchers have been giving us, and passing it on to the next guy. It's something that we're going to have to continue to do to become more of a group and move forward.”

6. As for Saturday, one thing Indians manager Terry Francona talked about after the game wasn’t just getting to Jimenez, but making him pay for it. Often times a pitcher will struggle in the first inning and rack up a high pitch count, but it won’t cost him and he settles into the game. That happened, in a way, for Danny Salazar in Houston, when he struck out three straight hitters with the bases loaded in the first inning.

7. It was in part thanks to some shoddy defense at third base—the Pedro Alvarez experiment at third base has been well documented and not very successful—but the Indians made Jimenez pay for a rough start, scoring six early runs and not allowing him to escape the second inning.

8. Said Francona, “How many times do you see a guy where you let him off the hook and then they settle into the game? We did a good job of not allowing that to happen. It made for a better game for us because you could see them coming. We had to go to [Bryan] Shaw just because there’s so much thunder in that lineup that you don’t want to let them get on too much of a roll.”

More: Indians players respond to proposed rule change raising lower part of strike zone

9. The first inning included three hits, a two-run error and three stolen bases. Two runs scored on an Alvarez error off the bat of Napoli. Later, with him on second and Jose Ramirez on first, Napoli led a double-steal that put both runners in scoring position. Yan Gomes made it count with a two-run single to right field.

10. It was another case of the Indians being the top base-running team in the American League. Last week, Napoli talked about how important base running has been his entire career.

11. Said Napoli Saturday, “Coming up through the minors and in the big leagues, it's always been a part of what we've talked about, what we've done, what I've done. Coming over here, I've tried to bring that with me. Everyone wants to talk about someone has to be fast to be a good baserunner, but it takes instincts. It takes thinking ahead and having a plan. If a guy is going to give you a base, go and take it. That's how I was brought up. I think we do a good job here.”



12. The Indians’ 11 runs were scored on 11 hits, five stolen bases and four errors.

13. For Salazar, it was another quality start to follow up, really his one bad outing this season in Boston. Salazar threw six innings, gave up two runs on six hits and struck out five. He’s now 5-3 with a 2.39 ERA this season. He’s now held opponents to two or fewer runs in eight of his 10 starts and has struck out at least five in nine of them.

14. The early lead didn’t hurt, either. Salazar hasn’t needed much run support this season.

15. Said Salazar, “I think that’s great, gives you a little more confidence to go out there and to work really strong so they can’t come back. I think that’s big. I think that makes the game a little bit easier for us.”

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Indians top Baltimore Orioles 11-4, grab first place in AL Central

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 28, 2016

Ubaldo Jimenez had plenty of highs and lows during his tenure with the Indians. On Saturday, facing the Indians, he didn’t stay in the game long enough to have anything but a lowly outing.

The Indians took it to Jimenez early, knocking him out of the game in the second inning en route to an 11-4 win against the Baltimore Orioles. The victory also put the Indians in first place in the American League Central after the Chicago White Sox blew a six-run lead in the ninth inning and lost to the Kansas City Royals.

It’s the first time the Indians have been in first place in the division since winning their Opening Day game against the Oakland Athletics on March 31, 2014, more than two years ago.

A day after Trevor Bauer was knocked around in the first inning, the Indians returned the favor to Jimenez (2-6, 6.36 ERA) with six runs in the first two innings, though only three were earned.

Carlos Santana started it with a single, Jason Kipnis walked and Mike Napoli reached on an error by Pedro Alvarez that scored two. After Jose Ramirez walked with two outs, Napoli led a double-steal that put both runners in scoring position. Yan Gomes then rifled a single to right field that scored both, putting the Indians on top 4-0.

The Indians (26-21) added two more two-out runs in the second inning, as Francisco Lindor singled, stole second and scored on a single off the bat of Napoli. Ramirez was walked again, ending Jimenez’s day and bringing on Vance Worley, who gave up a single to Juan Uribe to extend the Indians’ lead to 6-0.

Jimenez has struggled this season but has had flashes of his former ace self. The Indians did well to capitalize on a poor start.

“How many times do you see a guy where you let him off the hook and then they settle into the game?” said Indians manager Terry Francona. “We did a good job of not allowing that to happen. It made for a better game for us because you could see them coming.”

In the third, Lonnie Chisenhall doubled and Rajai Davis singled to set up another rally. Santana grounded into a double play, but it was enough to score Chisenhall, who later left the game with blurred vision after getting dirt in his eye sliding into second base.

In part thanks to some shaky Orioles (27-20) defense, the Indians continued to add on. Gomes, who finished with three RBI, singled in a run in the fifth after Uribe reached on a second error by Alvarez. In the seventh, Santana added an RBI-single and Michael Martinez later scored on an error by Matt Wieters trying to throw out Santana on an attempted steal of second base. Finally, Jose Ramirez continued his hot streak with an RBI-single in the eighth.

In all, the Indians scored their 11 runs via 11 hits, five stolen bases and four Orioles errors.

It was plenty of offense to support starter Danny Salazar, who threw six innings, allowed two runs on six hits and struck out five. It was a quality outing for Salazar (5-3, 2.39 ERA) who has been dynamic all season with the exception of his last outing in Boston, in which he took a step back. Having an immediate cushion helped as well.

“I think that’s great, gives you a little more confidence to go out there and to work really strong so they can’t come back,” Salazar said. “I think that’s big. I think that makes the game a little bit easier for us.”

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Indians hoping Michael Brantley’s shoulder holds up this time around

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 28, 2016

The Indians and Michael Brantley are hoping the third attempt to work his way back from shoulder surgery will result in his being able to return to the lineup and, this time, stay in it.

The first two attempts didn’t go as planned. Brantley has returned to action twice since spring training but hasn’t been able to stick around, as his surgically-repaired shoulder hasn’t responded like they had hoped.

The Indians are in the thick of the American League Central race and still, for the most part, are awaiting one of the crucial pieces to the middle of their lineup. Brantley returning isn’t the focal point. It’s his shoulder holding up for the rest of the season once he does.

Brantley’s original timetable put his expected return some time around the beginning of May. But he progressed much faster than expected, passing his hitting milestones ahead of schedule. He’s twice felt good enough to play, but it didn’t last long.

Indians manager Terry Francona repeated on Saturday that there was no longer a reason to hold him back.

“[Until] he passed all his milestones, he was never going to move on with the medical people,” Francona said. “But once he did, there was never a reason to hold him back. And the same thing will happen again this time. We’ll certainly be a little bit more conservative.”

He and Brantley agreed that there wasn’t anything they would have done differently.

“Absolutely not. I was ready,” Brantley said. “We talked about it. We had a great process and a great calendar laid out. Everything went smoothly. It was just a bump in the road.”

There is still no timetable for Brantley’s return. Brantley received an anti-inflammatory shot after receiving an impingement diagnosis, was shut down for a week and a half and this week began taking dry swings and hitting off a tee. It’s still a day-to-day process.

“I feel good,” Brantley said. “It’s a process that I’ve got to kind of play through again, but all’s going well so far.”

He added there’s a noticeable difference between how he’s felt before and after the shot. But, for now, it’s just again trying to build up his volume of work and hoping the shoulder responds.

“Any time you’re not with your team, and this is where you want to be, to help contribute and just be around the players, it's like a family around here,” Brantley said. “You miss your family when they’re gone and you’re trying to do your best to get back with them.”

Brantley is a former Silver Slugger outfielder who’s hit at least .310 with a .379 on-base percentage, 15 home runs and 45 doubles each of the past two seasons. Jose Ramirez has done well in his absence, providing the Indians with a spark despite not having a regular spot in the field. But now near the top of the AL Central, getting Brantley back and having him in the lineup for the rest of the season is near the top of their priority list.

That is, if the third try is different.

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Orioles 6, Indians 4: Ryan Lewis’ 17 Walk-Off Thoughts on Trevor Bauer, Zach McAllister

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 27, 2016
Trumbo

Here are 17 Walk-Off Thoughts on the Indians’ 6-4 loss to the Baltimore Orioles Friday night.

1. The Indians fought back from a rough first inning to tie it 3-3 before the Orioles knocked around Zach McAllister in the seventh inning. Manny Machado—who is arguably one of the top two players in the American League right now—doubled, Chris Davis doubled to tie it and on the next pitch, Mark Trumbo took McAllister deep for a two-run home run. A couple of pitches, and a night’s worth of climbing back from a 3-0 deficit was erased.

2. The problem with McAllister Friday night was location. He faced three hitters who have all already hit double-digit home runs this season and left fastballs out over the middle of the plate to where all three could get extended.

3. Said Indians manager Terry Francona, “We fought back to get it tied, feel heck of a lot better about the game, and then Zach came in and he just left balls middle-out. Can’t let those big strong guys get extended like that.”

4. No kidding. Here are the locations (represented by the blue circles), via GameDay, on the three extra-base hits that did McAllister and the Indians in on Friday night in order from Machado to Davis to Trumbo.


 

5. All three are fastballs, all three are out and over the plate, all three were hit hard.

6. Said McAllister, “And then, when I threw my fastball, sometimes they were elevated too much, and too much plate. The fastballs cost me today, but it wasn't a mix of throwing too many fastballs today. I thought today I had a better mix than I had in the past. I just didn't execute them.”

7. The Indians have Cody Allen for the ninth and Bryan Shaw for the eighth. McAllister, Jeff Manship and Tommy Hunter have all come in for high-leverage situations. This certainly wasn’t the best showing for McAllister, and the pecking order behind Allen and Shaw will continue to be molded. Still, McAllister at times has been terrific this season. It was a bad night. The key is not making it multiple bad nights in a row.

8. Trevor Bauer wasn’t very good in the first inning. Then, he was terrific for the next five. Go figure.

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Indians can't fight back twice, fall to Baltimore Orioles 6-4

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 27, 2016

The Indians had one three-run comeback in them Friday night. They did not have a second.

After the Indians’ offense erased a three-run deficit in the first inning, reliever Zach McAllister was knocked around in the seventh en route to a 6-4 loss to the Baltimore Orioles.

McAllister (2-2, 4.32 ERA) entered with the score tied 3-3 when Manny Machado doubled off the wall in left field. He then gave up a go-ahead double to Chris Davis and on the next pitch was taken deep for a two-run home run by Mark Trumbo. Quickly, the Orioles had gone up 6-3.

Francisco Lindor hit a solo home run in the eighth and the Indians loaded the bases against Darren O’Day with one out, but it wasn’t enough, as O’Day got Chris Gimenez to ground into an inning-ending double play after the Orioles had already piled on McAllister to undo a night’s worth of work to make up for a rough first inning.

That was by Trevor Bauer, who allowed three runs in the first but followed that with five scoreless innings.

The first four Orioles (27-19) batters reached base against Bauer. Adam Jones singled, Hyun Soo Kim was hit by a pitch, Machado singled home a run and Davis was walked to load the bases with nobody out. Bauer nearly got out of the inning with little damage, striking out Mark Trumbo and Nolan Reimold. But Jonathan Schoop came away with the hit that hurt the most, a two-out, two-run single up the middle that put the Orioles up 3-0 before the Indians ever had a chance to bat.

From there, though, Bauer (six innings, three runs, nine hits, two walks, four strikeouts) kept a powerful Orioles offense at bay. He threw 32 pitches in the first inning alone but needed only 71 pitches to get through the next five innings, giving the offense a chance to catch up.

Jose Ramirez and Juan Uribe started the climb in the second inning with back-to-back doubles to make it 3-1. In the fourth, Mike Napoli belted a solo home run that landed two-thirds up the stands in left field for his team-leading ninth home run of the season.

In the fifth, the Indians (25-21) tied it but could have come away with more. A Gimenez walk, Rajai Davis single and Carlos Santana walk loaded the bases with nobody out against Orioles starter Mike Wright. Jason Kipnis struck out, Lindor tied it with a sacrifice fly deep enough to right field to get Gimenez home and Napoli popped out. It was enough to tie it, but nothing more.

And, as it turned out, the Indians would need another three-run comeback two innings later.

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Jose Ramirez sticking in fifth spot in Indians’ lineup; Carlos Carrasco, Michael Brantley updates

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 27, 2016

In spring training Jose Ramirez wasn’t the likeliest of hitters to be slotted into the middle of the Indians’ lineup on a regular basis, but two months into this season, he’s starting to stick in the No. 5 spot.

Ramirez has batted everywhere in the lineup except at cleanup. With Michael Brantley still on the disabled list, Ramirez has found a temporary home as the No. 5 hitter behind Mike Napoli. Including Friday night, he’s now hit fifth 12 times, twice as many starts this year as any other spot one-through-nine.

How has Ramirez worked his way into such an important spot? He’s hitting well in general with a .287 batting average and .350 on-base percentage to go with three home runs, nine doubles and 18 RBI, making him one of the more productive hitters on the team. But he’s been especially dangerous with runners in scoring position, hitting .370 with a .419 on-base percentage.

“That’s why we’re hitting him fifth,” said Indians manager Terry Francona. “I don’t think he looks like the prototype No. 5 hitter, but what our thinking is, if there’s runners on base, he’s going to give you a good at-bat.”

It’s allowed the Indians to keep Carlos Santana in the leadoff spot more often than not, as he generally will have the most walks on the team.

“If you look at it from the outside-in, it looks like maybe we have it backwards with Santana and Ramirez,” Francona said. “But if they’re both swinging the bat OK, Santana’s going to walk more and Jose strikes out less.”

Ramirez began this season without a real position, though Francona repeatedly said they wanted to look for ways to get him into the lineup. For now, he’s planted right in the middle.

Ramping up soon

Brantley began swinging a bat again this week after receiving an anti-inflammatory shot in his surgically repaired shoulder and being placed on the disabled list for the second time.

If all continues to go well, the Indians can begin to increase Brantley’s workload, though they won’t be aggressive with it. He’s already had two set-backs and the Indians can ill-afford a third.

“We’ve really been pretty not aggressive with this,” Francona said. “We wanted to let this [anti-inflammatory] shot does its work. Now, we’ll start to ramp him up. We want him to get better and stay better, so we’ve been a little bit cautious the first nine or 10 days [since the shot].”

Akron rehab

Carlos Carrasco is now slated to throw four innings—about 60 pitches—for Double-A Akron on Saturday. Carrasco is working his way back from a strained left hamstring he sustained in Detroit.

“By all accounts, he’s raring to go,” Francona said. “We just need to make sure that he can field his position, cover first, not think about that while he’s pitching. By all accounts, he’s doing great. So, we’re just trying to get him stretched out again. He’ll come quick.”

When asked if Carrasco needed to be stretched out to 100 pitches before he returns, Francona said the Indians didn’t “need” do that. Carrasco is now within the window from his original timetable for a return. If all goes well, the Indians won’t be without their No. 2 starter for much longer.

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Indians 4, White Sox 3: Ryan Lewis’ 18 Walk-Off Thoughts on the AL Central race, Corey Kluber, more

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 26, 2016

Here are 18 Walk-Off Thoughts on the Indians’ 4-3 win against the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday.

1. After Wednesday’s game, the Indians’ postseason bid arguably looks the best among the AL Central contenders. The Indians took three of four against the White Sox, pulled to within a half-game of first place and now actually lead the division in the loss column. They have won eight of their last 11 and 15 of their last 23 games.

2. The Indians have done this primarily without Michael Brantley and for the last month without Carlos Carrasco, one of the key pieces to the middle of the lineup and the No. 2 starter and Cy Young contender, respectively.

3. The Indians have been within shouting distance but still a step behind all season. Leaving Chicago Wednesday, the arrow continues to point upward, especially as Brantley and Carrasco work their way back from the disabled list.  

4. Said Jason Kipnis, “It’s encouraging to say the least. We’ve put a real good emphasis on April and May this year to get off to a better start so we’re not playing catch-up all year. … To be able to win games without our [No. 3] hitter and one of our top-of-the-rotation guys, we’re ecstatic about that.”

5. The Indians entered Monday’s doubleheader throwing Mike Clevinger in his second career start and Cody Anderson as the 26th man. Chris Sale, the AL Cy Young favorite at this point in the season, was waiting Tuesday, and Jose Quintana slated for Wednesday. It wasn’t the best set-up to gain ground in the division.

6. Said Kipnis, “That’s big for us. Not only that, we put up our undefeated [Josh Tomlin] versus their’s and we came out on top. We put up two good pitchers today with the get-away day and day game, and we came out on top. Those are games that add up in the end. Those are ones we need to get, especially with the team you’re chasing. It’s good to close the gap.”

More: Indians 1B Mike Napoli on his slide into third Tuesday night: 'I'm not a graceful person'

7. It was also another strong outing for Corey Kluber, who went 7 1/3 innings, gave up two runs (one earned), walked one and struck out nine. One run came on a comedy-of-errors play in which the ball slipped out of Yan Gomes’ hands on an attempted steal by Todd Frazier and was then misplayed by Rajai Davis in center field, allowing Frazier to score all the way from first.

8. The earned run was given up by Bryan Shaw, who entered in the eighth and promptly gave up a two-run home run that cut the Indians’ lead to 4-3. He escaped the inning with the lead in-tact and Cody Allen shut the door in the ninth.

9. For Kluber, it was his second straight quality outing after two not-so-great starts. In those two starts, he’s posted a combined 2.45 ERA with 15 strikeouts in 14 1/3 innings pitched. Kluber’s ERA was still above 6 after his first three starts, bringing some questions into the mix, including ones about his velocity.

10. Kipnis has been asking opposing hitters about Kluber lately. It seems those hitters think the Indians’ ace is back to that level.

11. Said Kipnis, “I’ve been asking the few hitters that have gotten to second base the last couple starts today and in Boston and they say his stuff, he might have found it again. He’s been looking real sharp. He keeps the ball down, he keeps the ball moving and he’s missing a lot of barrels. He looks great.”

More: Indians among league leaders in effective base running

12. The key on Wednesday: Kluber worked ahead. Said Kluber, “I think we did a good job of getting ahead of guys today. That was the biggest thing, putting them in defensive counts so they’re not up there sitting on fastballs. That’s the key to most pitcher’s success, is getting ahead in the count and working ahead. That’s what I’d say was the biggest thing today.”



13. Indians manager Terry Francona has never wavered on him, saying, “I promise you, the day he pitches, we’re thrilled. He works too hard,  he’s too much of a pro. That’s a hard game to win. We got a little sloppy at times and still, he really pitched well.”

14. His last start notwithstanding, Danny Salazar has been one of the best pitchers in baseball this season. Josh Tomlin is making a case for an All-Star selection. Kluber maintaining his ace-like level is just as needed.

15. Lonnie Chisenhall put the Indians up 2-0 with a two-out, two-run triple to right field that just got by a diving Adam Eaton in the second inning, and he did it against Jose Quintana, one of the better left-handed hitters in the league. As a hitter who struggles against left-handers and was hitting ninth Wednesday, coming up with that kind of a hit is certainly one that lifts offenses.

16. Said Francona, “[And it was] against a guy that’s been really [tough], not only on him, the whole team, the whole league. Fortunately, Eaton didn’t get it and we get two runs out of it. And against a guy like Quintana, that’s big.”

17. Gomes also made up for his gaffe in the field with an RBI-triple in the eighth that turned out to be the game-winning run. He has six home runs this year but also still has his batting average south of .200. It’s been tough sledding for him, a needed piece in the lineup.

18. Said Francona, “You can tell everybody was thrilled for him. He’s been wearing it. You can tell, he's been frustrated. It’s good to see that. He’ll be there. It’s nice to see him get rewarded for something.”

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Indians, Corey Kluber top Chicago White Sox 4-3 to take series

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 25, 2016

The Indians continue to reel in the Chicago White Sox.

On Wednesday, the Indians got an ace-like outing from Corey Kluber and did enough to beat Jose Quintana and the White Sox 4-3 to take perhaps the most important series of the season to date three games to one.

The win pulls the Indians (25-20) to within a half-game of the White Sox (27-21) in the American League Central race and puts them ahead in the loss column. It also means the Indians have made up ground while Michael Brantley and Carlos Carrasco continue to work their way back from the disabled list.

“It’s encouraging to say the least,” said Jason Kipnis. “We’ve put a real good emphasis on April and May this year to get off to a better start so we’re not playing catch-up all year. … To be able to win games without our [No. 3] hitter and one of our top-of-the-rotation guys, we’re ecstatic about that.”

Lonnie Chisenhall, in the starting lineup despite facing Quintana (5-4, 2.22 ERA), a left-handed pitcher, struck first. With two on and two out in the second inning, Chisenhall ripped a ball to right field that Adam Eaton dove for but just missed. It rolled to the wall, giving Chisenhall a two-run triple.

“[And it was] against a guy that’s been really [tough], not only on him, the whole team, the whole league,” said Indians manager Terry Francona. “Eaton didn’t get it and we get two runs out of it. And against a guy like Quintana, that’s big.”

In the third, the Indians pushed their lead to 3-0 on Juan Uribe’s sacrifice fly to center field, which scored Jose Ramirez, who had singled.

