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Indians tie franchise record with 13th straight win, beats Blue Jays 4-1

By Ryan Lewis Published: June 30, 2016

Another win, another dominating performance from an Indians starting pitcher.

Carlos Carrasco was again terrific and the Indians downed the Toronto Blue Jays 4-1 Thursday night, notching their 13th straight win.

The Indians’ 13 straight wins ties a franchise record and makes them the first American League team to win at least 13 games in a row since the Oakland A’s won 20 straight in 2002.

Carrasco (4-2, 2.56 ERA) threw 7 1/3 innings, struck out 14 and allowed one run on three hits. Bryan Shaw finished the eighth and Cody Allen notched his 17th save. During the 13-game winning streak, Indians starting pitchers are 10-0 with a 1.86 ERA.

The Indians (48-30) took an early lead off Blue Jays knuckleballer R.A. Dickey. Rajai Davis first hit a solo home run in the second.  Jason Kipnis, also jumping on the first pitch, belted a solo shot of his own in the third, his 11th home run of the season. Jose Ramirez later singled home Mike Napoli, who doubled, and in the ninth Tyler Paquin added an RBI-triple.

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Indians' win streak reaches 12 in a row with 3-0 win against Braves

By Ryan Lewis Published: June 29, 2016

The Indians extended their current winning streak to 12 games with a 3-0 win against the Atlanta Braves Wednesday night.

It’s the longest winning streak in the majors this season and the longest for the Indians since 1951. In this 12-0 streak, the Indians have out-scored opponents 76-25.

Danny Salazar (10-3, 2.22 ERA) tossed seven scoreless innings, allowing five hits and striking out eight. Bryan Shaw worked the eighth and Cody Allen earned his 16th save of the season in the ninth.

Jason Kipnis hit a two-run single in the fifth and Lonnie Chisenhall hit his third home run in four games in the sixth, a solo shot.

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Indians on a roll, TV ratings rising

By Ryan Lewis Published: June 29, 2016

The Indians are the hottest team in baseball right now, winners of 11 straight. Just as the Cavaliers completed their title run, the Indians have found their stride, and viewers tuning in to watch the first-place Tribe.

During the current 11-game winning streak, Indians games are averaging a 5.3 HH rating on SportsTime Ohio, which is up 31 percent compared to last season (4.07 HH).

The Indians’ game in Atlanta Monday night had a 9.52 HH, or more than 142,000 homes. It was the highest rating this season and the highest for a non-simulcast game on STO since July 9, 2014 against the New York Yankees. In June, viewership is approaching a 6 HH and is up 74 percent from a year ago.

The Indians enter Wednesday 46-30 and holding a six-game lead over the Kansas City Royals (40-36). Their 11-game winning streak is the longest in baseball this season.

The Indians took the first two games in Atlanta on the road to extend that stretch, winning 8-3 and 5-3. Last night’s victory included Corey Kluber taking a no-hitter into the sixth inning and Carlos Santana’s go-ahead RBI single in the ninth that led to a three-run inning.

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Indians hit four home runs off Justin Verlander, complete third sweep of Tigers in 9-3 win

By Ryan Lewis Published: June 26, 2016

It’s safe to say the Tigers haven’t just lost their lure over the Indians, the script has been flipped.

The Indians beat the Tigers 9-3 and bludgeoned Justin Verlander on Sunday, hitting four home runs off him in one inning. It was the Indians’ ninth straight win and it improved their record against the Tigers the season to a perfect 9-0 and 6-0 at Comerica Park. In those nine games, the Indians have out-scored the Tigers 60-20.

All of that against the same club that has played a major role in the Indians falling short of their own expectations the last couple seasons, with names like Miguel Cabrera and Verlander, who have been among the biggest nemesis for Cleveland baseball.

“Yeah, in the past we've had such a hard time down the stretch just getting anything going against them at all,” said Lonnie Chisenhall, who went 4-for-4 with a home run, a triple and three RBI. “To be in the situation we're in right now, it's a little bit of uncharted territory, but we're just winning games, so it's definitely going in the right direction.”

Verlander had only given up four home runs in a game once in his career, against the Indians in 2007. On Sunday, the Indians turned a 2-2 tie into an 8-2 game with a six-run fifth that included four home runs in the inning.

Juan Uribe and Tyler Naquin started the rally with back-to-back home runs to open the inning, the second time in a week the Indians have hit back-to-back home runs. Later, with Francisco Lindor on first after a single, Mike Napoli lined a two-run shot to left field, his 16th home run of the season. Jose Ramirez followed with a single, and Chisenhall clubbed another two-run home run, this one to right field.

It was the third time in franchise history the Indians hit four home runs in a single inning (July 31, 1963 and July 16, 2004).

It was also nearly the fourth complete game for an Indians starting pitcher in less than a week. After Carrasco went the distance on Saturday and Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer each tossed complete games against Tampa Bay, Josh Tomlin on Sunday threw eight innings, allowed three runs on six hits and a walk and struck out three. All three Tigers runs came on solo home runs by former Indians, one by Mike Aviles and two by Victor Martinez.

“When you get a lead, [Tomlin] knows what to do with it,” said Indians manager Terry Francona. “He’s around the plate so much, he might give up a solo, but he stays off the barrel for the most part. He’s in and out, throws strikes. It’s a good guy to have any day, but especially when you get a lead like that.”

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Indians hit four home runs off Justin Verlander, complete third sweep of Tigers in 9-3 win

By Ryan Lewis Published: June 26, 2016

It’s safe to say the Tigers haven’t just lost their lure over the Indians, the script has been flipped.

The Indians beat the Tigers 9-3 and bludgeoned Justin Verlander on Sunday, hitting four home runs off him in one inning. It was the Indians’ ninth straight win and it improved their record against the Tigers the season to a perfect 9-0 and 6-0 at Comerica Park.

All of that against the same club that has played a major role in the Indians falling short of their own expectations the last couple seasons, with names like Miguel Cabrera and Verlander, who have been among the biggest nemesis for Cleveland baseball.

In those nine games, the Indians have out-scored the Tigers 60-20.

Verlander had only given up four home runs in a game once in his career, against the Indians in 2007. On Sunday, the Indians turned a 2-2 tie into an 8-2 game with a six-run fifth that included four home runs in the inning.

Juan Uribe and Tyler Naquin started the rally with back-to-back home runs to open the inning, the second time in a week the Indians have hit back-to-back home runs. Later, with Francisco Lindor on first after a single, Mike Napoli lined a two-run shot to left field, his 16th home run of the season. Jose Ramirez followed with a single, and Lonnie Chisenhall (4-for-4, home run, triple, three RBI) clubbed another two-run home run, this one to right field.

It was the third time in franchise history the Indians hit four home runs in a single inning (July 31, 1963 and July 16, 2004).

It was also nearly the fourth complete game for an Indians starting pitcher in less than a week. After Carrasco went the distance on Saturday and Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer each tossed complete games against Tampa Bay, Josh Tomlin on Sunday threw eight innings, allowed three runs on six hits and a walk and struck out three.

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Indians OF Abraham Almonte nearing end of suspension; Indians rotation shuffled for rest

By Ryan Lewis Published: June 26, 2016

Indians outfielder Abraham Almonte will soon be eligible to return to the Indians, though it doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be inserted into the major-league outfield.

Almonte was suspended for 80 games in the spring for failing a drug test that revealed performance-enhancing drugs. At the time, Almonte took responsibility for the failed test but said  he didn’t know how the banned substance entered his system.

He had originally figured to play a significant role in the Indians’ outfield, but his suspension opened up an opportunity for Tyler Naquin to win a job on the Opening Day roster, to which he has warranted extended playing time and earned a spot in the Indians’ outfield.