Kluber (4-5, 3.78 ERA) threw 7 1/3 innings, allowed two runs (one earned), walked one and struck out nine. The first run came on a comedy of errors when Todd Frazier, standing on first in the sixth inning, took off for second base. Yan Gomes’ throw sailed well beyond second base and into center field, giving Frazier third base. Rajai Davis, in center, then misplayed it, allowing Frazier to score all the way from first.

Gomes made up for it in the eighth, ripping an RBI-triple into the left-field corner to put the Indians up 4-1.

Once Kluber left the game in the bottom of the eighth, the White Sox quickly made it a one-run game. Kluber allowed a single to Jimmy Rollins and then struck out Frazier to end his day. Bryan Shaw entered and was taken deep for a two-run home run by Melky Cabrera, his first batter, to make it 4-3. Shaw rebounded to get Brett Lawrie to pop out and Dioner Navarro to ground out to escape with the lead in-tact.

Cody Allen then shut the door in the ninth for his 11th save of the season.

Kluber thinks the time has yet to come to really pour over the standings. But it was the right time to put it all together.

“For me personally, I think it’s too early to look at the standings, but it’s always nice to win a divisional series,” Kluber said. “Those games count big-time. It’s nice to come in here and take three out of four.”

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Indians 1B Mike Napoli on his slide into third Tuesday night: ‘I’m not a graceful person’

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 25, 2016

Mike Napoli came away with a key hit in Tuesday’s 6-2 win against Chris Sale and the Chicago White Sox, a two-RBI triple that put the Indians up 2-1.

It also included an ending that Napoli will have to hear about for quite some time.

As the ball rattled around in left-center field, Napoli turned for third, not something he normally does. His slide into third, to put it mildly, left something to be desired mechanically. Napoli ended up more-so falling to the ground face first.

“I’m not a graceful person,” Napoli said Wednesday morning, laughing. “My hand just kind of got stuck in the ground and I face planted. It just wasn’t a graceful belly flop, train wreck, car accident, whatever you want to call it.”

Indians manager Terry Francona wasn’t sure it was exactly a slide at all.

“I don’t know if I’d consider that a slide,” Francona said, already grinning. “That looked like a car accident.”

 

D'oh. https://t.co/sgxMNUniI5 pic.twitter.com/RlMKAn9QZx

 

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Indians 6, White Sox 2: Ryan Lewis’ 22 Walk-Off Thoughts on Josh Tomlin, Chris Sale, Napoli’s slide

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 25, 2016

Here are 22 Walk-Off Thoughts after the Indians’ 6-2 win against the Chicago White Sox.

1. The Indians knocked around a pitcher that for the last six weeks has looked unhittable to the tune of six runs on seven hits and four walks in 3 1/3 innings pitched.

2. Prior to Tuesday night, Chris Sale hadn’t allowed more than three earned runs in any start this season, hadn’t allowed more than two earned runs in seven straight outings and had tossed two straight one-run complete games. He’s been flat-out dominant and a major reason why the White Sox jumped out to first place in the AL Central.

3. For the first time this season, an offense got to him. And it started with a two-out rally and a 10-pitch walk to Jose Ramirez. After that, things unraveled.

4. Francisco Lindor followed with a single and Mike Napoli followed with a two-out, two-RBI triple to give the Indians a 2-1 lead. That play included one of the least-graceful slides in recent memory, which the Indians had some fun with after the game. More on that later.

5. For whatever reason, the Indians have done well against Sale—he entered 5-6 with a 3.69 ERA in his career. Tuesday night, they looked to get his pitch count up and were able to do it. The idea was essentially to get him out of the game. What ended up happening was that they racked up his pitch count and scored at the same time.

More: Jason Kipnis at home playing in Chicago (and eating pizza)

6. Said Indians manager Terry Francona, “I like the idea when guys fight for everything they get. I think we talked before the game, one of the best ways to [beat] good pitchers is get them out of the game. In the third inning, we did a really good job with the pitch count and we scored. And we followed it up with more, which is big. We made him work.”

7. Lindor collected three hits off him and is now hitting .500 against Sale in his career. He followed the same approach—make Sale work. He also thought Ramirez’s walk was the beginning of the Indians handling a pitcher that had handled hitters all year.

8. Said Lindor, “I think [the walk was] what got him out of the game, that at-bat. His pitch count was up there, but he’s a guy that’s got 90 pitches, 99 pitches, and he goes out two more innings. So having that at-bat is big. … He was throwing pretty firm, he was throwing strikes, but it was a team effort. I think everybody worked the count. That was my plan, to see a couple pitches, then to go and attack. … A guy like that, if you hit what he wants you to hit, he’s going to dominate, do whatever he wants with you.”

9. In the fourth, Chris Gimenez hit a solo bomb to left field that landed halfway up the stands. The coincidence there is that prior to the game, Francona talked about how a catcher in that situation has the primary goal of handling the staff. The offense takes a back seat. Then, Gimenez rips a solo home run and lated added a single. That’s baseball.

10. The Indians kept working Sale after that. A Rajai Davis walk, another Ramirez walk (seven pitches this time), a Francisco Lindor single, and Sale’s day was done.

11. It was the right time, the right team, the right opposing pitcher to have a plan come together. The Indians are now tied with the White Sox in the loss column.

12. And Josh Tomlin is still undefeated and now, at 7-0, has the most wins without a loss in the AL. He went eight innings, gave up two runs on five hits and struck out six.



13. He also gave up a home run to leadoff man Adam Eaton, giving Sale a one-run lead that in six of his last seven starts would have been enough to at least get the no-decision. But from there, Tomlin was the same, consistent pitcher he’s been since he’s been healthy out of the woods from shoulder surgery in the spring of 2015.

14. Said Francona, “JT obviously settled down. He threw an absurd amount of strikes (76 in 99 pitches) and commanded everything and gave us a chance that when we got some hits, they were real meaningful.”

15. Tomlin is 7-0 with a 3.35 ERA. He’s the first Indians starter to go 7-0 since Dennis Martinez went 9-0 in 1995. Those are All-Star numbers.

16. Now, on Napoli’s glorious slide. It was more of a flop, and it ended with his face in the dirt. But hey, he had just tripled in two runs off of Sale. The landing wasn’t as important.

 

D'oh. https://t.co/sgxMNUniI5 pic.twitter.com/RlMKAn9QZx

 

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Indians knock around Chris Sale, beat White Sox 6-2

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 24, 2016

It didn’t really seem possible for Chris Sale to look humam based off of his super-human-like previous six weeks in which no team could score more than two runs off of him.

On Tuesday night, the Indians found success that other teams haven’t and knocked out the current American League Cy Young favorite in the fourth inning en route to a 6-2 win against the first-place Chicago White Sox.

The Indians got to Sale for six runs on seven hits and four walks in 3 1/3 innings pitched. Prior to Tuesday night, Sale hadn’t allowed more than three earned runs in any start this season, hadn’t allowed more than two earned runs in seven straight outings and had tossed two straight one-run complete games.

It didn’t look like the same Sale that had previously cruised to a 9-0 record. In the top of the third, trailing 1-0, the Indians got to him. Jose Ramirez worked a 10-pitch walk with two outs and was followed by Francisco Lindor, who singled. Then, the key hit that Sale has prevented all season: Mike Napoli ripped a two-out, two-run triple to left-center field to put the Indians on top 2-1. Two batters later, Juan Uribe hit a ball just over a leaping Brett Lawrie into right field to extend the Indians’ lead to 3-1.

In the fourth, the Indians (24-20) finished off Sale. Chris Gimenez belted a home run midway up the stands in left field to lead off the inning. Raja Davis and Jose Ramirez each followed with walks, and Lindor recorded his third hit in four innings to score Davis and end Sale’s night. After a walk by relief pitcher Zach Putnam, this one to Mike Napoli, Carlos Santana made it 6-1 with a sacrifice fly to right field.

It was plenty of offense for starter Josh Tomlin (3.35 ERA), who improved to 7-0 and now has the most wins in the AL without a loss. Tomlin allowed a leadoff home run to Adam Eaton but settled down, throwing eight innings, allowing two runs on five hits and striking out six.

The only other scoring inning for the White Sox (27-20) came in the fourth, and it ended with an usual double play. Jose Abreu and Lawrie hit back-to-back doubles to make it 6-2 with one out. Avisail Garcia grounded a ball to Lindor, who caught Lawrie wondering too far off second base. Now in a run-down, Lindor threw to Juan Uribe at third, who tagged Lawrie out and then fired to first base, where Garcia had taken too big of a turn and was tagged out by Napoli for a 6-5-3 double play.

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Indians RP Joba Chamberlain dealing with familiar injury

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 24, 2016

The Indians placed relief pitcher Joba Chamberlain on the disabled list on Monday with a strained left intercostal.

Chamberlain had felt it a bit for a couple weeks, but it got worse after a pitch in Boston over the weekend. He didn’t improve Sunday or Monday, warranting a DL stint with the Indians entering a doubleheader and needing the spot. In his place, the Indians called up Ryan Merritt.

Chamberlain is familiar with this type of injury, having dealt with it as recently as 2013. It grabbed at him enough in Boston for him to know he was nearing the point of needing to be shut down.

“It was just one of those things where I’ve had it before, so I kind of know what stage it’s at,” Chamberlain said. “Just tried to get it before it got to the point where it’ll become real bad. And the doubleheader, it just put us in a bad situation.”

Chamberlain felt significantly better Tuesday. As of now, he expects to be ready to come off the disabled list when eligible, assuming all goes well during his rehab tomorrow with the quicker turnaround.

“I hate the training room, I hate it with a passion, but we have a great staff and as long as we caught it early enough, which I believe we did, it’ll eliminate some of the time to come back,” Chamberlain said.

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Jason Kipnis at home playing in Chicago (and getting some pizza)

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 24, 2016

Indians second basemen Jason Kipnis has a carefully regimented food plan when visiting Chicago.

A Chicago native who lives downtown during the offseason, Kipnis gets to make three trips a season to play the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field. And each trip always includes a stop to some favorite Chicago-based eateries.

There’s a pizza place, of course, that being Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria. Then there’s Portillo’s, an American-style burger and hot dog joint. And finally a breakfast place, Sarks in the Park.

It’s all part of a schedule—by now more of a routine—that also includes being able to see friends and family. Kipnis has stayed in touch with friends and former coaches from Glenbrook North High School, which now includes a plaque for Kipnis at its baseball field. His parents still live in Northbrook, which rests along Chicago’s North Shore.

“It’s almost like I get to hit a little reset button away from the field,” Kipnis said. “I get to see all the familiar friends and faces I want to see. It’s always good to go home and it’s nice to get a little break.”

Kipnis has certainly been productive on the field in his trips to Chicago as well. Entering this series, he had a career .324 average, .395 on-base percentage and .909 OPS at U.S. Cellular Field. Last year’s All-Star season was coincidentally the one year Kipnis hasn’t played well in Chicago, but since he broke into the big leagues, home has treated him well.

Indians manager Terry Francona sees it as Kipnis treating the homecoming series the right way.

"Some guys come home and they have family and they get sidetracked and the game almost becomes an afterthought,” Francona said. “You're so busy worrying about tickets and this and this. Obviously that's not the case with him.”

It might be the food. It’s probably more-so seeing friends and family. Kipnis always makes sure to know where his parents are sitting in the stadium. His friends, a bit louder, normally make it pretty clear where they are.

“There’s always little extra nerves because you know who the people in the stands are personally,” Kipnis said. “It’s different when I’m in a different city and I want to do well for them from miles away because I want to represent them well and make them proud. When they’re actually watching the games, it’s like, ‘I’d really like to get a hit right now,’ because they’re here.”

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Indians doubleheader split: Ryan Lewis’ 19 Walk-Off Thoughts on Cody Anderson, Mike Clevinger

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 24, 2016

Here are 19 Walk-Off Thoughts on the Indians splitting a doubleheader with the Chicago White Sox on Monday. The Indians lost the first game 7-6 and then won the second game 5-1.

1. The biggest thing to come out of Monday’s doubleheader, as far as the Indians are concerned, was Cody Anderson’s start in the second game. He had his best outing of the season, going seven innings and giving up one run on five hits while striking out a career-high nine.

2. Perhaps most importantly, Anderson didn’t allow a home run, the thing that’s plagued him all year. The Indians have worked with Anderson on not closing off his delivery, which kept him from driving the ball down in the zone. Monday’s start was the first time in 2016 Anderson really put it all together.

3. Said Anderson, “[I] really just focused in the bullpens I threw in Triple-A and was able to get the ball down in the zone and bury a couple pitches when I needed to.”

4. The difference between 2015 Anderson and the 2016 edition had been that he wasn’t “burying” those pitches in certain spots. Instead, they were catching too much of the plate or were elevated enough to be driven.

5. Another key on Monday night was Anderson finding himself in better counts to effectively use his curveball and changeup, and then hitting the glove. Fastball command has at times been an issue, but that problem has also bled into his off-speed stuff.

6. Said Indians manager Terry Francona, “Part of it’s because he was working ahead with his fastball. It’s easier to maybe get a swing-and-miss off-speed when you’re working ahead in the count.”

7. Anderson was the “26th man” on the roster on Monday, as teams can expand their rosters for doubleheaders. His immediate future path is uncertain, as is his current place in the rotation. But for the first time this year, Anderson gave the Indians a positive sign moving forward.

8. Said Francona, “The understatement is we were excited about the way he threw the ball.”

More: Indians place Joba Chamberlain on the DL; Michael Brantley to swing Tuesday; Carlos Carrasco to throw three innings for Lake County on May 28th

9. On the other end of the spectrum, Mike Clevinger, the first game’s starter, made a few mistakes and paid dearly for them.

10. In the first inning, Clevinger attacked Todd Frazier with two pitches away. The third pitch was supposed to be away but ended up on the inside part of the plate, and it was hammered. Later, tied 3-3, he faced Brett Lawrie with two runners on and a full count. Clevinger didn’t walk Lawrie, which is good, but he also threw a fastball right down the middle of the plate. Major-league hitters will clobber that, and Lawrie did for a three-run home run.

11. Said Francona, “He made some costly mistakes over the middle. Lawrie’s, that was obviously the biggest one. Those were really costly runs.”

12. Clevinger felt good with all four of his pitches, but mistakes at the wrong time can ruin an outing. Said Clevinger, “I felt like especially with this offense scoring those runs, I was just killing momentum. This one was on me. Especially when they put them on the board, I need to bear down and get that next zero.”



13. The Indians hit six home runs on Monday, three in each game. Two were by Jose Ramirez, who continues to be among the club’s best hitters. One was by Rajai Davis, which came on a 3-0 count and was his first home run in that count in his career.

14. Hitters often at least have the green light as an option to act within their own discretion. But in a 3-0 count, Davis had walked 38 times in 39 at-bats, with only one hit. Basically, he nearly always takes a pitch. Except on Monday, when he drove a two-run home run.

15. Said Francona, “When it’s to your advantage, he’s a good fastball hitter. And a hit can help you more than a walk there. We give the guys the freedom to do that probably more than people realize. Doesn’t mean you have to swing by any means. You get a pretty good pitch to hit, even if you take a good swing, it can help you the next pitch. But Rajai obviously did a great job with it.”

16. Michael Martinez went 0-for-4 in the second game but had quite the first game with two doubles and a terrific play in the right field. With the bases loaded the White Sox threatening to break the game open, Carlos Sanchez hit a line drive to right field, seemingly deep enough to score a run. Martinez caught it, took a step and fired a strike, easily in time to save a run.

17. “It looked like it had a chance, if not give us a chance to win, to at least make them use [closer David Robertson],” Francona said. “Doubleheader, we’d like to make them use their bullpen, which they did. It actually gave us a chance to win on top of it. That was a really good play.”

18. Martinez is mostly in Cleveland as a utility guy to ensure the Indians are covered position-player wise. Once Michael Brantley returns—he’ll start swinging a bat on Tuesday—it’s likely that Martinez is sent down. But for the time being, he’s played well and earned his spot on the roster.

19. The Indians came into today trying to make up ground while throwing Clevinger in his second career start and Anderson as the 26th man. A split isn’t a bad result. Though tomorrow, they get Chris Sale.

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Indians hit three home runs, Cody Anderson allows none in 5-1 win against White Sox

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 23, 2016

The Indians’ offense brought the display of power that Cody Anderson was able to limit, and the Indians topped the White Sox 5-1 in the second game of the doubleheader.

Jose Ramirez, Rajai Davis (two-run) and Juan Uribe all hit home runs off White Sox starter Erik Johnson (0-2, 6.94 ERA). Jason Kipnis later added an RBI-single.

Anderson (1-3, 6.81 ERA) threw his best outing of the season, going seven innings, allowing one run on five hits and striking out a career-high nine. Perhaps most importantly, he didn’t allow a home run. Anderson had already given up more home runs this season (10) than in 2015 (nine).

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Indians, Mike Clevinger fall to Chicago White Sox 7-6 in first game of doubleheader

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 23, 2016

Location is everything in real estate, and it's a pretty significant aspect in pitching. On the latter, Mike Clevinger learned that the hard way in his second major-league start on Monday, as the Chicago White Sox knocked him around in a 7-6 Indians loss.

In the bottom of the first, Clevinger started off Todd Frazier with two pitches on the outside part of the plate. The third pitch trailed back inside—not its intended location—and Frazier drilled it for a no-doubt solo home run, his American-League leading 14th of the season.

Later in the fifth, the major blow. Tied 3-3 with two runners on, Brett Lawrie worked to a full count. Clevinger didn’t walk a run in, but he did send his 3-2 offering right down the middle, and Lawrie belted it for a three-run home run.

“He made some costly mistakes over the middle,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “Lawrie’s, that was obviously the biggest one. Those were really costly runs.”

Prior to that home run, the Indians had twice tied it with home runs of their own. In the top of the first, Mike Napoli took starter Mat Latos for a solo shot to snap an 0-for-19 skid and tie it 1-1. Marlon Byrd later tied it 3-3 with a two-run shot, his fourth of the year.

“I felt like especially with this offense scoring those runs, I was just killing momentum,” Clevinger said. “This one was on me, especially when they put them on the board, I need to bear down and get that next zero.”

The Indians made some defensive mistakes in the seventh, but a great throw nearly made up for it. Rajai Davis and Jason Kipnis each made errors to start the inning, and Dan Otero walked Lawrie to load the bases. Carlos Sanchez then sent a line drive to right field, seemingly deep enough to score a run. Michael Martinez, in right field, caught it and threw a strike to Yan Gomes at the plate in plenty of time to nail Sanchez and keep it a 6-3 game.

“It looked like it had a chance, if not give us a chance to win, to at least make them use [closer David Robertson],” Francona said of Martinez, who also doubled twice. “Doubleheader, we’d like to make them use their bullpen, which they did. It actually gave us a chance to win on top of it. That was a really good play.”

Austin Adams entered after throwing two innings on Sunday against Boston and walked in the run that proved to be the difference, putting the White Sox up 7-3, before escaping the inning without further damage.

The Indians fought back, but it wasn’t enough. Carlos Santana started the inning with a walk and Kipnis doubled to center field. Napoli got one run home with a groundout before Jose Ramirez made it a one-run game with a two-run home run to right field off of Matt Albers.

Again, in the ninth, the Indians came close but couldn’t close the gap. Facing Robertson, Davis opened the inning with a walk and then stole second base as Byrd struck out, putting the tying run in scoring position with one out. Robertson, though, struck out Martinez and Santana to ground out to end the game.

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Indians place RP Joba Chamberlain on DL; Michael Brantley, Carlos Carrasco injury updates

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 23, 2016

The Indians on Monday placed relief pitcher Joba Chamberlain on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left intercostal and called up Ryan Merritt ahead of the doubleheader with the Chicago White Sox.

Chamberlain, according to Indians manager Terry Francona, has been sore for a couple of weeks but with him pitching so well, it wasn’t an issue. The last pitch Chamberlain threw in Boston on Saturday, though, was felt a little more. Chamberlain, who owns a 1.92 ERA and 0.857 WHIP this season, didn’t improve much on Sunday or Monday.

“We’re looking at at-least 18 innings [Monday], so we disabled him and we called up Merritt just in case we needed some length,” Francona said. “The one thing we try to be really protective about is our bullpen. Once you go too far, you can’t take it back.”

Merritt this season has gone 3-4 with a 2.94 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 52 innings pitched this season for Triple-A Columbus. He was also available to pitch Monday, giving the Indians some protection should starters Mike Clevinger or Cody Anderson have a short outing.

Swing away

Left fielder Michael Brantley, on the 15-day disabled list, will resume swinging a bat on Tuesday, according to Francona. Brantley received an anti-inflammatory shot in his surgically repaired shoulder when he met with Dr. Craig Morgan on May 17 and has been resting ever since.

It’s Brantley’s first step back after being shut down for the second time since the beginning of spring training. Brantley played in two Cactus League games before feeling soreness and warranting his first DL stint to begin the season. He then played 11 regular season games before again having to be sat down.