The outfield currently consists of Rajai Davis, Lonnie Chisenhall, Naquin, Jose Ramirez and Michael Martinez, the latter two acting as utility men. That also doesn’t include Michael Brantley, still trying to rehab his surgically-repaired right shoulder.

All five outfielders on the roster have been playing well. Almonte will be eligible to return July 3 but has an option and could be sent to Triple-A Columbus. The Indians have yet to announce a decision.

“I don’t make moves a week ahead of time,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “He will have served his (suspension). The rules say he had to serve an 80-game suspension, so that’s what he’s doing. It doesn’t say that he has to serve 80 and then be penalized another 10. In a perfect world, things like that don’t happen. He’s a good kid that made a mistake and he paid a price, so did we, but I don’t think you have to pay more than the price.”

Shuffled

The Indians are flip-flopping Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer in the starting rotation during this up-coming series with Atlanta.

The Indians want to give Kluber an extra day of rest after both threw complete games against the Tampa Bay Rays. Bauer had been following Kluber after he took Carlos Carrasco’s spot in the rotation after he went down with a strained left hamstring.

The Indians don’t normally look to adjust the rotation in the middle of the season unless necessary to avoid sending a negative signal.

“One thing we don't want to do is reinvent the game or be too tricky for your own good,” Francona said. “Unless you’re coming down to the last week of the year, rearranging your rotation, I don't ever want our guys to think we’re running away from this guy to get to this guy, but I think when it’s rest and helping a guy, I think it’s really good.”

General soreness

Second basemen Jason Kipnis left Saturday’s game in the seventh inning and sat out Sunday. It was originally described by the team as an illness, but the effect was soreness or stiffness.

Kipnis was available to pinch-hit if needed on Sunday, indicating it isn’t something that is expected to be drawn out.

“I don’t know if he was dehydrated or what, but he was real stiff because of it,” Francona said. “I told him, ‘I was kind of on the fence of playing you tomorrow anyway.’ He said, ‘I’m not going to tell you I want a day off.’ I said, ‘Well I’m going to take it out of your hands.’”

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Indians 6, Tigers 0: 14 Walk-Off Thoughts on Francisco Lindor, Carlos Carrasco, more

By Ryan Lewis Published: June 25, 2016

Here are 14 Walk-Off Thoughts on the Indians’ 6-0 win against the Tigers Saturday night.

1. Will a Cleveland team ever lose again? (Probably, but this is quite the run.)

2. The Indians have now won eight straight, are 8-0 against the Tigers this season and lead the AL Central by 4.5 games. And as of this typing, the Royals are losing 7-0, which would make it a 5-game lead. It’s the largest lead in the division for the Indians since May of 2012, and it’s the largest lead this late into a season since the end of 2007.  

3. Francisco Lindor had the first two-homer game of his career on Saturday, taking Anibal Sanchez deep in the first and then adding another solo shot off Mark Lowe in the eighth. He now has 10 home runs this season, which is third on the team behind Carlos Santana (16, one on Saturday) and Mike Napoli (15).

4. Lindor doesn’t fancy himself a power hitter, often saying he’s not trying to hit balls over the fence very often. The Indians have been pleased with how well he’s stuck to that line of thinking.

5. Said Indians manager Terry Francona, “I just think in the course of him taking good swings, he’s going to hit some balls out of the ballpark. But the good part of it is, when he has hit the ball out of the ballpark, he hasn’t shown up the next day and gotten long, trying to do that. I think he’s smart enough to know if he takes good swings, balls are going to get out of the ballpark at times.”



6. Said Lindor, “I think it’s my first multi-homer game ever. I don’t think I even did that in the minor leagues. It’s cool because we didn’t even need my home run. We had Santana’s and that would have won the game the way [Carlos] Carrasco pitched.”

More: Enjoy the Cavs’ title; Enjoy the Indians being in first place; Enjoy it all

7. As hot as the Indians have been, the starting rotation has been scorching. Carrasco tossed a complete-game shutout on Saturday, the third complete game in four games for the Indians after Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer went the distance against Tampa Bay. The Indians’ was rotation was pegged to be the AL’s best by most before the year. Right now, it’s about as good as any in the game, though the NL in the long run has some loaded rotations.

8. For Carrasco, it was his best start of the season, a sure-fire sign that he’s back to his normal self and a fitting park to put his formerly strained left hamstring—which he injured at Comerica Park—behind him.

9. Said Carrasco, “Really no, I remember that on April 24 when I got hurt in here. I was just trying to get my work done, trying not to remember anything. Sometimes we are human beings and we start to think about that. Today, I just went over there just trying to do all my bullpen and get ready for my game and that’s what I did.”

More: Rajai Davis’ game-winning catch Friday night brings confusion, late score change

10. The Indians barely even need relievers any more, it seems. There also might be a friendly competition brewing.

11. Said Carrasco, “It’s a little bit of a competition between us, but we don’t talk about it. ‘So, Kluber and Bauer [threw] a complete game, OK, let’s do that.’ Just trying to put zeroes on the board and trying to get deep in the game. That’s what we’re trying to do.”

12. The Indians got another good sign in the ninth, when Yan Gomes—in an ever-continuing battle to get going at the plate in 2016—clubbed a solo home run to left field, his eighth of the year.

13. Said Francona, “It’s nice to see him get rewarded for a nice swing because he’s been wearing it. He has taken some better swings. First at-bat, he got out in front of him but he got the barrel on it, just didn’t get enough. Nice and short and quick, that’s nice to see. When he gets going, that’ll be great for us.”

14. Indians second basemen Jason Kipnis left the game in the seventh inning with an illness, according to the club. Said Francona, “He’s just a little under the weather whether it’s a little bit of a bug or dehydrated. His whole body was getting stiff, so we got him out of there.”

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Francisco Lindor homers twice, Carlos Carrasco throws CG-shutout in Indians’ 6-0 win against Tigers

By Ryan Lewis Published: June 25, 2016

Francisco Lindor’s list of accomplishments in his roughly one full season in the major leagues is extensive. On Saturday, he added to it.

Lindor belted two home runs to make his first career multi-homer game, Carlos Carrasco tossed a complete-game shutout and the Indians defeated the Detroit Tigers 6-0 on the road. It’s the eighth straight win for the Indians, who also improved to 8-0 against the Tigers this season.

Lindor took Tigers starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez deep in the first inning, the second home run of the inning after Carlos Santana hit his team-leading 16th home run to lead off the game. In the eighth, Lindor added his second home run, another solo shot off Tigers reliever Mark Lowe and not far from where the first one landed down the right-field line.

Lindor now has 10 home runs this season, behind only Santana and Mike Napoli (15).

“I don’t think I even did that in the minor leagues,” Lindor said. “It’s cool because we didn’t even need my home run. We had Santana’s and that would have won the game the way Carrasco pitched.”

After going up 2-0 in the first on two home runs, the Indians pushed their lead to 3-0 in the second on an RBI-single by Rajai Davis. In the third, the Indians loaded the bases and made it 4-0 on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Jose Ramirez.

Yan Gomes, back in the lineup after having to have a cyst drained on his lower back, added a solo home run in the ninth, his eighth of the season.

For Carrasco, it was his best start of the season, a sure-fire sign that he’s back to his normal self and a fitting park to put his formerly strained left hamstring—which he injured at Comerica Park—behind him.

“Really no, I remember that on April 24 when I got hurt in here,” Carrasco said when asked if he thought about his previous injury. “I was just trying to get my work done, trying not to remember anything. Sometimes we are human beings and we start to think about that. Today, I just went over there just trying to do all my bullpen and get ready for my game and that’s what I did.”

Carrasco allowed four hits, walked one and struck out seven to record the seventh complete game and third complete-game shutout of his career. It also marked the Indians’ third complete game within their current eight-game winning streak, following Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer against Tampa Bay.