“He’ll do that for a couple days and when we get home, we’ll get our guys [to look at him] and let the medical people see him and start that progression,” Francona said. “But it seems like all is well.”

A concern with Brantley isn’t just his productivity following shoulder surgery, but if the shoulder can hold up for the rest of the season once he does return. As of now, he’s nearing his third attempt.

Pitch away

Carlos Carrasco threw 50 pitches in a simulated game and 10 more in the bullpen on Monday with positive feedback.

Carrasco, on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring, will next progress to throwing three innings for Lake County on May 28th.

[That will be] a real game as opposed to the simulated stuff,” Francona said.

Carrasco’s original timetable of 4-to-6 weeks put his expected return in late May or early June. If Carrasco’s May 28th outing goes well, he could continue to build volume. Trevor Bauer took his spot in the bullpen after Carrasco went down in Detroit.

Before hurting his hamstring, Carrasco went 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 22 innings pitched.

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Indians fall to Boston Red Sox 9-1, snap five-game winning streak

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 21, 2016

The Indians’ winning ways came to a halt on Saturday in a 9-1 loss to the Boston Red Sox.

Red Sox starter Joe Kelly (2-0, 5.28) had a no-hitter going into the seventh inning until Juan Uribe ended the bid with a double.

Behind starter Trevor Bauer (3-2, 4.31 ERA), the Indians trailed for most of the day. Bauer allowed four earned runs in five innings and didn’t record a strikeout.

The Red Sox blew the game open in the seventh. With one out and the bases loaded, Joba Chamberlain induced a ground ball to Uribe that might have been an inning-double play, but Uribe threw home for the second out. Chamberlain then walked in a run and allowed a grand slam to Mookie Betts.

Carlos Santana hit a solo home run in the ninth, his eighth of the season.

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Indians beat Boston Red Sox 4-2 for fifth straight win

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 20, 2016

The Indians did all of their damage in one inning and received a solid outing from Corey Kluber to win their fifth straight game and beat the Boston Red Sox 4-2 Friday night.

The Red Sox brought a run home in each of the first two innings to take an early lead on Kluber. The Indians, then, struck back in the third.

Facing Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz (2-4, 5.92 ERA), Jason Kipnis delivered the key hit of the night. Rajai Davis continued his torrid pace with a single, Carlos Santana walked and Kipnis belted a three-run home run to right field, providing all the offense the Indians would need.

Francisco Lindor later scored on a Jose Ramirez sacrifice fly using a swim-move slide to avoid the tag and put the Indians up 4-2. Lindor went 2-for-3 with two walks, his fifth straight multi-hit game.

Pitching wise, it was about exactly how the Indians like to draw it up, progressing from Kluber to Bryan Shaw to Cody Allen. Kluber (3-5, 4.10 ERA) threw seven innings, allowed two runs on five hits and stuck out six. Shaw then worked the eighth, getting David Ortiz to ground into an inning-ending double play. And Allen came on in the ninth to record to 10th save of the season.

Note: Due to not being able to travel this series, there won’t be Walk-Off Thoughts for the weekend series in Boston. They will return Monday in Chicago when the Indians face the White Sox.

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Indians 7, Reds 2: Ryan Lewis’ 21 Walk-Off Thoughts on Josh Tomlin, Rajai Davis, Carlos Santana

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 20, 2016

Here are 21 Walk-Off Thoughts after the Indians’ 7-2 win against the Cincinnati Reds that completed a four-game, home-and-home sweep.

1. Is there a better No. 5 starter in baseball right now? Josh Tomlin went 7 2/3 innings Thursday night, allowed just two runs, struck out seven and might have been better with the bat.

2. Tomlin is now 6-0 this season with a 3.56 ERA. He’s the first Indians starter to begin a season 6-0 since Cliff Lee did it in 2008, the year he won the American League Cy Young Award.

3. On Thursday, the key was Tomlin’s cutter.

4. Said Tomlin, “I had a good cutter today. Just following [Gimenez]. We stayed away from hitters in good situations and we executed pitches when we needed to. That was the main thing. We located well, except the pitch to [Joey] Votto. He kind of ambushed. That was a little bit up. That's what good hitters to do pitches like that. We tried to get back down in the zone and keep working, four pitches for a strike. It wasn't one or two pitches working tonight. We were able to throw all four pitches to righties and lefties.”

5. Since re-joining the Indians after shoulder surgery toward the later part of last season, Tomlin has been arguably the most consistent starting pitcher on the staff. He doesn’t have the raw stuff of a Kluber or a Carrasco or a Salazar, so he doesn’t get the same hype. But few pitchers have been as effective or consistent.

6. The fun part of Thursday night: Tomlin with a bat. He hit a single back up the middle in the third inning and then rifled a double down the left-field line in the fifth. Tomlin was already the last Indians pitcher to record two hits in a game, doing so on June 28, 2011 against Arizona. He also became the first Indians pitcher since 1972 (Steve Dunning) to have a single and a double in the same game.

7. Said Tomlin, “It's fun to be a part of the whole game. You get a chance to get on the bases and try to impact the game any way you can. Being a one-sided athlete for so long, when you get a chance to do that, you want to try to impact the game as much as you can. Getting two hits is luck of the draw a little bit, but it's fun to be able to help the team win.”



8. He also had to run. While on second, Rajai Davis hit a ball to deep center field that looked like it might be caught by Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton. That forced Tomlin to stay on second to tag to third. Hamilton couldn’t bring it in, though, and Tomlin raced around to home just quick enough to not be in a close play.

9. As Tomlin was being waived home, how he might slide was creeping into his mind. Said Tomlin, “Better score. How am I going to slide? That was one thing I was thinking. I didn't know head-first, feet-first or what. I saw [Jason] Kipnis saying, 'Stand up. Stand up. Stand up.' That put me a little at ease.”

10. Davis was certainly impressed, saying, “Oh, man. I hit a ball to center field and he was going attack. You want to get to third base with less than two outs and he was about to do that. And then he had to turn around and score from there. Wow. That was pretty impressive. That's athletic. That's an athletic pitcher. That's another RBI for me, too. Thanks, Tomlin. I've got to thank him for that one.”

More: Indians SP Mike Clevinger handles nerves in debut; Mike Napoli and the low-and-away called strike

11. Indians manager Terry Francona joked that Tomlin will want to DH in Boston this weekend. Said Francona, still joking, “I hate to say it because his head will be so big it won’t be able to get through the door, but that’s pretty impressive. That’s pretty impressive. It’s hard enough to get hits as a player, let alone as somebody who hasn’t been hitting. That was impressive.”

12. Tomlin is 6-0 and has a .667 batting average. He’ll make $2.25 million this season (with possible bonuses), $2.5 million next year and has an option for the 2018 season valued at $3 million.

13. He’s also now a .600 career hitter. Nothing to see here.

14. Carlos Santana hit two two-run home runs Thursday night, his sixth career multi-home run game. He put the Indians up 2-0 in the fourth and then extended their fifth-inning lead to 6-2.

15. He hit fourth in the lineup, allowing Davis—who’s been red hot—to hit in the leadoff spot. Santana has handled switching between spots in the lineup well. A key to that is the Indians not wanting Santana to change his approach. It’s also helped Francona pieced together the best lineup possible depending on the opposing starter and situation each day.

16. Said Francona, “I don’t think it really matters. I guess if it bothered somebody, it would. But we just want him to hit wherever he is. Tonight he stayed nice and short. Hopefully he can continue that because if he starts doing that, man it’s just such a connector in our lineup wherever he’s at.”

17. Davis, meanwhile, was named the Ohio Cup’s Most Outstanding Player—The Mop! He’s been on another level recently. In back-to-back innings Thursday, Davis hit RBI-doubles, bringing his series totals to nine hits, six walks, nine RBI and 10 runs scored. He reached base four times in Monday’s 15-6 win, reached base five times in Tuesday’s 13-1 win and hit two home runs in Wednesday’s 8-7 extra-innings victory before adding two RBI doubles on Thursday for good measure.

18. Davis didn’t credit his hot streak to any one thing. He’s just winning the battle. Said Davis, “I think it's more of a one-on-one battle. Just me against the pitcher. May the best man win.”

19. Davis was the Indians’ answer in center field this season on a one-year deal. He’s certainly proving his worth right now.

20. He was also a bit disappointed there is no longer a MOP trophy. It's possible Adam Dunn or somebody else still has it. Lonnie Chisenhall and Jason Kipnis, at least, rigged up an Ohio Cup trophy.

 

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Indians sweep Cincinnati Reds 7-2 behind Josh Tomlin’s two-way night, Carlos Santana’s two home runs

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 19, 2016

Indians starter Josh Tomlin pitched well Thursday night and still doesn’t have a loss this season. But for one night, he might have been even better with the bat.

Tomlin threw 7 2/3 strong innings and went 2-for-3 at the plate in a 7-2 Indians win that completed a four-game, home-and-home sweep of the Cincinnati Reds.

Tomlin first singled in the third inning, a hard-hit ball up the middle. Not done, he doubled down the left-field line in the fifth inning and then came around to score on Rajai Davis’ RBI-double to center field in which Tomlin had to stay at the bag until it dropped.

Tomlin was already the last Indians pitcher to record two hits in a game, doing so on June 28, 2011 against Arizona. He also became the first Indians pitcher since 1972 (Steve Dunning) to have a single and a double in the same game.

As for his more traditional responsibilities, Tomlin (6-0, 3.56 ERA) allowed two runs on five hits and struck out seven. He became the first Indians starter to begin a season 6-0 since Cliff Lee in 2008, when Lee won the American League Cy Young Award.

It was another productive offense night for the Indians (21-17), who scored 43 runs in four games against the Reds. Carlos Santana led the way Thursday with two two-run home runs, his sixth career multi-home run game, in back-to-back innings.

Davis continued his torrid series. In back-to-back innings, Davis hit RBI-doubles, bringing his series totals to nine hits, six walks, nine RBI and 10 runs scored. After the game, he was named the Ohio Cup’s Most Outstanding Player.

Davis tormented the Reds (15-26) each game. He reached base four times in Monday’s 15-6 win, reached base five times in Tuesday’s 13-1 win and hit two home runs in Wednesday’s 8-7 extra-innings victory before adding two RBI doubles on Thursday for good measure.

Following two blowouts and an extra-innings thriller, the Indians took the lead in this one, lost it momentarily and then pulled away for good.

In the top of the fourth, Santana’s first of two home runs put the Indians on top 2-0 against Reds starter Tim Adleman. Joey Votto answered in the bottom half of that inning with a two-run home of his own to tie it 2-2.

After that, it was all Indians. Davis’ first of two doubles put the Indians on top 3-2 in the fifth, Francisco Lindor—who had at least two hits in all four games—added an RBI-single to left field to make it 4-2 and Santana drilled his second home run to push it to 6-2. An inning later, another Davis double scored Juan Uribe, who singled, to cap the Indians’ scoring.

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Indians 8, Reds 7 (12): Ryan Lewis’ 27 Walk-Off Thoughts on Francisco Lindor, Mike Clevinger, more

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 19, 2016

Here are 27 Walk-Off Thoughts on the Indians’ 8-7 come-from-behind win in 12 innings against the Cincinnati Reds Wednesday night.

1. After blowing by the Reds twice in Cleveland, the Indians needed some extra-inning magic Wednesday night. Trailing 7-5 in the top of the ninth, Rajai Davis hit a game-tying two-run home run. In the 12th, Francisco Lindor finished the job with a solo home run to center field.

2. All of it came after Mike Clevinger pitched well in his major-league debut until he and the bullpen ran into trouble in the sixth inning, turning a 4-1 lead into a 6-4 and then 7-5 deficit.

3. As for Lindor’s home run, he said he just was just trying to get on base so Mike Napoli had a chance to hit him in. He did one better than that. Lindor has done just about everything for the Indians this season. Now, an extra-inning go-ahead home run can be added to the list.

4. Said Lindor, “I was just trying to get on base, make something happen so Napoli can drive me in. That’s how we played today. We kept moving through the lineup, passed the baton and that’s how we came up with the W.”

5. Indians manager Terry Francona called it a “rocket,” saying, “That ball, I'll tell you what, he hit that ball and that had a little different sound. That was just a rocket. We needed something like that, because there was a lot of frustration, as far as you're on the road and, we talk about it all the time, you're one pitch away [from a loss]. That really changed the mood in the dugout, for sure.”

6. Lindor hit it hard, but he didn’t think it was gone. After being told what Francona said about the different sound off the bat, he said, “No, not at all. I’m a small guy, so when I hit them, I don’t think they’re gone. When I hit them, I just hope for the best. I was just happy it went out.”



7. Davis’ game-tying home run in the ninth was his second home run of the night. His first home run, a solo shot in the third, was a bomb. I had looked down to write something during the pitch, heard the crack of the bat and thought, “That’s gone” before looking up to find it the ball or to what field it was traveling. Davis reached base four times Monday night, five times Tuesday night and then hit two home runs Wednesday night. He’s on a roll.

8. Said Davis, “I'm focused. I was able to change my focus and now I'm focused on just beating the pitcher.” Lately, he’s been the player that terrorized the Indians in Detroit and then some.

9. Francona said recently that when Davis gets hot, the hits will come often. He basically repeated it Wednesday night, saying, “We've kind of said, he's the type of hitter that, when he gets hot, they’re going to come in bunches. Good for him and good for us. We're a different team when he's getting hits. Now, when he hits home runs, that's a bonus. But, with the speed he has, and you saw the one stolen base, they're defending that stolen base and he still can steal it. He has that kind of speed.”

10. There was a strange underlying pulse of the home crowd in the later innings, almost waiting for the Reds’ league-worst bullpen to blow the lead. Davis’ home run with two outs to go seemed surprisingly predictable. It’s been a tough run.

11. Two plays from the ninth-inning on that were about as important as the two home runs: Lonnie Chisenhall’s walk in the ninth and Jason Kipnis’ running catch in the 12th.

12. Chisenhall came to bat needing to get on base, but he did it against the Reds’ Tony Cingrani, a lefty. That’s a good situation for the Reds to be in. Chisenhall responded with a 10-pitch walk. It was a great at-bat by Chisenhall and a terrible mistake by Cingrani to allow a mostly-platoon left-handed hitter to get on base to bring the tying run to the plate.

13. Davis’ home run is remembered. Chisenhall’s at-bat is crucial, though.

14. Said Davis on that at-bat by Chisenhall, “That was impressive. I was really impressed with him and I had to let him know, 'Hey, that's an at-bat right there.' He's a tough lefty on lefties. The good thing is he got to see him a day before. It's not like he hadn't seen that arm angle. A big, tall guy. Lanky. He has a good fastball. He put some good swings and some tough swings on it, just to fight. He just kept battling. That's all we can ask far, to have guys go up there and battle. That's what he did.”

More: Indians have no timetable for Michael Brantley's return; Tyler Naquin optioned

15. Kipnis’ play in the 12th came with one out and the dangerous part of the Reds’ lineup upcoming. Zack Cozart blooped a ball near the right-field line. Kipnis had to go quite a ways—81.2 feet according to Statcast/MLB.com—and on a full sprint made the catch when it looked like he wouldn’t get there. Instead of the tying run with Billy Hamilton up, who could sacrifice bunt and beat it out or be on base as the go-ahead run ahead of Joey Votto, the bases were cleared.

16. Francona essentially called it one of the best defensive play Kipnis has made since he’s been the Indians’ manager, all things considered. Said Francona, “I thought Kipnis' play in the last inning, I think it's one of the best plays I think I've ever seen him make. Considering the time of the game and where he started and where he ended. That was a great play. That play there, that's a double. He closed a lot of ground. It's like he willed himself to catch that ball.”

17. Dan Otero didn’t think Kipnis was going to get there. Lindor called it a game-changer. It also wasn’t the only nice play Kipnis made. With two on in the seventh, Kipnis snagged a line drive off the bat of Brandon Phillips to probably save a run and keep it a one-run game. He’s made a string of highlight reel plays recently, probably in an effort to keep up with Lindor.

18. The Indians’ bullpen relinquished the lead in the sixth but allowed the comeback to take place in extra innings. In that sixth, Kyle Crockett again couldn’t get Jay Bruce—his only target—out, as Bruce (for the second time in three days) hit a single to left field. Then, Zach McAllister gave up a three-run home run to Eugenio Suarez. McAllister had pitched the Indians out of multiple jams recently, but got bit Wednesday night.

19. In extra innings, though, the Indians got what they needed. Cody Allen had two 1-2-3 innings and Dan Otero came away with the save, just when the Indians were running out of innings with their pitchers and about to run into a tough situation with no off-days upcoming and a doubleheader in Chicago on Monday.

20. Said Otero, “Any time you’re in the bullpen you go over situations in your head. It may start in the fourth inning, it may start in the ninth inning depending on how the game goes. So you’re always mentally ready. So I kind of knew after Cody went in that there’s really nobody left down there so I was like, ‘OK, it’s going to be me, go get three outs.’ It was fun watching us come back. Chisenhall had a great at-bat in the ninth and then obviously Rajai came up huge with that home run and then Lindor in the 12th or whatever inning it was. We came up with some big hits and thankfully we were able to get that last out.”

21. The earlier meltdown by the bullpen just about spoiled an otherwise solid major-league debut by Clevinger, who threw 5 1/3 innings, allowed four runs on five hits and struck out five. That final line doesn’t indicate his effectiveness, as he entered the sixth inning with only one run on two hits allowed and a 4-1 lead. Then the Reds got to him a bit. Joey Votto, who he had already struck out twice, hit a two-run double. Then Crockett failed to get Bruce and Suarez took McAllister deep.

22. All of a sudden, a great major-league debut is a no-decision. Clevinger, with family in attendance, still certainly enjoyed it, saying, “It was fun. It was definitely something that's indescribable. I won't forget it.”

23. He did have some interesting pre-game activities. Clevinger said he puked for 30 minutes and then almost went to the wrong bullpen to warm up. He’s known to get amped up just to throw to hitters in spring training, so this was certainly something to get his juices flowing.

24. Francona thought he handled it well, saying, “I thought he was better today than he was in spring training. He looked like it was almost business as usual. I'm sure on the inside it probably wasn't, especially when he was going to warm up and he was going to the wrong bullpen. Nap kind of grabbed him. He was pretty good. He goes, 'I was just checking it out.' I don't think he was faking it. I thought he handled it really well.”



25. Clevinger has seemingly had the Indians excited about his potential since last season, when he went on a terrific run in Triple-A, continued to pitch well in spring training and had a good showing in the minors before being called up Wednesday. Clevinger is a pitcher who has already had Tommy John surgery and who the Indians acquired from the Los Angeles Angels in return for relief pitcher Vinnie Pestano.

26. If the Indians are excited about his potential now, it stands a reasonable chance they’ll be excited with their return on investment if Clevinger sticks in the big leagues, though with Corey Kluber, Danny Salazar, Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer currently in the rotation and Carlos Carrasco expected to return from the 15-day disabled sometime in the next month, a strong showing from Clevinger puts them back in a situation of wanting to have six starters, just like Opening Day. That’s also not including Cody Anderson, who the Indians have remained high on despite his home run issues this season.

27. For now, Clevinger will just enjoy his debut, and hopefully have a more settled stomach than pre-first pitch.

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Rajai Davis, Francisco Lindor home runs power Indians’ 8-7 extra-inning win against Cincinnati Reds

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 18, 2016

The Indians might have grown familiar with routing the Cincinnati Reds, but they needed some extra-inning magic Wednesday night in an 8-7 win.

After two nights of tearing through the Reds’ bullpen in Cleveland, it perhaps looked like Wednesday night would end differently, and a 7-5 Reds lead would hold in the top of the ninth inning.

It didn’t. The Reds called on left-hander Tony Cingrani to close out the game and proceeded to walk Lonnie Chisenhall—the same thing that plagued the Reds Tuesday—to put the tying run at the plate. With one out, Rajai Davis belted a game-tying two-run home run to left field, his second home run of the night.

The deciding blow was delivered by Francisco Lindor in the top of the 12th. Facing Keyvius Sampson, Lindor drove an offering over the wall in center field for a solo home run, completing the Indians’ power-led comeback.

Between the game-tying and eventual game-winning home runs, Cody Allen worked two 1-2-3 innings and Dan Otero came on in the 12th to earn his first save of the season with the help of Jason Kipnis, who made a terrific play to rob Zack Cozart of a hit. The Reds threatened, putting the tying run on second, but Otero got Brandon Phillips to fly out to end the game.

Prior to it, the Indians’ bullpen couldn’t hold an early lead and allowed the majority of a five-run sixth inning.

Indians starting pitcher Mike Clevinger, making his major-league debut, cruised for much of the night until he ran into trouble in that sixth inning, leading 4-1.

Cozart led off with a single and was followed by Billy Hamilton, who reached on a bunt single. Joey Votto, whom Clevinger had already struck out twice, finally got the best of the rookie and roped a two-RBI double to center field to cut the Indians’ lead to 4-3. Clevinger then struck out Brandon Phillips for the first out of the inning to end his night.