Second basemen Jason Kipnis left the game in the seventh inning with an illness, per the club. He was replaced by Michael Martinez.

“He’s just a little under the weather, whether it’s a little bit of a bug or dehydrated,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “His whole body was getting stiff, so we got him out of there.”

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Indians 7, Tigers 4: Ryan Lewis’ 16 Walk-Off Thoughts on a winning streak, Rajai Davis' catch, more

By Ryan Lewis Published: June 25, 2016

Here are 16 Walk-Off Thoughts after the Indians’ 7-4 win against the Detroit Tigers Friday night.

1. The Indians just keep rolling. They hit four triples Friday night—three in a five-run fourth inning against Tigers starter Jordan Zimmermann—to win their seventh straight game overall and improve to 7-0 against the Tigers this season. And with the Royals getting shelled by Houston, the Indians’ lead in the AL Central was increased to four games.

2. The Indians are one of the hottest teams in baseball in the month of June. Just as importantly to many Indians fans, they’re handling the Tigers.

3. Said Jason Kipnis, who hit two triples and drove in three runs, “There’s no rhyme or reason to it right now I think we’re just feeling good at the plate as an offense. We got a lot of confidence. Guys are loose. When one guys slacks, the other guy picks up. We’re playing smarter baseball. We know when the situation dictates, for us to bunt a guy over, get a run over and get the guy in. We’re clicking as an offense right now, I think that’s what’s just going on.”

4. This winning streak came on the heels of being swept in Kansas City. The Indians returned home, won all six games and are bringing the show on the road. They’re also feeling about as good as they have since making the postseason in 2013. There’s genuine momentum being built.

5. Said Kipnis, “A little reminiscent to kind of almost that ten-game stretch at the end of 2013 to get in the playoffs where the team was just expecting to win every time we came out. It’s a new thing because we had just got swept by Kansas City and we go home and we’re like, ‘OK, well, we got some home cooking, we play better here, so let’s take care of business here.’ Did that. Now, we’re feeling good. We come back on the road and we’re like, ‘Hey, we’re feeling good. This is a big series. Let’s not just play good at home and not do anything on the road.’ This meant something to us, especially versus Detroit. We wanted to carry over the good vibes over here and I thought we did that.”

6. It was the first time the Indians (42-30) hit four triples in one game since August 12, 2001 against the Texas Rangers. And it was the first time since Opening Day in 1968 the Indians hit three triples in a single inning.

7. The Indians used them to knock around Zimmermann, who entered this game 9-3 with a 3.24 ERA. Said Kipnis, “He’s a good pitcher, I think he was just leaving some balls up tonight. You could tell, you look at the rest of his starts and his stats, the guy’s one of the better pitchers in the league. He’s a competitor. I think it was just one of those nights where we ready for it and he was just catching too much of the plate with them up in the zone. It doesn’t always happen, but we’ll take advantage of it when it does.”

More: Indians have best rotation in AL, benefiting from watching each other's bullpen sessions

8. Danny Salazar was again effectively wild. He’s had so much movement on his pitches—like his split-change, which by some measures is now the best pitching baseball for a starting pitcher—that he’s had trouble throwing enough strikes. But, more often than not, he’s pitched himself out of trouble, like in the first inning Friday night, when he walked the first two batters and then got Miguel Cabrera to ground into a double play.

9. It’s about continuing to trust his stuff. Said Salazar, “Today was one of those days. You feel good, but you don’t feel have all your strength in your body. All the guys kept coming to me on the mound and saying, ‘Keep battling and you’re be fine.’’



10. A 7-0 lead that was cut to 7-3 became very interesting in the ninth inning, with Cody Allen on the mound.

11. With one out, Andrew Romine struck out, but Chris Gimenez couldn’t find the ball and then committed a throwing error. Ian Kinsler then singled, and Cameron Maybin singled home a run, making it 7-4 and bringing up Cabrera—arguably the last hitter you want to see if you’re an Indians fan—as the tying run.