Enter left-hander Kyle Crockett, tasked with getting the left-handed Jay Bruce out. For the second time in three nights, Bruce slapped a single to left field off Crockett, putting runners on the corners and bringing in Zach McAllister.

McAllister had recently been strong and gotten the Indians out of some tight jams. It was bad news on Wednesday night, though. Eugenio Suarez put the Reds on top with one swing, rifling a three-run home run to right-center field to make it 6-4.

Clevinger had allowed just one run on two hits through his first five innings but ended the night with a no-decision. He finished after 5 1/3 innings, allowed four runs on five hits and struck out five.

Up until that troublesome bottom of the sixth, it looked as though the Indians might cruise past the Reds for the third straight game.

After Jose Ramirez singled and Yan Gomes doubled, Marlon Byrd gave the Indians a 1-0 lead in the second inning against Reds starter Brandon Finnegan. Davis then led off the third with a no-doubter solo home run to left field.

In the sixth, the Indians added on, up 2-1. Jason Kipnis led off with a double, advanced to third on a ground out and later scored on an error by Suarez off the bat of Mike Napoli. Byrd added his second RBI of the night on a single to center field that scored Napoli and made it 4-1.

The Indians got one run back in the top of the seventh, as two walks eventually brought home a run on a Francisco Lindor groundout, bringing the score to 6-5. Jay Bruce then knocked his second home run of the night, a solo shot, in the eighth against Jeff Manship to give the Reds an insurance run.

It looked to be enough until Davis and Lindor stole Wednesday night’s game with a display of late-night power.

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Indians have no timetable for Michael Brantley’s return; Tyler Naquin optioned

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 18, 2016
Brantley

Outfielder Michael Brantley continues to rest his surgically-repaired shoulder, and the Indians continue to be vague about any possible return date after he had to be shut down a second time.

Brantley, currently on the 15-day disabled list, met with Dr. Craig Morgan, who performed the initial surgery in November, on Tuesday. Nothing new was found, but Brantley did receive an anti-inflammatory injection and will be sat down five-to-seven days before being re-evaluated.

The Indians are not working with any specific timeline.

“We’ll let that shot work and then, from there, we’re just going to get him back in a way that we feel like we want to keep him back,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “That’s why there’s no timetable listed, because there isn’t one. … I don’t want to say we’re going to be not aggressive, because I think we will, but I think we certainly want to make sure, when he comes back, we give him a chance to stay back.”

Brantley played in two spring training games before having to be shut down. He then played in 11 regular season games before his shoulder flared up again, warranting a second DL stint. Still, the club feels as though Brantley wasn’t rushed back too soon.

“No, no, no,” Francona said. “I just think that sometimes, things don’t work the way you want them to. I really don’t. I think that, good players, they try hard. He felt pretty good, so no, I don’t think so.”

Naquin optioned

The Indians on Wednesday optioned outfielder Tyler Naquin back to Triple-A Columbus to make room for Mike Clevinger, who made his major-league debut Wednesday night in Cincinnati.

Naquin hit .317 in 27 games as a rookie with the Indians this season, a solid offensive showing after he earned a spot on the Opening Day roster with a strong spring. The other positional option to send down was utility man Michael Martinez, but Francona wanted to keep his versatility on the bench moving forward, which gives Naquin the chance to work on his routes in center field in Triple-A Columbus.

“[It is] playing guys now and having somebody to spell them as opposed to just trying to pick who’s going to sit one day,” Francona said. “Not sure that was helping anybody. And the ability to move Michael around, I think, can enhance the guys we have.”

Simulated game

Starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco has thrown two bullpen sessions since straining his left hamstring and is slated to throw a simulated game in Lake County on Thursday.

Per Francona, Carrasco is scheduled to throw two innings, or about 35 pitches. Carrasco injured his hamstring while covering first base in a game against Detroit on April 24. The original timetable for his rehab, 4-to-6 weeks, put his expected return date later this month or in early June.

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Indians 13, Reds 1: Ryan Lewis’ 17 Walk-Off Thoughts on Danny Salazar and another shellacking

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 17, 2016

Here are 17 Walk-Off Thoughts after the Indians’ 13-1 win against the Cincinnati Reds.

1. The Indians just can’t seem to stop scoring on the Reds. They’ll probably add a few runs while you’re reading this. They set season highs Monday night with 15 runs and 19 hits. Tuesday’s game: 13 runs, 17 hits.

2. The Battle of Ohio has been more of a one-sided bombardment.  For the second straight game, all nine Indians starters recorded a hit. Eight of those nine starters reached base at least twice, and eight scored a run.

3. Rajai Davis reached base five times (three hits, two walks, three RBI) after reaching base four times on Monday. Carlos Santana (two hits, two walks, two RBI) and Lonnie Chisenhall (three hits, a walk, an RBI) both reached base four times. The list goes on and on.

4. It’s the first time the Indians scored at least 13 runs in consecutive games since May of 1999, when they did it against the Chicago White Sox. In other words, the Indians haven’t had back-to-back offensive days like this in the 21st century.

5. The Indians barely needed to bring a bat to the plate in an unusual fifth inning. Reds relief pitcher Steve Delabar completely lost the strike zone and after having already walked Jason Kipnis to load the bases, he walked four consecutive batters to score four easy runs. That made it 12-0.

6. Per the club, Kipnis became the first Indians hitter to walk around the bases since Lou Klimchock did so in June of 1969. Napoli then did it two batters later.

7. Joked Kipnis, “That might have been the easiest run scored that I've had. I worked on my leads. I was very professional. I got some stuff done there. Some good crow hops and secondary leads. That doesn't happen often. Obviously, when pitchers like that are struggling, you never want to help them. Guys were having good at-bats and swinging at strikes and not getting greedy with the guys on base, just getting it to the next guy.”

More: Indians option SP Cody Anderson to Triple-A Columbus, activate OF Lonnie Chisenhall; Mike Clevinger to make MLB debut Wednesday

8. What Francona liked about that stretch is that the game was already out of hand, but hitters weren’t changing their approaches and free-swinging. Said Francona, “It starts with the way Nap approaches. He doesn’t leave the strike zone. I’m glad our guys kept their concentration enough to do that. It’s easy in a game like that to start to want to swing. I thought our guys did a good job of allowing that game to spread out. So we can take Gomer out, we can take Kip out. We can give some guys at bats.”

9. These two games were also a positive sign after a frustrating loss on Sunday in which several two-out hits couldn’t be converted into runs. It’s not often an offense can look exactly like it’d like to, and the Indians have pulled it off two nights in a row.

10. Said Kipnis, “It's not just how many hits we got, it's the way we got them. A lot of walks, getting to the next guy. That's what we've been preaching. A lot of two-strike hits, going the other way. Guys are having good at-bats. You don't want to see what was going on before, where we got a lot of hits with two outs and no runs to show for it. It's getting the first guy on and [going] to the next guy.”

11. All that being said, the Reds’ pitching hasn’t exactly been top-notch this season. Alfredo Simon, Tuesday’s starter, now has an ERA north of 10. It certainly doesn’t hurt, though, to cruise through a couple of games.

12. The better long-term sign from Tuesday night is Danny Salazar, who is pitching like one of the top starters in all of baseball right now. He pitched into the eighth inning Tuesday, struck out eight and allowed one run on five hits. It snapped a streak of eight consecutive starts of allowing four or fewer hits, a team record according to Elias. He now is 4-2 with a 1.80 ERA, and everything is clicking.

13. Said Salazar, “All my pitches were there. Getting ahead in the count with the first pitch, even [when I don’t], coming back with the second pitch for a strike, that was huge tonight. Being on the same page with Gomes, throwing my fastball inside and outside, and using my two-seamer. I think that was the key.”

14. Don’t forget about the split-change, which has become Salazar’s ace-in-the-hole to work off his electric fastball. Salazar: “I feel like I can throw it in any count. Tonight, I used it a lot. Not only my change-up, but all my pitches, you know? I know that’s a team that likes to swing [at the] first pitch a lot, and Yan and I talked before the game about how to attack them. Mixing my first pitch with all my pitches, that was really important tonight.”



15. Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw pitched Tuesday night because the Indians wanted to get them work, but not too much. The Indians also wanted Salazar to get to at least 90 pitches because of the upcoming schedule with Mike Clevinger slated to make his major-league debut Wednesday.

16. As a side note, Salazar said he can hear the music coming from the Cavs pre-game festivities in the plaza, but it doesn’t bother him when he’s on the mound. The Indians game started at 6:10 and the Cavs didn’t tip-off until more than two hours later, so most of Salazar’s start was made with that music playing. The Indians have played with stuff going on in the plaza multiple times the last two springs with the Cavs in the playoffs.

17. Said Salazar, “No I don’t hear that. Sometimes when I’m in the dugout I do, but when I’m on the mound I’m just focused on what I’m doing. … Sometimes, when I’m not pitching, I look there sometimes because the music is too loud. But I really don’t pay attention to that when I’m pitching.”

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Indians crush Cincinnati Reds again 13-1; Battle of Ohio turning ugly

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 17, 2016

The Battle of Ohio is beginning to look like General Patton took on Captain Crunch.

The Indians crushed the Cincinnati Reds for the second straight day Tuesday, this time by a score of 13-1. On Monday, the Indians won 15-6.

Monday’s win set new season highs for runs and hits. Tuesday’s pace wasn’t far off. For the second straight game, all nine Indians starters recorded a hit. Eight of those nine starters reached base at least twice, and eight scored a run.

The Indians scored four in the second inning, three more in the third, essentially walked around the bases for five runs in the fifth and finally tacked on a thirteenth run in the sixth, just for good measure.

Act Two of the Indians’ offensive barrage started with three singles in the second inning, the last by Rajai Davis to drive in the Indians’ first run of the night. After Carlos Santana walked and a wild pitch by Reds starter Alfredo Simon (1-4, 10.34 ERA) brought home a second run, Jason Kipnis drove in two with a single up the middle to put the Indians on top 4-0.

In the third, Davis drove in two with a double and scored on Santana’s RBI-single, making it 7-0 and turning Tuesday night’s game into another shellacking.

The Indians (19-17) barely needed to bring a bat to the plate in the fifth. A Lonnie Chisenhall double, Davis single and Santana RBI-single knocked Simon out of the game. The Reds (15-24) brought in relief pitcher Steve Delabar, who proceeded to lose the strike zone. With one out and after already walking Kipnis to load the bases, Delabar walked four consecutive batters to bring home four runs without the Indians having to swing the bat once.

Per the club, Kipnis became the first Indians hitter to walk around the bases since Lou Klimchock did so in June of 1969. Napoli then did it two batters later.

That brought the lead to 12-0, and the Indians added another in the sixth via an RBI-single by Napoli.

Davis reached base five times (three hits, two walks, three RBI) after reaching base four times on Monday. Santana (two hits, two walks, two RBI) and Chisenhall (three hits, a walk, an RBI) both reached base four times.

Between Monday and Tuesday’s games, the Indians scored 28 runs and collected 36 hits.

Danny Salazar (4-2, 1.80 ERA) didn’t need all the support, but he got it. Salazar continued his torrid start to the 2016 season with another terrific performance, as he allowed one run on five hits and a walk and struck out eight in 7 1/3 innings pitched. It snapped a streak of eight consecutive starts in which he allowed four or fewer hits, a team record according to Elias.

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Indians option Cody Anderson to Triple-A, activate Lonnie Chisenhall; Mike Clevinger to make debut

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 17, 2016
Clevinger

Indians option Cody Anderson to Triple-A, activate Lonnie Chisenhall; Mike Clevinger to make MLB debut

Amid his on-going home run issues, the Indians on Tuesday optioned starting pitcher Cody Anderson to Triple-A Columbus and announced that starting pitcher Michael Clevinger will make his major-league debut Wednesday in Cincinnati.

The Indians also activated outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall from the bereavement list after he was tending to a death in his immediate family.

Anderson this season has a 7.99 ERA and has allowed 10 home runs in 32 2/3 innings. It’s one more home run than he allowed all last season in 91 1/3 innings. He allowed two more home runs on Monday against Cincinnati but was bailed out by a 15-run outburst.

The Indians have cited Anderson closing off his delivery as a reason for him not being able to drive the ball down in like he normally does. He was sent to Triple-A for one start to try to work out those issues, but the home runs have continued.

The club has continued to be positive about Anderson’s future in Cleveland.

“I think we've been pretty emphatic about how we feel about him,” Indians manager Terry Francona said before adding Anderson is one of the hardest workers he’s ever seen. “He's going to be successful here in Cleveland. We've kind of seen it. [Corey] Kluber went back. [Josh] Tomlin. Guys have gone back to Triple-A. That doesn't change one iota how we feel about this kid. I just think when you look at a kid and you feel like he needs to go back for his own good, you need to do it, even if it's not necessarily convenient.”

The Indians will need a sixth starter for Monday’s double header against the Chicago White Sox and will be allowed a 26th man on the roster, so it’s possible Anderson could start one of those two games.

Clevinger, the No. 7 prospect in the system according to Baseball America, began to open some eyes late last season and continued to impress this spring training. He’s pitched well in Triple-A, owning a 5-0 record and 3.03 ERA to go with 36 strikeouts in 35 2/3 innings pitched.

Clevinger was told he was being called up to the big leagues Monday night. Tuesday afternoon, it still hadn’t quite sunk in yet.

“I had no idea this was coming,” Clevinger said. “[Triple-A manager Chris Tremie] called me last night and I was sitting in the hotel bad. He actually had to call me again, like, ‘No, you’re going.’ I really didn’t sink in. … He called just to double-check and reinforce it. When he called me, I didn’t really have much to say. So five minutes later, he called me again and said, ‘Clev, I just wanted to make sure you heard me. You’re going to the big leagues.’ I was like, ‘No, I’m starting to get it now.’”

Clevinger has a reputation of always going 100 percent in his side work, never relenting just because it isn’t a game situation. Francona saw it first hand this spring when he caught Clevinger pacing back and forth before he was set to throw against live hitters.

“I was like, ‘Oh S***, something must have gone wrong at home,’ because I knew his [girlfriend] was pregnant,” Francona said. “And Tremie’s like, ‘No man, he’s just getting ready to throw.’ I’m like, ‘It’s just to hitters.’ He’s like, ‘Yeah, he kind of gets after it.’”

The Indians haven’t asked to Clevinger to rein it in or relax while doing his side work, because that’s just who he is. They have, however, tried to instill a longer-term mindset in that throwing as hard as possible in the first inning might not be the best strategy if that level can’t be maintained into the fifth or sixth innings.

“That’s the way he’s built,” Francona said. “He’s ultra competitive and I think the thing we were at least trying to get him to understand was, if you’re going to throw 96 in the first inning, it doesn’t help to go out in the second inning and throw 91. But he’s been holding his velocity well, so that’s the thing I guess we were at least talking about with him.”

Here is a spring training piece on Clevinger's road to where he is today and a bit on his dream catcher, which hung from his locker in Arizona.

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Indians 15, Reds 6: Ryan Lewis’ 18 Walk-Off Thoughts on season highs, Yan Gomes, Cody Anderson

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 16, 2016

Here are 18 Walk-Off Thoughts on the Indians’ 15-6 win against the Cincinnati Reds Monday night.

1. The Indians’ offense Monday night felt like what happens when you pinch a water hose together and then let go. On Sunday against Minnesota, they collected two-out hit after two-out hit but couldn’t put anything together.

2. Then, the runs came flowing Monday night. Here are some of the notes on the Indians’ offense, which erased an early 4-0 deficit and then some.

3. The club’s 15 runs and 19 hits were both season highs. After trailing 4-0, it was the largest come-from-behind win since May 3 of last season against Toronto. Ten different batters collected a hit, the first time at least that many did so in a nine-inning game since April, 2013 against Philadelphia. Seven Indians hitters had multi-hit games, the first time at least that many did so since June 28, 2013 against the Chicago White Sox.

4. All nine Indians starters recorded a hit and scored a run. All but Juan Uribe reached base at least twice—Carlos Santana had a walk and singled.

5. Said Indians manager Terry Francona, “We did a real good job tonight. Kind of picking up. We fall behind 4-0, not an easy way to win. Then when we took the lead they came back and made 7-6. Then Tommy Hunter got five outs on I think 12 pitches. Got a big double play. Went back out and had a quiet inning. Allowed us to continue to swing the bats. Even to the point where we were able to get Kip and Lindor out of there which we haven’t been really able to do. Anything is good because those guys have been playing so much. Just nice to spread a game out so those guys can relax a bit.”

6. It just keeps going. Rajai Davis reached base four times tonight (two singles, two walks) and scored from first on a routine single to right-center field. He was going on the pitch, rounded third and got his legs caught trying to slide into home and sort of fell, but still managed to drag his foot across the plate. It took a review to see it, but he was safe.

7. Said Francona on Davis, “That was good. You saw, he will be a guy, too, that gets hot in spurts. You saw in spring training he will get hits in bunches. And the way he runs the bases, he causes havoc. That will be really welcome.”

8. Francisco Lindor had a two-run double. Mike Napoli at one point had RBI singles in back-to-back innings. Marlon Byrd hit a two-run home run two batters after Yan Gomes drilled a three-run shot, his third home run in as many games.

9. Gomes’ home run was a particularly good sign for the Indians. For about two weeks, he didn’t hit anything hard. Now, it’s everything.

10. Said Gomes, “Definitely good, especially the way the game as going. I think we needed that. It was a nice little back and forth, to get a hit like that (homer) and expand the lead a little bit, definitely calmed us down a little bit and we were able to go out there and get a shutout inning. That was definitely important.”

More: Indians RP Joba Chamberlain's revamped focus on his fastball is the key to his hot 2016 start

11. It still comes down to Gomes starting slow and trying to stay away from doing too much to make up for it.

12. Said Gomes, “Absolutely. I feel like before I was like, you’ve got to impress so much and right out of the get-go, not letting it play out so much [is important]. I’ve been a slow starter for the last few years. It comes to a point where you’re trying to be productive in any way you can, and I’ve definitely tried to do something. And you’ve just got to know your confidence can’t go away, I’m a good hitter or in any way possible, just help the team win.”



13. It didn’t end up mattering as much because the Indians offense unloaded on the Reds, but at the time, Tommy Hunter got the two-biggest outs of the game, which Francona noted above. Hunter entered with the Indians leading 7-6 in the fifth inning. The bases were loaded with one out. That’s pretty high-leverage. He immediately induced an inning-ending double play, and then worked a 1-2-3 sixth. By the time Hunter was out of the game, the game was over.

14. The lone blemish on Monday night was Cody Anderson, who’s home-run issues continued. He allowed two more, which puts him at 10 for the season, which is more than he allowed in all of 2015 in nearly a third fewer innings.

15. All things considered, the Indians have a pretty positive spin on his night.

16. Francona liked much of what he saw, saying, “The ballpark was playing awfully small tonight. The home run to center I did not think was a home run. Saying that, he had an 0-2 pitch that he elevated out of the zone that got hit for a home run. Seems like sometimes whatever can happen has been happening. We have all been asking ourselves the same thing. The velocity is very good. I think at times his command is probably the biggest difference from what’s been allowing him to succeed or not.”

17. Anderson didn’t think he made bad pitches on either of the home runs. Said Anderson, “I think all my stuff is better than it’s ever been. Maybe it’s just keep getting the ball down and keep throwing everything with conviction down in the zone. I made some really good pitches down in the zone and I got some ground balls and, obviously, some pitches that went in the hole. Just keep building on it and keep working.”

18. Even if the Indians and Anderson felt good about this start, it’s clear the issue hasn’t yet been corrected. The Indians still need Anderson for at least a few more weeks until Carlos Carrasco returns from his strained left hamstring. To this point, he’s only throw a couple of bullpen sessions. If Trevor Bauer continues to pitch as well as he has, and Anderson can’t stop giving up home runs, the Indians’ decision might be easier this time around.

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Indians offense sets season highs in 15-6 win against Cincinnati Reds

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 16, 2016

Like pinching a water hose and then letting go, the Indians’ offense hadn’t put together much of a rhythm lately. Then on Monday, the hits and runs came flowing in a 15-6 win against the Cincinnati Reds.

The Indians’ 15 runs and 19 hits were both season highs. They also helped erase a four-run deficit in the third inning, as Cody Anderson’s home run issues continued. All nine Indians starters recorded a hit and scored a run. Seven starters ended the night with multi-hit games.

Trailing 4-0 in the third, the Indians tied it in one inning against Reds starter John Lamb. Marlon Byrd, Juan Uribe and Rajai Davis opened the inning with consecutive singles, the latter scoring the Indians’ first run of the day. After Jason Kipnis moved both runners into scoring position with a bunt, Francisco Lindor drove them in with a double to center field. A few pitches later, Mike Napoli tied it 4-4 with a single to the right side, just past a diving Brandon Phillips.

The Indians (18-17) added three more in the fourth with the help of some speed. With Jose Ramirez on third and Davis on first, Jason Kipnis singled to right-center field to initially give the Indians a 5-4 lead. Davis, who had taken off on the pitch, came all the way around from first to score on a routine hit. Davis’ slide was more of a fall and he was originally called out until a review called for by the Indians revealed he dragged his foot across the plate. Mike Napoli later added his second RBI-single in as many innings to give the Indians a 7-4 lead.