More: Indians SP Trevor Bauer finally clicking by keeping it simple, working with Chris Gimenez

12. Cabrera put a charge into one (104 mph exit velocity, per Statcast), and the Tigers’ faithful all thought it was gone. Rajai Davis, in center field, covered a great deal of ground and made a juggling catch on a dead sprint and then hit the wall. The Tigers didn’t think he hauled it in and kept running. Davis did hold on, though, and threw it in and began yelling to throw to first. Kipnis, being safe, threw it home, and then Gimenez throw to first to end the game on a great catch and a crazy double play.

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Indians power past Detroit Tigers 7-4 for seventh straight win

By Ryan Lewis Published: June 24, 2016

The Cavaliers took a detour to Las Vegas on their flight home from Game 7. Friday night in Detroit, the Indians enjoyed a little Lucky 7’s of their own.

Behind a three-triple, five-run fourth inning, the Indians downed the Tigers 7-4. The win was the Indians’ seventh straight and improved their record against the Tigers this season to 7-0.

The Indians first got to Tigers starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann (9-4, 3.81 ERA) in the third inning. After Chris Gimenez and Rajai Davis each singled, Jason Kipnis ripped a triple to the right-field corner to put the Indians on top 2-0.

It became a 7-0 advantage in the fourth inning. Jose Ramirez hit the second triple of the day and Juan Uribe was plunked by a pitch. Both scored on Lonnie Chisenhall’s triple—No. 3 for the club— to right field, which got past a diving Steven Moya. Gimenez, starting as Yan Gomes heals from a drained cyst on his lower back, shot a single to right field to push the Indians’ lead to 5-0. After Carlos Santana doubled home Gimenez, Kipnis hit the Indians’ fourth triple of the day, third in the inning and second for him, capping the big fourth inning.

It was the first time the Indians (42-30) hit four triples in one game since August 12, 2001 against the Texas Rangers. And it was the first time since Opening Day in 1968 the Indians hit three triples in a single inning.

Indians starter Danny Salazar (9-3, 2.40 ERA) was a bit wild but for the most part effective. He threw 5 2/3 innings pitched, gave up three runs on four hits and five walks and struck out three.

As has been the case at times, Salazar struggled to find his command but was able to pitch his way out of it. In the first inning, Salazar walked the first two batters he faced to bring up Miguel Cabrera. The threat was quickly extinguished, as Salazar induced Cabrera to ground into a double play and Victor Martinez to fly out to end the inning unscathed.

His luck didn’t last in the fifth inning. Two singles and a walk loaded the bases with nobody out and the top of the Tigers’ lineup upcoming. Ian Kinsler first singled home a run. Cameron Maybin that scored a second run on a fielder’s choice, and a third run scored on a throwing error by Francisco Lindor.

Still leading 7-3, Salazar avoided any further trouble. Cabrera flew out to the warning track in right field, narrowly missing a two-run home run, and Martinez grounded out.

The Tigers (38-36) made it interesting in the ninth. With one out, Allen (15 saves) struck out Andrew Romine, but he reached base on a throwing error by Gimenez after the ball went into the dirt. Kinsler and Maybin then singled, scoring a run and making Cabrera the tying run.

Cabrera put a charge into an Allen offering that reached the warning track. Davis, in center field, made a juggling grab on the run as he ran into the wall for the second out. In a bit of confusion, Davis threw to Kipnis, who threw to home, and Gimenez threw to first as the Tigers rounded the bases for a game-ending double play.

The win was manager Terry Francona’s 300th with the Indians (300-257 overall).

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Indians 6, Rays 1: Ryan Lewis’ 16 Walk-Off Thoughts on Trevor Bauer and Chris Gimenez’s impact

By Ryan Lewis Published: June 22, 2016

Here are 16 Walk-Off Thoughts after the Indians’ 6-1 win against the Tampa Bay Rays Wednesday.

1. For the second straight night, an Indians pitcher went the distance and gave up three hits. This time it was Trevor Bauer, who also struck out 10.

2. It was the second career complete game and his sixth straight quality start, the longest streak of his career. He’s also tossed at least seven innings in five straight starts, which is also the longest stretch of his career.

3. Indians manager Terry Francona has often referred to “consistency” as one of more important words in baseball. Finally, for a stretch, Bauer is showing it and providing the Indians a fifth strong starting option, joining the rest of the rotation and proving as much depth as any in the American League. He’s been sharp each time out, which offers the starting rotation a strong compliment to Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar and Josh Tomlin.

4. The main reason behind this stretch of quality starts and better performances? Bauer has simplified things. Instead of trying to throw all seven or so pitches to each hitter, he’s put more of a focus on his fastball, cutter, curveball and changeup, and allowed the movement on those pitches to do the work instead of Bauer trying to out-think every hitter from a technical standpoint.

5. Francona and Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway each used the word “conventional” to describe the change.

6. Said Francona, “Obviously really good. He’s been so consistent. If I say this, I know Trevor will probably be mad at me, but he’s pitching almost more conventional. I mean that as a big compliment. It seems like he’s starting to command his fastball, throw a really good breaking ball, and a change up. I know he mixes in the other pitches. But he walked one tonight. That’s the one run that scored. He’s pounding the strike zone with really good stuff, changing speeds, it’s been really fun to watch.”
7. Said Callaway, “He's turned into more of a conventional pitcher, from what I see. He's simplified his mix. He's throwing 20-25 pitch bullpens. He's staying locked in and not overdoing it. He's doing a very good job of attacking the zone with both sides of the plate and multiple pitches and leading with his curveball when he needs to. He's throwing fastballs down and away when he needs to and becoming more of a conventional guy.”

More: Jason Kipnis' home-to-home single; Juan Uribe's power surge; Home field, Jobu helping

8. It also can’t be understated the positive effect that catcher Chris Gimenez has had. Gimenez has been Bauer’s personal catcher since the Indians acquired him, and Bauer has since taken off.

9. The Indians have looked to Bauer trusting more conventional practices for a while. Gimenez used to catch the Texas Rangers’ Yu Darvish, who has a similarly extensive repertoire. And Bauer has pretty much had to learn the hard way through trial and error. Those four have contributed to Bauer finally following the lead and finding success, in conjunction with his own progression.

10. The potential has been there for several years. Bauer has his own way of looking at things, which isn’t necessarily a negative, but things just weren’t clicking. With Gimenez, Bauer has been a force.

11. When asked what Gimenez did to get Bauer to change his style, he jokingly said, “Punched him right in the face.”

12. Said Gimenez, “If you’e buying into something and trying it and it’s not working, it’s very easy to just throw it in the garbage and keep doing what you’re doing or going about it the way you want to do it. I think the fact he is getting some pretty positive results out of it is big for his mental part of it. And I think too, just knowing that he can show the coaching staff that he is able to go deep into ball games, I think that’s something that’s eluded him in the past. He’s walked a lot of guys and he’s thrown a lot of unnecessary pitches trying to get a strikeout as opposed to just getting a guy to ground out on three pitches. I think we still had 10 strikeouts tonight. And he’s able to throw nine innings. It is possible for him to do that. He just needs to establish the strike zone and then work off of it that way and let his stuff play.”

13. Bauer is fortunate to have had Francona and Callaway all this time. The Indians have been fortunate to have Bauer and his potential. Adding Gimenez may end up being the final component that completes the picture. A six-start stretch doesn’t mean long-term future success. But Bauer right now looks like the pitcher so many around the game had envisioned. The Indians have been pushing him for a long time. Now Bauer is giving the rotation a lift.