Right back came the Reds (15-23). Cody Anderson, who gave up four runs in the first three innings that included two home runs allowed to push his season total to 10, allowed a single, a double and then intentionally walked Phillips to load the bases with one out. Kyle Crockett, as a lefty, came in to face Jay Bruce, who blooped a two-run single to left field to cut the Indians’ lead to 7-6. Tommy Hunter entered and induced Adam Duvall to ground into an inning-ending double play to preserve a one-run lead.

In the sixth, the Indians put it out of reach. With two on, Yan Gomes drilled a three-run home run to right-center field, his third straight game with a home run. Two batters later, Byrd belted a two-run home run to left, making it 12-6.

The Indians loaded with the bases with nobody out in the seventh. Santana and Gomes each added sacrifice flies to bring home two more runs. Michael Martinez, off the bench, capped the Indians’ best offensive day of the season with a double that scored Byrd in the eighth.

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A look at Joba Chamberlain’s revamped focus on his fastball, the key to his hot 2016 start

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 16, 2016
Joba

Joba Chamberlain parlayed a non-roster invite to spring camp into a roster spot and has become, statistically, the most reliable arm in the Indians’ bullpen through the first six weeks of the season.

The biggest reason for it: Chamberlain is throwing his fastball more often, and he’s throwing it with more conviction than in the past.

Chamberlain entered Monday with a 0.79 ERA and 0.55 WHIP, both team-low marks, to go with more than a strikeout (13) per inning pitched (12 2/3). He hasn’t pitched in as many high-leverage situations because he entered the season as a front-end reliever with Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw and company anchored to the later innings.

Looking for a place to stick after pitching for Detroit and Kansas City last season, he’s found success in Cleveland thus far. The biggest change has been a revamped focus on his fastball.

According to FanGraphs, he’s throwing his fastball 52.2 percent of the time, up from 47.1 percent last year. It’s the highest percentage since he left the New York Yankees after the 2013 season.

“I just think it was being more aggressive in the zone,” Chamberlain said. “Just being able to trust your fastball in certain counts, and everything comes off of that. So, I think it’s not a conscious effort [simply to throw it more often], but I think it’s just one of those things where you’re trying to figure out what is better suited to make you successful.”

More importantly, he’s been more effective with it. He has a positive rating on his fastball for the first time since 2011. According to BrooksBaseball, he has a 6.48 whiff percentage with that pitch, which is up from 4.27 last year and is the highest rate since 2008, his second year in the league.

It isn’t just how often he’s thrown it. He’s changed his mindset toward that pitch. Instead of just getting it over the plate for a strike or setting up his off-speed stuff, he’s tried to view his fastball with more aggressiveness. It’s a more of a weapon as opposed to only a means to an off-speed end. As his career has progressed and he began to move around, it’s something he put less of an emphasis on until now.

“It’s just aggressiveness and conviction,” Chamberlain said. “It’s one thing to put it where you want to, but at the same time, you throw a pitch with conviction and am aggressive with it, it’s just as valuable as it is to throw the right pitch, not necessarily with the conviction that you want.”

Another change this season is how Chamberlain has been used as he fits within the Indians’ bullpen. He’s working more multiple-inning or four-out appearances. Four of his last seven appearances have lasted more than a single inning. Chamberlain didn’t throw more than an inning once in 2015.

“I like it,” Chamberlain said. “Whatever [Indians manager Terry Francona] needs me to do, I don’t care. If I can fold towels and help this team win, then I’ll fold towels and help this team win.”

The Indians don’t want to over-use Chamberlain in that way, but Francona does appreciate being able to have Chamberlain get an out or two, end an inning and then go back out again as seamlessly as he has while piecing together a game to get to Allen in the ninth.

“We don’t want it to drag out because I think we feel like we’ve got a pretty good thing going, and we don’t want to over do it, and sometimes when you go too far, you can’t take it back,” Francona said. “But he hasn’t had real long innings, so it’s been good. Anytime somebody has the ability to get an out and go back out and pitch an inning is really helpful. Some guys just can’t do it. It’s really helpful when guys can do it and you don’t have to worry.”

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Twins 5, Indians 1: Ryan Lewis’ 19 Walk-Off Thoughts on two-out hits, Trevor Bauer, Tyler Naquin

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 15, 2016

Here are 19 Walk-Off Thoughts after the Indians’ 5-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins on Sunday.

1. Two-out hits are great, but less-so when they aren’t converted into runs. The Indians had seven hits and a walk with two outs but didn’t do any damage.

2. Indians manager Terry Francona has perviously talked about how he’d rather get the scoring chances and not convert than not getting those chances at all. The frustration level is still pretty high in both scenarios, though.

3. Said Francona, “Early, I thought we squared up a couple real good. Carlos and Nap, I thought both were probably home runs on normal days, but they (hit them) kind of right into that wind, knocked them both down. I thought after that, it seemed like we got frustrated and got a little big. On a day like today, you’re going to have to string some hits together, unless you hit the ball like Kip did down into right field, and we weren’t able to do that. … We weren’t able to get guys on early in innings and we didn’t get any two out hits.”

4. The Indians fell behind 2-0 in the second inning when the Twins did take advantage of a two-out rally. From there, it was a skipping record of extending innings but not making Twins starter Tyler Duffey pay for it.

5. “We couldn't just get that one. I felt like we just needed that one hit. I came up a couple times with runners on,” said Chris Gimenez. “ I think, too, I feel like offensively, if we can just get that one hit, I think it's going to snowball off of that. The last couple of games, unfortunately, we just haven't been able to put that timely hit together. I think, too, we still put nine or 10 hits on the board today. We'll take our chances with that.”

6. Specifically, the Indians couldn’t handle Duffey’s knuckle-curve. Per MLB.com, he threw a season-high 49, with the Indians going 2-for-10 against it. Gimenez knew it was coming and was pretty much helpless.

7. Said Gimenez, “He could've told you his curveball was coming and everybody knew in the ballpark it was coming, but he did a good job. He's very deceptive, because he's got kind of a long arm and he's a slinger. It's kind of tough to pick up a little bit. My second at-bat, I went up there looking for a curveball. First pitch, he threw it right down the middle and it was still [tough to hit].”

8. Bauer threw 6 2/3 innings, gave up three runs on five hits—including a seventh-inning home run to Jorge Polanco, his first career home run—walked two and struck out eight. He’s now 3-1 this season with a 3.89 ERA and has been pretty solid since being re-inserted into the starting rotation after Carlos Carrasco strained his hamstring.

9. When asked if he thought he was building something in the right direction, Bauer noted that he felt good as a starter this spring, before he was moved to the bullpen in favor of Cody Anderson.

10. Said Bauer, “Yeah. I thought I had a really good spring as a starter and I've continued that this season.”

11. An interesting element to Bauer is that Gimenez has acted as his primary catcher every fifth day. Francona said recently those two will continue to work together as long as it makes sense with regard to Gomes’ schedule. It might allow those two to zero in on the next start and craft a better plan of attack.

12. Said Bauer on the tandem, “Yeah. We talk about it, watch other guys attack teams and come up with a game plan. So, it's beneficial.”



13. Joba Chamberlain worked 1 1/3 scoreless innings on Sunday, striking out four, and quietly has a 0.79 ERA this season.

14. On what’s been working for Chamberlain, he said, “Just trying to get early strikes. I think that’s the biggest key, is trying to get strike one and expanding the zone from there. Obviously, coming into it, getting the leadoff hitter in Mauer was a big deal, just kind of building off of there. This game, when you’ve been around a long time, you know what they want to do and they have an idea of what you want to do so it’s just a game of adjustments and trying to make the adjustments throughout the at-bat and obviously it went well, but this one’s over and get back out there tomorrow and get after it.”

15. Tyler Naquin defensive numbers don’t look good, though it’s in part due to sample size. You really need a 2-3 year sample, and he’s got one month. That being said, Francona has, on multiple occasions now, cited Naquin’s work going back on balls and his route running as things he needs to work on. Then came the two-run double off his glove just before he crashed into the wall on Sunday. It easily could have been ruled an error.

16. Naquin is still learning on the go, and it includes his defense in center field.

17. Said Francona, “It hit his glove. He’s still learning. We’ve talked about it. Sometimes, you see a veteran outfielder, they’ll see the ball and they’ll kind of run to the spot. He’s not able yet to do that. He has to watch the ball the whole way or he gets a little bit messed up on his route, so it’s hard to run at full-tilt doing that. It’s not like he’s loafing, but it just takes a little bit away.”

18. After building some positive momentum last week with a 5-1 home stand all in the division, the Indians are now 17-17 and have dropped two series to last-place teams in their respective divisions. They’re also without Carrasco and Michael Brantley for the time being.

19. Said Chamberlain, “It’s a season. You play 162 for a reason. As we’ve all seen the last few years, every game counts. There have been playoffs the last few years and it just proves you can’t take a pitch off or an inning off because it could dictate your season, whether you’re in or whether you’re out. So we’ve just got to figure out a way to combat that and ride it out and just continue to grind and battle. We’ve got a lot of guys in here who have been around and know what it takes to be successful. At no point are we going to get down on ourselves. We gotta get back out there. That’s the greatest part of this game, too, we get out there and get a chance to do it tomorrow.”

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Indians can’t convert two-out hits in 5-1 loss to Minnesota Twins

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 15, 2016

Two-out hits are good if they lead to two-out runs. The Indians were experts in the former but novices in the latter on Sunday in a 5-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins.

The Indians recorded seven hits and one walk with two outs. In five of the first seven innings against Twins starter Tyler Duffey (1-2, 1.85 ERA), the Indians had at least one two-out base runner.

Extending innings is often a desirable trait for an offense. Except, the needed hit to make them count never came. The loss put the Indians back to an even-.500 record at 17-17 this season.

“We couldn't just get that one,” said Chris Gimenez, who went 1-for-4 with a single. “I felt like we just needed that one hit. … I think, too, I feel like offensively, if we can just get that one hit, I think it's going to snowball off of that. The last couple of games, unfortunately, we just haven't been able to put that timely hit together.”

The Twins, however, made some two-out hits count and took a 2-0 lead in the second inning. Byung Ho Park doubled to open the second and after Bauer quickly recorded the first two outs of the inning, Eddie Rosario singled home a run and Juan Centeno doubled to score Rosario.

“I hate giving up runs, especially when you're one pitch from getting out of it,” Bauer said. “Ultimately, it's going to happen. It's baseball. We were on the winning end of a game like this last time I pitched and we ended up losing it this time.”

Later, in the seventh, Jorge Polanco hit his first career home run, a solo shot to center field, to tack on an insurance run and extend the Twins’ lead to 3-0.

Bauer (3-1, 3.89 ERA) threw 6 2/3 innings, gave up those three runs on five hits and two walks and struck out eight.

Jason Kipnis contributed the Indians’ offense for the day in the eighth inning, a solo home run down the right-field line off of Twins relief pitcher Trevor May. It was his fifth home run of the season.

The Twins (10-26) answered in the ninth against Jeff Manship. With two on, Rosario drove a ball to deep center field that Tyler Naquin couldn’t handle before crashing into the wall, giving Rosario a two-RBI double to extend the Twins’ lead to 5-1.

The Indians finished the day out-hitting the Twins 9-8. But aside from Kipnis’ home run, those hits, most of them with two outs, only became stranded runners.

“We weren’t able to get guys on early in innings and we didn’t get any two-out hits,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “On a day like today, you’re going to have to string some hits together, unless you hit the ball like Kip did down into right field, and we weren’t able to do that.”

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Twins 6, Indians 3: Ryan Lewis’ 14 Walk-Off Thoughts on Corey Kluber, Yan Gomes, miserable weather

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 14, 2016

Here are 14 Walk-Off Thoughts after the Indians fell to the Minnesota Twins 6-3 on Saturday.

1. It was another outing in the wrong direction for ace Corey Kluber. After a slow start, Kluber was terrific in three straight outings and appeared to have corrected his course. His last two starts—in Houston this week and Saturday against the Twins—have been a step back.

2. Kluber on Saturday allowed four earned runs on seven hits and three walks and struck out seven. He’s now 2-5 with a 4.30 ERA.

3. It was also another case of Kluber pitching in a close game with little run support and eventually giving up the lead later in his outing. That’s been his story the last season-plus, always seeming in a 3-2 or 2-1 game. After the game, Indians manager Terry Francona talked about how, with average run support, a mistake here or there might be covered up.

4. Said Francona, “What I care about is today because you’re continuing, regardless of who you are, to try to get better and make your pitches. I think there have been times where he’s been really good, there have been times where we haven’t scored, there have been times where he’s made some mistakes. That’s pretty much with everybody. I still know when he pitches, we really like it. My guess is that he will continue to work on what he needs to, a little bit out of the stretch, things like that, and be the guy we always need. Some days, if we could score some runs, that mistake doesn’t matter. We talk about that all the time, being in a situation where if you make a mistake it doesn’t cost you a game. It just seems like he pitches in a lot of those games.”

More: Michael Brantley's return to the DL a troublesome sign

5. In the sixth inning, the umps delayed the game for a few moments because the rain/sleet was driving into the eyes of the hitter and catcher. Kluber said it didn’t really affect him, though he did plunk Brian Dozier on the next pitch and eventually gave up a sacrifice fly that made it 3-1 in the same inning that Rajai Davis slipped in the outfield and couldn’t haul in a Trevor Plouffe fly ball.

6. Said Kluber, “I was trying to throw a fastball inside. It ran back and caught a little bit too much of the plate. I didn't think it was that bad of a pitch. It caught just a little bit too much plate, I guess. … Pitching-wise, [the weather] really wasn't that bad. I've never heard of pausing a game, because of rain blowing in his eyes, but it didn't really affect me much.”

7. Gomes had a hard time seeing clearly, not something that’s ideal with 95-mph fastballs flying at your face. Said Gomes, “It was kind of like the rain picked up a little bit and it was blowing straight into the hitter, me and the umpire. So, actually, for that split-second, I was actually kind of glad, because it was actually kind of hard to see. I’m sure for Kluber, I’m sure he wasn’t very happy about that.”

8. Still, both teams played in the same conditions, and the Twins seemed right at home.

9. One of the only forms of good news for the Indians was that Yan Gomes drilled a ball to second base that was caught and later hit a solo home run to make it 6-3. Gomes’ hard-hit percentage has been down, per FanGraphs, and he’s still hitting well under .200. The hard contact was a good sign, and it was his second home run in as many days.

10. Said Francona on Gomes’ recent play, “I hope. I think the last swing does a lot for, hopefully, his confidence. Being a catcher, he got beat up today, a ball hit him after the hitter, a couple foul tips. I think any time he takes a good swing and gets rewarded for it, yeah, it’s good.”

More: Yan Gomes trying to get going offensively

11. Gomes didn’t realize it was gone until he heard the fireworks.

12. Said Gomes, “When I first hit it, I thought I hit it well. I kind of looked over there and—was it Rosario in left? He started coming in. And then I kind of tossed my [bat] and said, ‘Are you kidding me?’ And then he kind of booked it backwards. I think I realized it when the fireworks went off that it was a home run.”



13. This was just the sixth loss in 20 games in which the Indians have scored first this season. The Indians are also now 7-10 against sub-.500 teams.

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Indians, Corey Kluber fall to Minnesota Twins 6-3

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 14, 2016

Corey Kluber started this season on a low note and then found his ace-like self for three starts. The last two, however, have been closer to the former.

Kluber started strong but was hit around late in his outing on Saturday, and the Indians fell to the Minnesota Twins 6-3 in miserable, sleeting conditions.

The Indians (17-16) grabbed a 1-0 lead in the fourth, but the Twins responded in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings. With two outs against Twins starter Ervin Santana (1-2, 3.38 ERA), Mike Napoli drove a double to dead-center field and Jose Ramirez followed with a bloop single to left field to score him.

The lead was short lived. In the top of the fifth, Kluber’s scoreless day was turned upside-down on Juan Centeno’s first career home run, a two-run shot to right field to put the Twins up top 2-1. The Twins then manufactured two insurance runs.

With one out in the sixth and the bases loaded, Eddie Rosario narrowly beat out a potential double-play ball to give the Twins (9-26) a 3-1 lead. In the seventh, Eduardo Nunez added an RBI-sacrifice fly to right field, making it 4-1.

Kluber (2-5, 4.30 ERA) threw 6 2/3 innings, allowed four earned runs on seven hits and three walks and struck out seven. It was another instance in which a slim lead or tied score was lost while getting little run support.

“Some days, if we could score some runs, that mistake doesn’t matter,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “We talk about it all the time, being in a situation where if you make a mistake, it doesn’t cost you a game. It just seems like he pitches in a lot of those games.”

The Indians made it interesting in the eighth but fell short. Following walks by Tyler Naquin and Jason Kipnis, Francisco Lindor blooped a single to left-center to cut the Twins’ lead to 4-2. Twins reliever Ryan Pressly, though, ended the Indians’ threat by striking out Napoli.

It was a rare scoring threat after the Indians struggled to handle Santana.

“[Santana] changed speeds, he had a good change-up, which he always does, got us to hit into some double plays early,” Francona said. “We never really got a ton going. We had a chance with Nap, he actually took some really swings under some really bad situations, but we didn’t have a ton of chances.”
In the ninth, the Twins tacked on two more runs on Danny Santana’s RBI-single off of relief pitcher Kyle Crockett and Miguel Sano’s RBI-single off Dan Otero.

Yan Gomes added a solo home run in the ninth off of Twins reliever Kevin Jepsen, the second day in a row he homered.

It was just the sixth loss in 20 games in which the Indians have scored first this season. The Indians are also now 7-10 against sub-.500 teams.

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Indians OF Michael Brantley’s return to the DL a troublesome sign

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 14, 2016
Brantley

Following offseason shoulder surgery, Michael Brantley starting the season on the disabled list was a primary concern for the Indians, but one that could be handled if he returned as his usual, Silver Slugger-level self in left field.

That doesn’t appear to be the case. Brantley’s surgically-repaired shoulder hasn’t responded like he and the club had hoped after playing in 11 games this season with off days sprinkled within them. And now, the thing the Indians could least afford in this situation looks to be coming to fruition, as Brantley on Saturday was placed back on the 15-day disabled list with right shoulder inflammation.

Getting by without Brantley, a key piece in the middle of the Indians’ lineup, for the first month of the season had already given a hint of doubt to the Indians’ 2016 chances within a competitive American League Central division. He’ll now be sidelined into late May. June is approaching, and the biggest question mark surrounding the Indians has only gotten bigger.

Brantley received an MRI during Friday night’s game, which didn’t reveal anything new, according to Indians manager Terry Francona. But Brantley has felt soreness and fatigue in that shoulder, forcing him to sit the final two games in Houston. He’ll meet with Dr. Craig Morgan, who originally performed the surgery, on Tuesday. Since he was going to be down until then anyway, and the Indians can back-date his DL stint to May 10, the team wanted to be cautious.

“It just seemed like not a fun call, but an easy one,” Francona said. “We need to look at the big picture and take care of him. I think he understood and I think this makes sense. Hopefully, he’ll go there and this is the guy that’s been in that shoulder and we can figure out how to best get him back.”

Brantley played in two Cactus League games in spring training and then had to be shut down. Then he played 11 regular season games and is being shut down for a second time.

Through the lens of the Indians’ 2016 chances, the bigger question isn’t how the club handles Brantley’s absence through the next week and a half—Michael Martinez was recalled as utility depth and Roberto Perez was moved to the 60-day disable list to facilitate the moves. It’s more-so how the shoulder holds up into June, July and the latter parts of the season.

“I hope not,” Francona said when asked if he thought this might be a recurring issue all year long. “For his sake, for everybody’s sake, I hope not. I think it’s something he’ll have to manage. He had surgery. But even last week, he really felt like the he was coming and getting better. I think he was really pleased. It’s a small joint and if you get inflammation or something, then that makes you feel weak.”

A major question now becomes if the Indians rushed Brantley back too soon. Twice now, Brantley has felt good and passed all of his milestones quicker than expected. But, twice, he eventually felt enough soreness to force his departure from the lineup.

The Indians felt good about his return and that he was ready. The response to extended work, though, hasn’t been what they had hoped or expected.

“We don’t have a crystal ball. … There wasn’t a reason to hold him back,” Francona said. “If we operated under those scenarios, we may never play a game. I think you try to make the best decisions you can.”

One of the Indians’ biggest question marks this season continues to be the result of a shoulder surgery from last November. It remains unanswered.

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Indians 7, Twins 6: Ryan Lewis’ 23 Walk-Off Thoughts on Marlon Byrd, Zach McAllister, Yan Gomes

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 14, 2016

Here are 23 Walk-Off Thoughts after the Indians’ 7-6 win against the Minnesota Twins Friday night.

1. Marlon Byrd came up with his biggest hit this season, the type of hit teams hope to get out of a veteran signing like that. Trailing 5-4 in the bottom of the eighth, Byrd drove a double over Twins CF Danny Santana’s head to score two runs and give the Indians the lead.

2. It was a quality win to follow up a tough loss in the 16-inning marathon on Wednesday in Houston.

3. Byrd was looking for a mistake from Twins reliever Trevor May and got it.

4. Said Byrd, “In that situation, I'm looking for him to hopefully make a mistake. You're talking about a 96-mph fastball. You're talking about the changeup he threw me threw me the second pitch, which I thought he was going to wait until about two strikes. His breaking ball, which he usually buries. He throws it, it looks like a strike and ends up being a ball. I think maybe that's the only one he wanted back—the breaking ball that he left up.”

5. Byrd has been in this role before as a fourth/platoon outfielder, not playing every day but still expected to produce. Indians manager Terry Francona sees Byrd as a player the Indians don’t have to have in the lineup every day in order to get him going. He hasn’t torn the cover off the ball, but he has given the Indians enough to stabilize right field.

6. Said Francona, “He’s a smart hitter. You don’t last as long as he has just by being strong or athletic. He’s kept his body in real good shape and he’s a smart hitter and he’s gotten some big hits. I do think without playing him every day, I think we can play him enough where he can get his legs under him and get his timing and do some damage and help us win games.”

7. Byrd also came away with the game-tying sacrifice fly in the sixth that made it 4-4, setting up the back-and-forth eighth inning. He was just trying to keep it simple, which has sort of become his mantra at this stage of his career.

8. Said Byrd, “The whole goal was to get the ball in the outfield, try to get the run in and tie the game. Not try to do too much. Any time I try to do more, I'm an out. So, I try to simplify it.”

More: Indians place OF Lonnie Chisenhall on bereavement list; Tyler Naquin recalled; Michael Brantley update

9. Juan Uribe added an RBI-single to right field to make it 7-5, which proved to be a huge run, as the Twins scored once off of Cody Allen and just about broke the game open again in the ninth. Allen had to strike out Byung Ho Park, who homered twice off of Josh Tomlin, to end the game.

10. Said Francona, “That was one of those games where you’re not real comfortable until you see the very, very last out. Because both teams were going back and forth. Yeah, he put up some really good swings. But so did Plouffe and a couple other guys, too. The add-on run ended up being huge. We talk about it all the time, just keep playing because you don’t know what’s enough. And we did just enough.”

11. Byrd and Uribe, two veteran signings on one-year deals—the Indians certainly got their money’s worth Friday night.

12. For a guy who owns a 2.08 ERA and has hovered around a strikeout-an-inning all season, Zach McAllister has certainly gotten his fair share of criticism. Allen is the closer. Bryan Shaw is the lead set-up man. McAllister and Jeff Manship are next, along now with Tommy Hunter.

13. Manship has, for the most part, looked like Bob Gibson circa 1968 since he switched sides of the rubber. McAllister has remained pretty solid for the most part as well. On Friday night, he bailed Shaw out. McAllister entered a 5-4 game with the bases loaded and one out, and struck out both hitters he faced to keep it a one-run game. If the Twins come through there, the rally in the bottom of the eighth probably doesn’t matter.

14. Said McAllister, “Anyone who is a competitor wants to be in those situations. It's fun to be able to get the ball. Tito had the confidence in me to get guys out in those situations. It's definitely a good thing. … It was awesome. Sitting down there and seeing that -- Shaw has done that for me a couple times already where he's picked me up and gotten me out of a few jams. For us to be able to come out and score, it's an awesome feeling.”

15. Yan Gomes has really, really struggled at the plate thus far this season. He entered Friday night hitting .158. With Michael Brantley’s shoulder again acting up, Gomes’ production in the lineup is paramount.

16. It reached the point that after Gomes hit his two-run home run Friday night, his fourth of the season, it was like something had been lifted off his chest.

17. Said Gomes, ““I guess if you see the replay, as soon as I hit it, I kind of, you know—I’ve never done it before—but I kind of did a little [exhale]. Shoo, man. About time, going around those bases. But the last couple of series, it’s been tough on the offensive side, just trying to help anything with the team. When that kind of thing happens, you definitely want to, in a way, try harder. Trying to take every at bat for what it is, especially when you do something good, get some runs on the board definitely boosts your confidence a little bit.”

18. Francona added, “Good for him. He’s been working so hard. It’s just nice to see him have something to show for it. It obviously helps us, but good for him. He’s going to hit. He knows it, we know it. It’s still good for him.”

19. Gomes is a former Silver Slugger catcher hitting sixth or seventh in a lineup that needs to be balanced 1-through-9 to produce. Jose Ramirez hitting around .300 has helped quite a bit. Gomes’ production is the next step.

20. Also, on Josh Tomlin, Gomes again used the term “bulldog” to describe him. It’s not the worst term for a guy who gives up three home runs in three innings and then only allows one other hit.



21. Said Gomes on Tomlin, who still has a 12-0 record after losses dating back to last season, “That’s what he—he’s going to give up a homer here and there, but he has a knack of not giving in. As rough as his first couple innings could have been, he could have counted him out real quick, you know? But next thing you know, he’s going into the seventh and we were either one run down or almost a tie ballgame. But that’s what he does. The guy is a bulldog. He’s not going to give in. When that kind of thing happens, you just try to get him back to what he does best. That’s go right after hitters and try to not nit-pick anything, make hitters uncomfortable, and just make his pitches. I feel like he was trying to push himself a little too much through than what he usually does.”

22. Tomlin’s first home run was to Miguel Sano, who absolutely crushed a 450-foot bomb halfway up the bleacher seats in left field. Tito joked, “[I’ll] pick it up on the way home.”

23. Francisco Lindor made his nightly highlight-reel play, this one a bare-handed grab to rob Santana of a hit in the fourth inning. It’s fairly new to his repertoire. And of all the great plays Lindor has made this season, it was the most Omarish.

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Marlon Byrd leads eighth-inning rally in 7-6 win against Minnesota Twins

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 13, 2016

Indians pitchers had trouble keeping the ball in the park, but Marlon Byrd and the offense rallied in the bottom of the eighth for a 7-6 come-from-behind win Friday night.

All of the Twins’ five runs came via four home runs. In the eighth, the Twins jumped ahead and the Indians answered.

In the top of the eighth, Twins shortstop Eduardo Nunez delivered a go-ahead, solo home run off of Bryan Shaw to put the Twins up 5-4. Shaw then ran into trouble, loading the bases with one out. Zach McAllister entered and struck out both batters he faced to keep it a one-run game heading to the bottom of the eighth.

There, Francisco Lindor singled and Jose Ramirez walked to put two runners on with one out against Trevor May. Marlon Byrd came through with the game’s key hit, a double to deep center field that scored both runners and put the Indians on top 6-5. Twins center fielder Danny Santana was just a few feet from hauling it in, forcing Lindor to hold at second base. Lindor and Ramirez effectively rounded third together, scoring the tying and go-ahead runs.

With Tyler Naquin pinch-running, Juan Uribe extended the Indians’ lead to 7-5 with an RBI-single to right field.

Cody Allen wasn’t perfect in the ninth but did enough to record his ninth save of the season. Santana doubled, advanced to third on an error by Naquin and eventually scored on a Nunez single with one out, making it 7-6. Nunez then stole second with one out, putting the tying run in scoring position. Allen shut the door, though, striking out Sano, walking Trevor Plouffe and then struck out Byung Ho Park to end the game.

The early innings were somewhat of a home run derby as neither starting pitcher could keep it in the ballpark.

The Twins got to Josh Tomlin in the first inning, as Miguel Sano blasted a 450-foot solo home run to the bleacher seats in left field for an early 1-0 lead. In the top of the second, Park added a solo home run of his own.

Yan Gomes, who has been struggling at the plate as of late, tied it with one swing in the bottom of the second, drilling a two-run home run off of Twins starter Ricky Nolasco. That home run snapped an 0-for-20 skid for Gomes.

But, the derby wasn’t complete. Park, continuing his torrid pace against Tomlin this season, put the Twins back on top with a two-run home run in the top of the third inning. In the bottom of the third, the Indians got one of those two runs back on Jason Kipnis’ solo home run to dead center field, making it 4-3.

In the sixth, Byrd tied it 4-4 with a sacrifice fly to right field that nearly fell for what would have been another key double. That set the stage for the back-and-forth eighth inning.

Tomlin threw 6 1/3 innings, allowed four runs, three earned on four hits and struck out four. Only one hit allowed by Tomlin didn’t leave the ballpark.

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Indians’ Lonnie Chisenhall placed on bereavement list, Tyler Naquin recalled; Michael Brantley resti

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 13, 2016

Indians outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall was placed on the bereavement list on Friday and outfielder Tyler Naquin was recalled from Triple-A Columbus.

According to Indians manager Terry Francona, there was a death in Chisenhall’s immediate family that he is attending to. Chisenhall is eligible to remain on the bereavement list for three-to-seven days. He could return Sunday.

“You try to balance certainly being supportive, but also being respectful,” Francona said. “The plan is he’ll be back Sunday afternoon, but we also told him to do what you need to do.”

Naquin was optioned to Triple-A Columbus on May 7. In his first 22-game stint with the Indians, he hit .315 with two doubles, two triples and two RBI.

In addition to Chisenhall’s absence, the Indians are in need of an extra outfielder for a few days, as Michael Brantley remained out of the starting lineup on Friday as he continues to rest his surgically repaired shoulder. Brantley didn’t play Tuesday or Wednesday in Houston, either, as his shoulder hasn’t responded to extended playing time as hoped. The Indians hope to have more clarity on Brantley’s situation by Saturday afternoon.

“I think we will certainly do whatever the medical staff tells us we should do,” Francona said. “I think the DL is probably a bit premature. But like I said, we’ll do whatever we’re supposed to. He’s doing pretty good. I think we just want to make sure he can continue to play when he does and not have to have setbacks. That’s not fair to him.”

Starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco threw his first side session on Friday after straining his left hamstring on April 24 in Detroit, sidelining him for an expected four-to-six weeks. He’ll throw another side session on Monday and then, possibly, a simulated game next week.

“The fact that he’s doing that is good, actually great,” Francona said. “He’s doing really well with all his stuff. We’ll just kind of listen to him and the medical people, but he’s doing very well.” Probably 80-percent running, which I think is really well for the time period.”

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Indians fall to Houston Astros 5-3 in 16 innings

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 11, 2016

It took more than five hours, but the Indians eventually fell to the Houston Astros 5-3 in 16 innings on Wednesday.

Cody Anderson (0-3, 7.31 ERA) pitched well in relief—he was the 10th pitcher the Indians called upon—until allowing a Marwin Gonzalez walk-off two-run home run to win it and end the marathon game. Anderson threw the final 3 1/3 innings after all eight relief pitchers entered the game.

Danny Salazar threw five wildly effective innings, striking out 10 but also walking six. He struck out the side in the first inning after two walks and a single loaded the bases with nobody out.

The Indians led 2-1 when Salazar’s day ended, but the Astros rallied against Tommy Hunter in the sixth and Zach McAllister in the seventh, chipping away and taking a 3-2 lead.

Carlos Santana tied it 3-3 in the ninth with an RBI-triple with one out, though the Indians failed to add on.

Jason Kipnis had a five-hit day and Mike Napoli belted his team-leading seventh home run of the season in the fourth inning off of Astros starter Doug Fister.

The Indians fall to 16-15 this season, but do catch a break with an off-day on Thursday to help the bullpen from being over-taxed.

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Trevor Bauer leads Indians to 4-0 victory against Houston Astros

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 10, 2016

Last April, Trevor Bauer threw six no-hit innings against the Houston Astros to start his 2015 season. On Tuesday night, Bauer wasn’t too far off that pace in a 4-0 road win in Houston to even up the series.

Bauer turned in another strong outing, allowing just three hits in seven shutout innings while striking out seven. He’s now 3-0 this season with a 3.86 ERA and has steadily turned in better performances as the season has continued.

Offensively, the Indians scored twice in the second and added two more in the eighth. In the second, Juan Uribe brought home Mike Napoli on a fielder’s choice and Lonnie Chisenhall then doubled home Carlos Santana, who walked. In the eighth, Jason Kipnis tripled and scored on a single up the middle off the bat of Francisco Lindor. Napoli then doubled to left field to score Lindor.

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Indians ace Corey Kluber hit hard in 7-1 loss to Houston Astros

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 9, 2016

Following three consecutive strong starts, Indians ace Corey Kluber was hit hard in a 7-1 loss to the Houston Astros Monday night.

Kluber started strong, striking out the side in the bottom of the first. Then came a five-run third inning that included three singles, back-to-back doubles and two walks.

Kluber fell to 2-4 this season and his ERA rose to 4.14.

Offensively, the Indians struggled with Astros starter Mike Fiers (3-1, 4.65 ERA), who threw seven innings, allowed one run on three hits and struck out four.

Note: Due to not being able to travel to Houston, Walk-Off Thoughts will return this weekend.

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Indians 5, Royals 4: Ryan Lewis’ 14 Walk-Off Thoughts on Bryan Shaw, Josh Tomlin, more

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 8, 2016

Here are 14 Walk-Off Thoughts after the Indians’ 5-4 win against the Kansas City Royals on Mother’s Day.

1. The Indians weren’t sure if Bryan Shaw would be available out of the bullpen on Sunday, as he had a stiff neck on Saturday. All he did was record five of the most important outs of the game. Shaw induced a 4-6-3 double play to end the seventh and hold a one-run lead and then ended the eighth with a strike-em-out-throw-em-out. It was a key stretch as the Royals came close to tying or re-taking the lead late in the game.

2. Earlier this season, Shaw seemed lost after being roughed up twice as he searched for his command. He’s been the shut-down set-up man the Indians need since that time. Since those rough outings, Shaw has a 0.96 ERA in his last 9 1/3 innings pitched.

3. Cody Allen will get a lot of the attention as the closer. But in this era of valuing high-leverage situations and not just saves, Shaw might be just as crucial to the Indians’ success.

4. Indians manager Terry Francona said again on Sunday that he thinks Shaw looks better than he ever has—“stronger” than ever was used earlier this month. Yan Gomes talked about never losing faith in Shaw late in games.

5. Said Gomes, “I said it before, when that kind of situation comes in, whether he had his miscues early in the year, we're going to need him in the end. Especially against a team like this, shutting down any kind of momentum they can get is huge. … He definitely has a little bit of a chip on his shoulder right now, knowing that he needs to start doing what he's supposed to do. It's really good to see his velocity is up. It gives everybody pretty good confidence when he comes in.”

More: Lonnie Chisenhall gets first start in center field

6. The play just before Shaw entered, though, might have been the single most important on Sunday. In a one-run game with two runners in scoring position and nobody out, Jarrod Dyson grounded a ball to Francisco Lindor. Linder collected it, turned to home and went for the big out, delivering a perfect throw. That led to the Indians having one out with runners on the corners, and Shaw’s induced double play got out of the inning without any further damage.

7. That decision and play turned what easily could have been a big inning for the Royals into a bullet dodged.

8. Said Francona, “We were hoping for a lot. You’ve got second and third, nobody out. Frankie made a real nice play not rushing, not leading it speed up. We went from a real bad situation to at least manageable. … That was the one where I was saying it didn’t speed up on Frankie, he made a nice play. Because if he tries to do too much and we don’t get him, we’re tied and there are runners all over the place. That brought the inning back to being manageable.”

9. The bullpen is really rounding into form. Allen, Shaw, Zach McAllister, Jeff Manship, Tommy Hunter make a strong 1-through-5. Then there’s Joba Chamberlain, who’s been great this season (Francona noted he’s been using his fastball more), Dan Otero and Kyle Crockett. It’s been an asset lately.”

10. Josh Tomlin, with the win, improved to 5-0 this season with a 3.72 ERA. He’s been rock solid. He’s also now 12-0 dating back to the beginning of 2015 following a loss.

11. Said Tomlin, "It means I'm just doing my job. It means I'm going out there and giving them a chance to win, not always the best statistical-wise maybe, but it's a chance to win and that's what a starting pitcher’s job is, so it feels good to be able to help those guys stay in a game long enough to where they have a chance maybe later in the game to bust it open or just have the lead for the bullpen comes in and those guys have been pretty good, so when they come in we feel pretty good about our chances.”

12. Sunday’s win ended the Indians’ home stand at 5-1, all within the division. It was a positive week after the Indians dropped a couple of games in walk-off fashion in Minnesota and then were swept in Philadelphia. It was a crucial stretch, albeit early in the season.

13. Said Francona, “That was good. We needed to. Sometimes it’s easier said than done. We played pretty good baseball, we just didn’t get a key hit or things you get on the road or in an extra inning game, and those things happen. It was really important or us to jump right back and we did a really good job.”

14. If you haven’t yet, and you’re lucky enough to still have her around, call your mother.

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Indians top Kansas City Royals 5-4 to take Mother’s Day game, weekend series

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 8, 2016

The Indians led after their first batter of the day, eventually fell behind and then re-took the lead and held it in a 5-4 Mother’s Day victory against the Kansas City Royals.

Carlos Santana, hitting leadoff on Sunday, belted a solo home run to right field off Royals starter Edison Volquez, giving the Indians a near-immediate 1-0 lead. The Royals, as they are so prone to doing, came back against Indians starting pitcher Josh Tomlin.

Tomlin (5-0, 3.72 ERA) cruised until the fourth inning, when Lorenzo Cain doubled and Eric Hosmer crushed a two-run home run to center field, giving the Royals a sudden 2-1 lead that was extended to 3-1 when Salvador Perez later doubled home Alex Gordon.

The Indians’ offense came back in the fifth, and a couple of nice defensive plays later on aided the Indians’ bullpen to hold the retaken lead.

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Indians’ Lonnie Chisenhall gets first start in center field; Roberto Perez wanting to go day-by-day

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 8, 2016
Chisenhall

Former third basemen Lonnie Chisenhall already added right field to his defensive repertoire last season in an effort to add to his versatility and remain in the lineup.

He can now add center field as well. On Sunday, Chisenhall will receive his first career start there, an indicator that he’ll now receive significant time there along with Rajai Davis.

“Everybody knew he was going to be out there,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “He’s a good outfielder. Repetition is the one thing he needs. Not sure in May how else to give it to him except to play him. You know what, if he doesn’t make a play you can put it on me. But I think he’s going be just fine.”

Chisenhall received some time in center field in Triple-A Columbus and would have in spring training had he not gotten hurt. He then made his major-league center field debut for one inning on Saturday, making one catch. Chisenhall had an outstanding debut in right field last year, registering 11 defensive runs saved according to FanGraphs, albeit in a small sample size.

It’s almost as if Chisenhall feels more at home.

“I don’t know if distaste is the right word for third base or discomfort, but he’s much more comfortable in the outfield and I think center field, you even watch [Saturday], in a game where we’re getting beat up and you watched him go out there and he had a little energy and he enjoyed the heck out of it. I think his reactions are so good that seeing the ball like you can in center field, he’ll be very good.”

Francona believes Chisenhall’s ability to track the ball, along with a good first step, will play well in right and center.

“If you’re good enough, yes,” Francona said when asked if it’s easier to track the ball in center. “I don’t know, there were a couple of times in my career where I could see the ball, but I felt naked and that’s not a good feeling. His reactions are so good and he’s got a good nose for the ball, so yeah, I do agree.”

Sign my cast

Roberto Perez was back in the clubhouse on Sunday after undergoing surgery on his right thumb on Friday. He’s expected to miss two-to-three months.

The Indians waited a few days to make a determination on whether Perez needed surgery and ultimately decided it was the correct course of action. The surgery could keep Perez sidelined for a longer period of time initially, but he won’t have to worry about his thumb as much once he returns.

“When I found out I needed surgery, I was very disappointed,” Perez said. “But … everything went well. I’m just happy [to have it done]. I’m going to take it day-by-day and hopefully be back soon.”

Perez will wear a cast for roughly two weeks and then a splint for another two weeks. While he wants to return closer to the two-month mark than then three-month mark, the goal is for Perez to return and not have any issues with his right thumb.

“I want to be back as soon as possible, but I want to be back ready to go,” Perez said. “I don’t want to be having setbacks and miss some time. I’m going to take it day-by-day, see what the rehab looks like. Try to build up every day.”

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Royals 7, Indians 0: Ryan Lewis’ 16 Walk-Off Thoughts on Cody Anderson and familiar issues

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 7, 2016

Here are 16 Walk-Off Thoughts after the Indians’ 7-0 loss to the Kansas City Royals.

1. It appears as though Cody Anderson’s home run issues haven’t yet been resolved, though Saturday’s three-run home run by Kendrys Morales was the result of a different problem.

2. Anderson has been closing off his delivery, which has led to him not being able to drive the ball down in the zone like he’s used to, which has led to seven home runs allowed in five starts. The Indians are still working with him on this.

3. Said pitching coach Mickey Callaway about his home run problems, “Height. It’s all thigh-high. We’re really working on getting that depth back and angling the ball down and keeping the ball down for the most part. Really the height of his pitches is what’s gotten him so far.”

4. On Saturday, Morales hit an absolute bomb off of Anderson in the first inning. It traveled an estimated 432-feet and actually cleared the seats in right field and landed in the concourse.

5. Anderson was ahead in the count 0-2 and tried to throw a cutter in and off the plate. Except, it didn’t cut off the plate. It cut right into Morales’ sweet spot, which happens to be low-and-inside.

6. “I was just trying to go in, in off the plate, with a cutter,” Anderson said. “And he got to it before it cut.”

More: Indians option CF Tyler Naquin to Triple-A Columbus to make room for SP Cody Anderson

7. This one wasn’t an elevation issue. It was just a pitch that, in an 0-2 count, needed to break off the plate and didn’t.

8. Anderson later experienced cramping in his left leg and was taken out after five innings. Anderson sweats enough that he changes jerseys mid-game. Normally, it’s not an issue. Indians manager Terry Francona said they’ll just keep an eye on it next time around.

9. Said Anderson, “It's just I sweat a lot. I go through a couple of jerseys a game. As the weather changes I guess, I need to drink more water.”

More: Francisco Lindor, still a 'pup,' impressing with adjustments

10. Francona and Callaway each said they saw improvement in Anderson’s mechanics, a result of Anderson being able to go down to Triple-A for a start and work on things. The results haven’t come around yet, but they liked certain indicators. Right now, it’s a work in progress for Anderson to get back to his 2015 levels.

11. Said Callaway, “Yeah, I thought it was better. Obviously, 0-2 cutter, trying to go in deep on the lefty early in the game and we didn’t execute. So, down 3-0 really quick. I thought he battled the rest of the game and did a pretty good job. Overall, we’re encouraged by what we saw. And [it is a] good learning lesson for him. Trying to throw a cutter in, his third best to a pretty good hitter that hits it everywhere. Utilize your 96-97 and you’re going to go off the plate-in and go from there. But he did a pretty good job with the adjustments in-between and looks pretty decent.”

12. Callaway wants Anderson to focus on the positive aspects, in that he allowed just one run over the next four innings. Said Callaway, “That’s what we’ll talk about. Sometimes it’s easy to start spinning out there, especially when things aren’t quiet going your way. You can get caught up in, ‘Oh no, things went bad again.’ We’re going to make sure we stress the good parts and the good adjustments he made and go from there.”

13. Here’s Anderson on his outing: “I was starting to get some of that weaker contact and some of those different swings, which is huge. I was getting some ground balls. Predominantly, they were hitting the ball on the ground, so that's something to build off and keep moving forward. Obviously, I don't ever want to go out there and put my team in a hole, especially against a pitcher like Kennedy. That's just not how you win ballgames. I'll take that loss.”

14. The Indians liked what Anderson gave them last season and loved what he did in the offseason, going through the conditioning program and increasing his velocity. For now, though, they’re still working through some issues.

15. The Indians had a luxury in Trevor Bauer being essentially a No. 6 starter in the event of an injury, such as Carlos Carrasco’s strained hamstring. Until he returns, the Indians need consistent outings from Anderson and Bauer to go with Corey Kluber, Danny Salazar and Josh Tomlin.

16. The Indians optioned Tyler Naquin down to Triple-A to make room for Anderson on the roster. The question then becomes how the Indians handle center field duties after Rajai Davis. In the ninth inning of Saturday’s 7-0 loss, Lonnie Chisenhall was put in center field. He received some work in center field in Triple-A and could be the go-to reserve there.

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Indians’ momentum halted in 7-0 loss to Kansas City Royals

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 7, 2016

Indians manager Terry Francona has often talked about how momentum in baseball is only up to the next day’s opposing pitcher. After four consecutive divisional wins, the Indians’ momentum hit a wall in the form of Ian Kennedy in a quiet 7-0 loss to the Kansas City Royals on Saturday.

The Indians spent most of the day unable to get anything going. When scoring threats were built in the first and sixth innings, Kennedy got out of both, getting Carlos Santana to end the threat each time with a fly out and a ground out. In the first, two singles put runners on the corners and in the sixth, a single and two walks loaded the bases. The needed hit, though, never came.

In-between the first- and sixth-inning chances, Kennedy (4-2, 2.13 ERA) at one point retired 14 straight batters.

“He really pitched,” Francona said of Kennedy. “I mean he threw a lot of strikes. Didn’t throw the ball in the middle of the plate very much and he changed speeds. … We didn’t have a ton of chances. He just really pitched well.”

For the Indians, it appears as though Cody Anderson’s start at Triple-A Columbus wasn’t enough to fix his home run issues just yet. Anderson was optioned down to Triple-A after allowing six home runs in his first four starts this season. It followed him to Cleveland.

In the first inning, Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer each singled. Anderson then left an 0-2 cutter over the plate to Kendrys Morales that was crushed to right field. The three-run home run traveled an estimated 432-feet and cleared the seating in right field, landing on the concourse. It was supposed to cut off the plate but never did.

“I was just trying to go in, in off the plate, with a cutter,” Anderson said. “And he got to it before it cut.”

Anderson (0-2, 7.56 ERA) threw five innings, gave up four runs on six hits, walked one and struck out two. He was eventually taken out in part because his left leg began cramping. Anderson often goes through multiple jerseys each game and began to experience hydration issues.

“It's just I sweat a lot,” Anderson said. “I go through a couple of jerseys a game. As the weather changes I guess, I need to drink more water.”

The Royals added on in the eighth against Jeff Manship. Two singles led to a ground-rule double by Eric Hosmer to bring home a run. Morales brought home a second run on a hard-hit single off the glove of Santana, making it 6-0. Dan Otero entered and after two strikeouts allowed a single to Chelsor Curthbert, bringing home a third run in the inning. Those runs were the first Manship had allowed since Aug. 22 of last season, spanning 23 2/3 innings.

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Indians option OF Tyler Naquin to Triple-A Columbus to make room for SP Cody Anderson

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 7, 2016
Naquin

The Indians knew starting pitcher Cody Anderson would be recalled from Triple-A to make Saturday’s start against the Kansas City Royals. The question was, what’s the corresponding move to make room on the active 25-man roster?

It turns out the Indians felt they had one too many outfielders in the mix to send down or designate a relief pitcher for assignment, as Tyler Naquin was optioned to Triple-A Columbus.

Naquin has played well for the most part since earning a job in spring training, hitting .315 with two doubles, two triples and two RBI. But, he also had all three minor league options remaining, and the club didn’t want to lose a reliever in the bullpen.

“When we sent Cody back to the minor leagues, we had that extra roster spot,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “We kind of knew that we probably had an outfielder too much. When you look at making the lineups and everything, I was having a tough time getting a little bit of a rotation going where I felt comfortable. … Because he has options left, it seems like the [logical move].”

Naquin impressed in his first taste of the major leagues. Francona, who added he was impressed with Naquin’s maturity in learning the news, did cite that he still has work to do with his first steps and routes to fly balls while in center field. That will be the key aspect Naquin works on until being called back up to Cleveland.

“We’re just trying to make sure his first step, first-step quickness, was going in the right direction, not popping straight up and maybe hesitating and going back,” Francona said. “And, just his routes to the ball. But, that’s with most players. I mean, he’s missed a lot of development because he’s been hurt.”

Rajai Davis, hitting .257 with seven stolen bases, now essentially becomes the everyday center fielder. The Indians also have Michael Brantley, Marlon Byrd, Lonnie Chisenhall and Jose Ramirez as outfield options.

The main question after Naquin’s demotion is how the Indians handle center field duties after Ramirez. Chisenhall took some reps in center field while in Triple-A and was going to do so in spring training before he got hurt. Ramirez is also a possibility.

“I'll work through that a little bit,” Francona said. “I don't know quite how I feel about that yet. I think you'll probably see Lonnie out there, just because I think looking at his skill-set, there's no reason he shouldn't be a good center fielder. And then that allows us to play Byrd in right some, so that's good.”

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Indians 7, Royals 1: Ryan Lewis’ 17 Walk-Off Thoughts on Danny Salazar, Jose Ramirez

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 7, 2016

Here are 17 Walk-Off Thoughts on the Indians’ 7-1 win against the Kansas City Royals on Friday night.

1. It might be time to start thinking of Danny Salazar as being on the same tier as Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco. Kluber is the established ace, Carrasco has been thought of as more of a 1-B than a No. 2 starter. Both were among the more popular Cy Young Award picks this season.

2. Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway said in the spring he feels all three can compete for the Cy Young. Salazar is proving he’s right in the mix. And after a strong 2015 season, he’s built on it in the first month of 2016.

3. Salazar’s current line: 3-2, 1.91 ERA, 2.49 FIP, 43 strikeouts in 37 2/3 innings pitched. His current AL ranks, as compiled by MLB.com: .142 batting average against (1st), 1.2 fWAR (T-2nd), 2.49 FIP (2nd), 43 strikeouts (4th), 1.91 ERA (5th).

4. He was dominant Friday night, facing the minimum into the fifth inning (with help via a pick-off of Lorenzo Cain in the first inning). Last season, he broke out as a high-potential starter with electric stuff that gave the Indians one of the better rotations in baseball. This season, he’s establishing his place among the top pitchers in the AL. Slowly, sample size is becoming less of an issue.

5. Friday night, everything clicked. Said Salazar, “I’m happy to finally get all my stuff together. I think everything was working today. I was getting ahead in the count with the first pitch and if not, was coming right back with the next pitch for a strike.”

6. Indians manager Terry Francona called it his best start of the year. Said Francona, “I thought tonight it was better. That was his best start. He had good stuff from start to finish and he had all of his pitches. He was really letting it go, reached back for more when he needed it. That was an impressive start.”

More: Indians closer Cody Allen not tied to save situations; Cody Anderson returning; Roberto Perez out 2-to-3 months after right thumb surgery

7. Salazar’s lone below-average start this season was April 25 against Minnesota, which included a fifth inning that he just couldn’t escape, and it snowballed. A close pick-off play was followed by two foul balls that were nearly caught with two outs. Eventually, though, a Brian Dozier double brought home two runs. Other than that start, Salazar has been terrific.

8. Callaway had an interesting message to Salazar this spring. After a start in which he struggled to get to his pitch count and innings target in a Cactus League game, Callaway basically gave him the message of, “You’re at a higher level now, this can’t happen anymore.” The starts of only being able to get through three or four innings needed to be a thing of the past. The top-level, ace-level starters, even on days when they don’t possess their best stuff, often find a way to fight to the fifth or sixth inning, at least.

9. Salazar’s continued—and now improved—success seems to indicate he’s there.

10. In terms of Friday night, part of it was also knowing a divisional opponent well. The Royals are an aggressive hitting team. Salazar and Yan Gomes were on the same page.

11. Said Salazar, “You have to be smart when you go out there. You have to be real aggressive. You have to mix all your pitches when you face them. Yan and I were on the same page today. We talked about it during the bullpen and when we were walking to the dugout. I told him I want to follow him and I think it worked. He called a great game. That was awesome. That was huge today.”



12. Offensively, the night belonged to Jose Ramirez, who had five two-out RBI. Francona was bullish about wanting to get Ramirez in the lineup whenever possible, but with Juan Uribe at third base and Michael Brantley entrenched in left field, on paper it didn’t seem to be the easiest thing in the world once Brantley returned.

13. Ramirez is certainly forcing Francona’s hand, or at least validating all that confidence the manager has exuded in him. He’s now hitting .324 this season with 12 RBI while being able to switch-hit and move around the field defensively. Friday night, he started at third base. And somewhat quietly, he’s been one of the more valuable players on the team.

14. Said Ramirez on his inclusion into the lineup so often, via Salazar as an interpreter, “I'm really thankful to Tito for believing in me, and giving me the opportunity. I'm taking advantage of that. Every time I get the opportunity to go out there, I'm just trying to do my job.”

15. Said Francona, “He's done a pretty good job. It's worked out kind of how we mapped it out. You want to find places for him to play so he can help you win. He's done a really good job of staying ready and he's worked hard on his right-handed swing, where that's not an issue ever. You can turn him around and it's OK. He can play everywhere.”

16. Ramirez has always played with a lot of confidence. He has a reason to right now.

17. This was the fourth straight win, all within the division. The same thing that’s kept the Indians down the last years, so far, has been the thing propping them this season.

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Indians keep rolling, cruise past Kansas City Royals 7-1

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 6, 2016

Different divisional opponent, same torrid pace to this home stand. On Friday night, the Indians gave the visiting Kansas City Royals a rough welcoming with a 7-1 win a day after completing a three-game sweep of the Detroit Tigers.

Indians starting pitcher Danny Salazar had little trouble with a struggling Royals offense, pitching 7 2/3 shutout innings that included four hits allowed, one walk and nine strikeouts.

The Royals (14-14) had only one hit through the first five innings, as Salazar (3-2, 1.91 ERA) faced one batter over the minimum in that stretch. That lone hit was by Lorenzo Cain, who reached first via an infield single and was then picked off.

Defensively, Francisco Lindor showed up with his nightly highlight-reel play. Salvador Perez grounded a ball back up the middle in the second inning. Lindor took a couple of steps to his left, dove, reached the ball, got up and threw Perez out at first. Salazar, with everything working Friday night, needed little help otherwise.

The Indians (14-12) quickly grabbed a lead in the first inning. With the bases loaded, Mike Napoli grounded out to bring home a run and a 1-0 lead. Royals starting pitcher Yordano Ventura (2-2, 4.65) struggled with his command but escaped the inning with just the lone run.

In the third, the Indians broke through with four more. After Francisco Lindor singled and Jason Kipnis walked, Napoli added an RBI-single to put the Indians up 2-0. Later, with two outs and the bases loaded, Jose Ramirez doubled to the gap in left-center field to clear the bases and push the Indians’ lead to 5-0.

Ramirez, starting at third base and hitting ninth Friday night, wasn’t done. With two outs and two on in the fifth, Ramirez sent a double down the left-field line to score Napoli, who singled, and Lonnie Chisenhall, who walked, capping the Indians’ scoring at 7-0.

The five RBI, which all came with two outs, were a career high for Ramirez. He entered the game with seven total this season. Lindor, to go with his defensive highlight, also had three singles, raising his season batting average to .317.

The Royals’ lone run came in the top of the ninth inning against Dan Otero. Eric Hosmer reached on an error by Jason Kipnis and later scored on a single off the bat of Alex Gordon.

Friday’s win, the fourth in a row, propelled the Indians into sole possession of second place in the American League Central behind the Chicago White Sox. The Indians also improved to 12-4 this season when scoring first.

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Indians 9, Tigers 4: Ryan Lewis’ 18 Walk-Off Thoughts on beating the Tigers, Michael Brantley

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 5, 2016

Here are 18 Walk-Off Thoughts from the Indians’ 9-4 win against the Detroit Tigers Thursday night.

1. There were two main takeaways from Thursday’s game. The first is that, it would appear, the Tigers’ reign over the Indians has come to an end.

2. Thursday’s win for the Indians completed the second sweep of the Tigers this season, marking six consecutive wins. It’s the longest such in-season streak since 2008. The Indians have also now won 11 of the last 13 games against Detroit dating back to last season.

3. Several players and members of the Indians have long stated that a game against the Tigers has just been the next game, that there’s no mental block when facing Detroit, that it’s a division game, but nothing beyond that. Even if true, the Tigers have been a central reason the Indians haven’t gotten to where they have wanted to be since Terry Francona took the helm before the 2013 season.

More: Indians open to changing lineup, Carlos Santana's slot when needed

4. Now, it seems, the roles are being reversed. When speaking about the Indians’ recent struggles against the Tigers, Trevor Bauer used the word ‘bludgeoned.’ That might be the best descriptor.

5. Said Bauer, “Yeah, it's huge. I think if you look at the last couple years, our record in the first half of the season against them especially, it feels like every time we play them we get just bludgeoned. Not just beat, but beat bad. So, obviously, any time you get a sweep against anybody, and then a division opponent, and one that has beat us badly the last couple years, that's a big boost. I thought we played very well all week.”



6. The Indians’ confidence certainly seems to be at a recent high. Said Jeff Manship, “It’s huge, especially going into this next series against Kansas City, another tough team. If we keep playing like we have been the last three days, we can definitely sweep them too. This team, once we click on all cylinders, we’re very good. We showed that today, what we can do.”

7. The other takeaway was Michael Brantley’s strong game, his first solid night since returning from offseason shoulder surgery. Brantley went 4-for-5 with a double and three RBI, and it included a key running, lunging grab when it was still a two-run score in the sixth inning.

8. Brantley hasn’t quite reached 100-percent yet with his surgically repaired shoulder, but this was the first night he looked like Michael Brantley circa 2014 or 2015 again.

9. Said Francona, “When he’s himself, that’s why he hits .300 because he uses the entire field. Even when guys make pitches, he still has the ability, like, you saw the one, he hit the two-strike pitch to left field and then you try to come in and he can pull it down the line. That looked a lot like him tonight.”

10. Brantley didn’t expect things to just click on Day 1, saying, “Of course it's going to take some time. I wasn't expecting to come in and play guns blazing or anything like that. They're major league pitchers. They're good. There are going to be some adjustment periods that you're going to have to go through when you don't get the normal reps that I normally do in spring. You can't duplicate major league pitching down in the minor leagues, but you can duplicate reps. It's going to take a little bit of time, but we're stepping in the right direction.”



11. The last thing to come with his swing, he said, was his timing. It was certainly there tonight. Brantley: “Just a lot of timing and stuff and making sure I get to see quality pitches and not chase balls up and out of the zone. Everybody throws hard in this league. Everybody has a good out pitch in this league. It's very important to slow the game down mentally, as I like to say, so you can see better pitches and make sure you swing at quality strikes."

12. Brantley’s sixth-inning catch against Nick Castellanos was also a key play in left field that took a run off the board in a two-run game. Manship thought it was gone off the bat, and Brantley noted he only could catch up to it because of its top-spin.

13. Said Manship, “I honestly thought it was a home run right when he hit it. I don’t know if you can go back and watch the tape, I pretty much put my head down right away. I hung a slider right there. It was unbelievable. Played great all game, offense and defense. It’s definitely a treat having him out there.”

14. Brantley producing like he has the past two seasons and his shoulder holding up has been the No. 1 question surrounding the Indians’ AL Central chances this season. Thursday night was the first truly positive night toward that being a welcomed answer for Indians fans.

15. Mike Napoli also crushed a three-run home run in the first inning, and it was a bomb. Moments prior to it, Francona mentioned something to bench coach Brad Mills in the dugout.

16. “I went to Millsy, I said, ‘Man, this kid looks like he’s going to be tough on right-handers,’ and then, bam,” Francona said. “That was kind of big-boy territory there. He got on that one pretty good.”

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Indians’ offense piles on in 9-4 win to complete second 2016 sweep of Tigers

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 5, 2016

It would appear the Detroit Tigers’ reign over the Indians has come to an end.

The Indians topped the Tigers again Thursday night, this time by a score of 9-4. For the Indians against the Tigers, it completed the second sweep this season, was the sixth straight win and the 11th win out of the last 13 games dating back to last season. It’s the longest in-season streak since 2008.

A night after Indians starter Corey Kluber threw a complete-game shutout, the Indians turned to the bats on Thursday, rocking Tigers starter Michael Fulmer for four runs in the first inning that proved to be all the offense the Indians would need.

After Rajai Davis opened the inning by striking out, the Indians rattled off five straight hits. Jason Kipnis and Francisco Lindor singled, setting up Michael Brantley, who also singled to bring home the game’s first run. Mike Napoli then followed with a towering three-run home run to the bleacher seats in left field, his team-leading fifth home run of the season, to give the Indians an early 4-0 cushion. Carlos Santana added a double, but Fulmer (1-1, 6.30 ERA) finally settled down to get out of the inning.

That was enough for Indians starter Trevor Bauer (2-0, 5.14), who was tagged on one mistake, as the Tigers (14-13) got three of those runs back in the top of the fourth inning. Miguel Cabrera walked, J.D. Martinez singled and Justin Upton beat out a would-be double play to put runners on the corners. Nick Castellanos then cut the Indians’ lead to one run with a three-run home of his own to right field.

In the bottom of the fourth, catcher Chris Gimenez hit a solo home run to dead center in his Indians debut this season after being acquired from the Texas Rangers for cash considerations on Wednesday.

Bauer lasted into the sixth inning until a two-out Upton double ended his night. Jeff Manship entered and was aided by Brantley, who made a running, lunging catch going toward the left-field wall to rob Castellanos of another costly hit and end the inning.

The Indians (13-12) pulled away in the eighth inning against the Tigers’ bullpen. Leading 5-3, Davis drove in two runs with a single up the middle and Brantley added a two-run double down the right-field to make it 9-3 and turn Thursday’s win into a drubbing.

It also capped the most productive night of the season for Brantley since returning from offseason shoulder surgery, as he went 4-for-5 with three RBI and that running catch in the sixth.

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Indians 4, Tigers 0: Ryan Lewis’ 16 Walk-Off Thoughts on Corey Kluber, escaping innings and more

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 4, 2016

Here are 16 Walk-Off Thoughts on the Indians’ 4-0 win against the Detroit Tigers Wednesday night.

1. This game came down to Corey Kluber escaping the big inning and Anibal Sanchez not being able to do the same.

2. Kluber ran into jams in the second and fourth innings. In the second, he momentarily lost the strike zone and loaded the bases with one out. In the fourth, the Tigers put runners on the corners with nobody out. Both times, Kluber induced the ground ball he needed and then the inning-ending strike out to neutralize the threat.

3. Escaping a key inning here or there unscathed has been an issue for Kluber dating back to last season, when his run support has been lacking. Yan Gomes brought that up as well. That wasn’t the case Wednesday night.

4. Said Kluber, “Yeah, early on [this season], I didn't feel like I was really pitching that bad. It came down to having one big inning every game for the most part. Really the key for me was just trying to minimize the big innings. Those are the ones that come back to hurt you. I was trying to get back to going pitch by pitch.”



5. The second inning in particular could have spiraled on him. After a single to Nick Castellanos—who entered this game hitting .368, tops in the league—Kluber walked the next two hitters on four pitches each to load the bases. He found the strike zone at the right time.

6. Said Kluber, “I wish I had an answer or I would've corrected it quicker than that. I totally lost it. Really, none of the pitches were even close. I tried to just step back, take a deep breath and get back to pitch-by-pitch, getting one guy out at a time. The idea is to minimize damage and ideally they don't score, but really just try to keep it from being a big inning at that point.”

More: Indians acquire C Chris Gimenez from Texas Rangers for cash considerations

7. In the bottom half of the fourth, right after Kluber’s Second Act, the Sanchez failed to do the same. Michael Brantley recorded his second RBI hit in as many nights, Mike Napoli doubled over Anthony Gose’s head to make it 2-0, a wild pitch scored a run and Yan Gomes added an RBI-double to the corner in right field.

8. Instead of the Tigers getting out of the inning, the Indians opened up a 4-0 lead. From that point, Kluber allowed only one base runner and notched his second career complete-game shutout. Making that rally count, and erasing the Tigers’ two chances, was the difference.

9. For Indians manager Terry Francona, he used it as a positive sign of things to come with Kluber, and at a needed time with Carlos Carrasco going down for 4-6 weeks.

10. Said Francona, “It’s good for us to win the game. But I also think the way he threw the ball bodes well for moving forward. [Pitching coach Mickey Callaway] said coming out of the bullpen he had his best off-speed [stuff] by far. Good first inning, when he got into the stretch in the second inning he lost the plate for a couple hitters. But he pitched out of it. And then there was a couple where he yanked a couple fastballs. But other than that he was throwing a ton of strikes, he pitched in, he used his breaking ball. It was really fun to watch. And we’ve seen when he gets going and he gets in that rhythm and routine, what he can do every fifth day. So that’s exciting.”

11. At one point, the Tigers hit five consecutive ground balls to Francisco Lindor that were turned into six outs. It included a couple of plays to his right and off-balance throws. The Indians wouldn’t mind if ground balls to the shortstop were a common occurrence.

12. Said Gomes, “That kid's unbelievable, man. I don't even know how many balls were hit to him, and they weren't easy plays. But, he sure makes them look easy. That's a big thing, having a guy like that making big plays like that.” He then joked, “To get them to hit it to him? I hope we can get a strategy like that going. Yeah. That's exactly what we're trying to do.”

13. Lindor wouldn’t mind it either, saying, “I love it. Anytime a ball is coming to me, it gives me a chance to get a guy out. I love it.”

14. Carlos Santana recorded two more walks and a single, continuing his strong pace since being inserted into the leadoff spot in the Indians’ lineup. Brantley is starting to square up balls a bit more often. Mike Napoli is struggling with strikeouts but has driven a number of pitches. Yan Gomes has gotten off to a very slow start offensively but now has a couple of key hits recently.

15. Slowly, the lineup 1-through-6 has started to round into form. Francona likes the way it looks with Santana’s name up top.

16. Said Francona, “You got Nap sitting back there hitting fifth, it just kind of lengthens out our lineup. Santana, he’s got more walks than strikeouts. And he walked the first two times up tonight. I do like it. I think it gives us a little different look than maybe a lot of teams.”

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Corey Kluber’s magic act, complete game shuts down Detroit Tigers in 4-0 win

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 4, 2016

Corey Kluber pulled off a couple of magic tricks to escape some dire situations, but Anibal Sanchez’s attempt went horribly wrong and the Indians topped the Tigers 4-0 Wednesday night.

Kluber tossed a complete-game shutout, the second of his career, mirroring his normal ace-level outing. But early on, he had to work out of two jams in which the Tigers seemed poised to take the lead and pile on like they had done so many times in preview years.

The first act came in the second inning. Nick Castellanos singled and Kluber lost control of the zone, walking the next two batters on four pitches each to load the bases with one out. He then induced a fielder’s choice out on a broken-bat ground ball and struck out Ian Kinsler to end the inning.

After an intermission in the third inning, act two came in the fourth. Justin Upton doubled to center field on a ball Tyler Naquin couldn’t corral at the wall and Castellanos singled to right field to put runners on the corners with no outs. Once again, Kluber escaped. He induced a 5-4-3 double play in which Upton didn’t break for home and then struck out Anthony Gose to keep it a scoreless 0-0 tie.

Sanchez (3-3, 5.87) attempted to do the same in the bottom half of the fourth, but if it were an actual attempted magic trick, the audience would have likely left with some unwanted, gory images. Instead of escaping, Sanchez was battered around for four runs, as the Indians (12-12) did all of their damage in one inning.

Carlos Santana walked to open the fourth. With one out, Francisco Lindor was then hit by a pitch to put two runners on. He was looked at by Indians trainers but remained in the game. Michael Brantley followed with an RBI-single to right field, the second straight night he collected a run-scoring hit.

Mike Napoli drove a double over the head of Gose in center field to score Lindor. A wild pitch then extended the Indians’ lead to 3-0, and Yan Gomes doubled to the corner in right field to make it 4-0.

Kluber (2-3, 3.35) finished with five hits and two walks allowed and seven strikeouts. After the troublesome fourth inning, he allowed only one base runner in the final five innings.

This was the Indians’ fifth consecutive win over the Tigers (14-12) this season, the longest such streak since 2012. The Indians have also taken 10 of the last 12 games dating back to last season.

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Indians acquire catcher Chris Gimenez from Texas Rangers, DFA Adam Moore

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 4, 2016

In light of backup catcher Roberto Perez being placed on the 15-day disabled list, the Indians on Wednesday brought in a familiar face to compliment Yan Gomes by acquiring Chris Gimenez from the Texas Rangers for cash considerations.

Gimenez, 33, will begin his third stint with the Indians. He owns a career .218 batting average and .303 on-base percentage across seven major-league seasons while serving primarily as a backup catcher for the Indians, Seattle Mariners, Tampa Bay Rays and most recently the Rangers.

“We’ve had Chris in the past. Everybody knows him,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “There’s a lot of familiarity besides the fact that when we had him here, we really liked him. When that season was over [2014], he was one of the first guys we tried to resign and he ended up going to Texas, which worked out really good for him.”

Gimenez in his career has been a much more productive hitter against left-handed pitching, owning a .270 batting average and .765 OPS compared to .194 and .578 marks against right-handers. The Indians, though, will determine his use based more on Gomes’ need for rest as the starter.

“That wouldn’t be just the way we would use him because with Gomer, we usually sit Gomer more when it seems to make sense as far as rest goes,” Francona said.

Gimenez started the 2016 season on the 15-day disabled list with an infection in his left ankle before being designated for assignment by the Rangers on Tuesday.

Catcher Adam Moore was designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster. His contract was purchased from Triple-A Columbus after Perez was put on the disabled list with a right thumb injury. The club is waiting until Thursday to determine if surgery is needed.

Staying

Indians left-handed pitcher Ross Detwiler cleared waivers and accepted his outright assignment to Triple-A Columbus.

Detwiler was designated for assignment to make room on the 25-man roster for relief pitcher Tommy Hunter, who returned last week from offseason core muscle surgery.

Detwiler will spend time as a starter for Triple-A Columbus, as if he’s stretched out, he gives the Indians more versatility with how he can be used if needed.

“He’s got a starter’s repertoire, he’s got the pitches, he’s got the body and to let him start will be really good for him,” Francona said. “I think down deep, he views himself as a starter. … And if he’s starting, he can always pitch in the bullpen.”

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Indians 7, Tigers 3: Ryan Lewis’ 23 Walk-Off Thoughts on Francisco Lindor, Bryan Shaw, Josh Tomlin

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 3, 2016

Here are 23 Walk-Off Thoughts after the Indians’ 7-3 win against the Detroit Tigers Tuesday night.

1. There doesn’t seem to be much that Francisco Lindor can’t do. Tuesday night he went 3-for-4 with a home run, three RBI, three runs scored, was a triple shy of the cycle and made a terrific diving stop and throw to rob Justin Upton of a hit.

2. The home run was a 418-foot bomb to right field that extended the Indians’ lead to 7-2. He also doubled off the wall in right field. He’s said before the power isn’t a focus of his, but if it comes, then great.

3. Said Lindor, “Yeah, I was pretty surprised. I didn’t think it was going to go that far. I knew I got it. As soon as I hit it, I knew I got it. But I’m not a power hitter. I just try to get the barrel as fast as I can to the ball. If they go out, they go out. If they don’t go, they don’t go. I’m not worried about it.”

4. There’s a definite case to be made that he’s the best all-around shortstop playing baseball right now. And he won’t be 23 until after this season.

5. Indians manager Terry Francona has spoken about players impacting the game in some way every day. Some guys might not hit, but a great defensive play has value, or vice-versa. Some guys can make something happen with their legs.

6. Lindor is hitting third in the lineup as a starting shortstop, so he’ll be in the middle of everything this club does for the foreseeable future. He’ll almost always have an impact. But on nights like Tuesday night, he can take over.

7. Said Francona, “That's the hope. That's why you show up. Whether you do it with the bat or the glove or your legs, that's part of the reason he has a chance to be so good, because he can impact the game in so many different ways.”

More: Indians C Roberto Perez hoping to avoid surgery on injured right thumb; Carlos Carrasco running

8. Even as good as Lindor was as a rookie, the Indians were aware that the month of April can be unkind to players, especially younger players. Veteran pitchers make adjustments, it’s not always easy to get going, the cold weather doesn’t help. One of the keys of Lindor’s repeated success could be his understanding that baseball is a constant revolving door of adjustments.

9. Said Lindor, “Pitchers make adjustments, catcher make adjustments, so do I. I wont be able to play in this league if I can’t make the adjustments. I think that’s the biggest thing coming into this year and the next year and the following and the following and the following. They’re going to have more reports on me and I’m going to have more reports on them. I’m not a guy that looks to the reports a lot. I just try to focus on what I gotta do which is get the barrel to the ball and catch the ball and get it to first base. And I play my game, that’s what I try to do every single day regardless of who’s out there, regardless of what team, who I’m facing, what the weather is like. I just try to enjoy the game and do what I gotta do.”



10. Lindor is the prized asset in the organization. For now, he doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Also, prior to the game Francona was speaking in general terms about younger hitters being inserted into the middle of the lineup, saying it takes a little something extra. Whatever it is, Lindor has it.

11. Bryan Shaw got the Indians out of a jam Tuesday night, retiring the two batters he faced in the eighth to escape with a 7-3 lead and limit a rally started against Zach McAllister. Shaw had a couple of horrific outings in April and now has an ERA of 9.00.

12. He’s also now had four consecutive scoreless outings and allowed just one hit in 3 2/3 innings pitched while striking out five. Francona is just fine with what he’s seen from Shaw, an important piece in the Indians’ bullpen to get to closer Cody Allen.

13. Said Francona, “I actually think he's been better. I know his ERA is kind of elevated because of the first couple weeks, but he's throwing the ball with more power than I've seen since we got him. I think that bodes well. We talk about hitters finding their level. He'll get there, too. And it'll be fun to watch.”

14. Said Shaw, “Yeah, absolutely. Even the first couple of outings where I struggled a little bit and gave up the runs, I still felt good. It was just kind of miss spots, different kind of—mechanically, everything was there. I was just missing spots, not really pitching aggressively like I normally pitch. Obviously, the last however many we’ve thrown since then, I’ve felt really good. Arm’s at the right spot, timing, everything feels good. Me and Yan are on the same page. There’s no shaking or anything like that. So, it’s good when you get that chemistry going. You feel good and everything else.”

15. Shaw and Allen are crucial pieces in the back-end of the Indians bullpen. Both are probably pleased to see the calendar turn to May and put April behind them. Jeff Manship, McAllister and the rest of the Indians bullpen—which now includes Tommy Hunter—has been terrific. Getting Shaw and Allen in a rhythm would certainly be a boost.

16. In baseball players wearing their wedding rings news, Shaw did not wear his rubber wedding band Tuesday night. Tigers manager Brad Ausmus had an issue with Shaw’s rubber wedding ring in Detroit, twice coming out of the dugout to get him to take it off.

17. Shaw said Ausmus is the only one to ever say anything about it. So he’ll take it off to face the Tigers and leave it on against every other team.

18. Said Shaw, “I had it on, actually. I had it on since we played Detroit. I kind of forgot it was one there. Brad made a stink about it last time, so when I got out there and realized I had it on, I took it off for him just to give him some peace of mind. He seems to be the only one with an issue with it, so, whatever. I’ll take it off when I play Detroit and I’ll put it on when I play everybody else.”

19. The brand of rubber ring Shaw uses is QALO, and he’s become somewhat of an ambassador for them in this whole ordeal. QALO has even sent him a few extra rings since the incident. Shaw has all sorts of colors now, including camouflage.  

20. Said Shaw, “Yeah, I guess. They like me. He said they talked about me a little bit in their meetings, they sent me some stuff. I tweeted at them since then and it’s been a lot of fun. He had his issues, whatever. I don’t have any issues. I’ll take it off when I play Detroit and put it back on when I play everybody else, because nobody else seems to have an issue with it. It’s one of those things that doesn’t bother me. I’ll take it off, put it on. It doesn’t matter.”



21. Josh Tomlin was solid as usual. Six innings pitched, two earned runs, five strikeouts, no walks. He’s now 4-0 with a 3.13 ERA this season. Another ho-hum outing for a pitcher who has gotten very little respect for how he’s pitched since returning from shoulder surgery last season.

22. Tomlin has been a consistent presence in the Indians’ rotation, something that’s badly needed right now. Carlos Carrasco is out 4-6 weeks with a strained left hamstring. Trevor Bauer’s last 12 months have had severe peaks and valleys. Cody Anderson has struggled with keeping the ball down and was sent to Triple-A for a start to get some work in. There’s been more potential than stability.

23. The Indians have now won four straight games against the Tigers, the same team that’s tormented them for years. They haven’t done that since a five-game winning streak was put together in the 2012 season, before Francona came to Cleveland. The Indians have seemed to follow several patterns the last few seasons while being a good, but not great club. It certainly would be refreshing to Indians fans to see this particular trend continue.

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Francisco Lindor with another highlight-reel night in Indians’ 7-3 win against Detroit Tigers

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 3, 2016

Tuesday night at the ballpark was another instance of Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor making the extraordinary look ordinary. And in doing so, Lindor led the Indians over the Detroit Tigers for the fourth consecutive time this season in a 7-3 win.

Lindor went 3-for-4 with three RBI, three runs scored and was a triple shy of the cycle. He also made another highlight-reel play to add to his collection this season, a diving stop-and-throw to his right to rob Tigers outfielder Justin Upton of a single in the second inning.

His main act, though, came in the fifth inning with the Indians leading 4-2. Facing Tigers (14-11) starter Justin Verlander and already with a two-hit day under his belt, Lindor, with two runners on, crushed a 418-foot home run to right field to open up the Indians’ lead to 7-2.

That came after he singled and scored in the first inning and after he doubled off the right-field wall and scored in the third inning, not to mention the diving play at shortstop.

Just another night at the ballpark.

Meanwhile, the Indians (11-12) jumped on Verlander (2-3, 6.49 ERA) early for three runs in the first. With two runners on, Mike Napoli drilled a two-out, two-RBI double over the head of Tigers centerfielder Anthony Gose. Yan Gomes then followed with an RBI-single up the middle to make it 3-0, snapping an 0-for-16 skid.

That was a theme Tuesday night, as the Indians squared up a number of pitches and peppered the middle of the field. After Lindor’s double off the wall in right field in the third, Brantley sent a Verlander offering to center field to extend the Indians’ lead to 4-0.

Josh Tomlin (4-0, 3.13 ERA) turned in another strong performance, going six innings, allowing two runs on nine hits and striking out five. His lone blemish came in the fifth, when Ian Kinsler drilled a two-run home run to left field to cut the Indians’ lead in half 4-2.

The Indians also had plenty of defense surrounding Lindor’s diving play. Marlon Byrd threw out J.D. Martinez at the plate to end the first inning in a play that was overturned after a replay review. Jason Kipnis later added a sliding catch in the grass in shallow right field to take away a hit from Victor Martinez.

The Indians’ bullpen prevented things from getting too interesting. Tommy Hunter, recently activated from the 15-day disabled list after rehabbing from offseason core muscle surgery, pitched a 1-2-3 seventh inning before Zach McAllister ran into trouble in the eighth, allowing a run on two hits and recording just one out. Bryan Shaw, though, entered the game and retired the two batters he faced to escape the eighth with a 7-3 lead. Cody Allen, who has struggled recently, pitched a scoreless ninth inning to take the first game of the series.

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Indians C Roberto Perez hopeful to avoid surgery on injured right thumb; Carlos Carrasco running

By Ryan Lewis Published: May 3, 2016
robertoperez

Indians catcher Roberto Perez was placed on the disabled list this past weekend with an injured right thumb, but the club is still searching for clarity on his timetable.

Perez is scheduled to have his thumb re-evaluated on Thursday to determine if surgery is necessary. Per Perez, an MRI revealed a fracture but the club would like to look at it again after a few days pass, which will allow the swelling to dissipate.

“We’re still gathering information,” Perez said. “I’m just rehabbing it, icing it, keeping myself calm, because it’s going to be a long process. Unfortunately, I’m probably out for a while. … Hopefully, I’m good. Hopefully, I don’t need the surgery.”

Perez injured the thumb while making a diving play at the plate against Philadelphia. He remained in the game and didn’t realize it was broken until later that night.

“I kept playing because I had adrenaline going and all that,” Perez said. “After a couple innings, it got stiff. I didn’t know it was broken until I got the X-rays after the game.”

The Indians placed Perez on the 15-day disabled list and purchased the contract of catcher Adam Moore from Triple-A Columbus, who will serve as Yan Gomes’ backup for the time being.

Perez could either continue using a splint and receiving therapy with the Indians’ trainers, or he could undergo surgery. The latter option, coincidentally, could actually give the club a more concise timetable on when he’ll be able to return.

“I think when you do the surgery, there’s a more concrete timetable,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “Without the surgery, I think it’s a little bit how quickly guys heal, things like that. … And the other one is how he’s feeling. The day he came in, the next day, he was really not feeling good. Now today [Tuesday], he says he’s feeling significantly better. I think they want to give him the next couple days to allow some of the swelling to get out of there and get a better look at it.”

Running

Indians starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left hamstring and is expected to miss 4-6 weeks, is now doing some light jogging, per Francona. Much of Carrasco’s rehab has taken place in the pool or in the trainer’s room, so it’s an early step in the right direction.

“He has advanced to very mild land-based jogging,” Francona said. “I think he did that [Monday] and [Sunday]. Most of his stuff is still done in the pool or the training room. I got here yesterday, he was over here. I got here this morning, he was over here. He is going back and forth, the contrast, the hot and cold. He’s doing everything he can.”

Coming back

Starting pitcher Cody Anderson, who was optioned to Triple-A Columbus last week, experienced many of the same issues that have plagued him this season in an outing for the Clippers on Sunday.

Anderson has struggled to locate his fastball and keep the ball down in the zone. He has a 7.65 ERA at the major-league level this season. On Sunday against Triple-A Gwinnett, the Atlanta Braves’ affiliate, Anderson surrendered four runs on seven hits, including two home runs, and struck out six in 5 2/3 innings pitched.

The report back to Francona indicated that Anderson felt more comfortable as the outing progressed.

“He gave up a couple home runs, but I think the first three innings, he was a little frustrated with his mechanics and it seemed like the last two innings he felt much better about where he was, so hopefully he can take that and continue it into his next game here,” Francona said. “By that I mean his direction to the plate. He’s been kind of fighting that a little bit which I think is why so many balls have been elevated. If that’s the case, if he finds his rhythm, we won’t care if he gave up a couple home runs in Triple-A. I think it was probably good for him to pitch in a game where the outcome isn’t going to be on his baseball card and allow him to work on some of those things.”

Anderson is still slated to return to the Indians to start Saturday’s game against the Kansas City Royals.

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