14. His development, which seems to again be taking a step forward, only strengthens an already-deep Indians rotation.

15. The Indians have now won six straight games, trying their longest streak of the season, and 11 straight at home. With a road trip coming up, the Indians will finish June a perfect 11-0 at home, the first time in franchise history they went undefeated at home in a month in which they played at least 10 games. In that 11-game home winning streak, they’ve out-scored opponents 66-21.

16. Indians pitchers have held Rays hitters to a .144 average this season. Per Elias, it’s the lowest average by an AL team against another in MLB history. The Rays will be happy to get out of Cleveland.

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Trevor Bauer goes the distance in Indians’ 6-1 win over Rays; Winning streak at six games

By Ryan Lewis Published: June 22, 2016

An estimated 1.3 million people made it into Cleveland on Wednesday. It’s possible none want to leave the city as much as the Tampa Bay Rays’ hitters.

Trevor Bauer kept them guessing all night and tossed a complete game in the Indians’ 6-1 win against the Rays Wednesday. It followed Corey Kluber’s complete-game shutout in Tuesday’s 6-0 victory.

Bauer allowed one run on just three hits—the same number of hits allowed in Kluber’s start—and struck out 10. It was his second career complete game and his sixth straight quality start, the longest stretch of his career.

Indians (41-30) manager Terry Francona has often referred to “consistency” as one of more important words in baseball. Finally, for a stretch, Bauer is showing it and providing the Indians a fifth strong starting option, joining the rest of the rotation and proving as much depth as any in the American League.

Bauer (5-2, 3.20 ERA) was able to pitch with the lead nearly all night. In the bottom of the first, the Indians knocked around Chris Archer (4-10, 4.70 ERA), the Rays’ ace who has struggled to limit the big inning early on. Wednesday night was a similar story. Carlos Santana opened with a walk and Jason Kipnis drove a two-run home run over the center-field wall, putting the Indians up 2-0 two batters into the game. Francisco Lindor also drew a walk, advanced to second on a groundout and scored on Jose Ramirez’s single, making it a three-run first inning.

In the fourth, Lonnie Chisenhall continued his solid month with a double and then scored on a double off the bat of Santana that just got by a diving Taylor Motter in right field.

The Rays (32-38) finally got to Bauer in the seventh, though it could have been more if not for Lindor.

Brad Miller walked and Logan Morrison doubled to put two runners in scoring position, the first time any Rays runner made it to second base. With two outs, Corey Dickerson lined a ball headed to left field, but Lindor made a horizontal, diving play to field it to first save a run. He then got up, surveyed the field and threw behind Morrison at third base, who had taken too big a turn expecting it to get through the infield. Uribe applied the tag to end the inning and hold the Rays at just one run.

Santana added an RBI-single in the bottom of the seventh, scoring Tyler Naquin, who singled. Lindor then brought home Santana with a sacrifice fly to left field, pushing the Indians’ lead to 6-1.

It was the Indians’ sixth straight win, trying their season high, and the 11th straight win at home.

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Indians 6, Rays 0: Ryan Lewis’ 17 Walk-Off Thoughts on Corey Kluber, Jason Kipnis, Juan Uribe, Jobu

By Ryan Lewis Published: June 21, 2016

Here are 17 Walk-Off Thoughts after the Indians’ 6-0 win against the Tampa Bay Rays Tuesday night.

1. Corey Kluber this season hasn’t had the same consistency he had when he won the 2014 AL Cy Young. But when he’s on, like Tuesday night, he reminds teams of how dominant he can be. On Tuesday night, he was about as good as they come.

2. Kluber tossed a three-hit complete-game shutout against the Rays, striking out nine. A runner didn’t advance into scoring position until the ninth inning. It was the 10th complete game and third complete-game shutout of his career. No AL pitcher has more complete games (10) since the start of the 2014 season than Kluber.

3. Like his nature, Kluber takes on outings like these in a methodical fashion, one inning at a time. Said Kluber, “I try to take it step-by-step, inning-by-inning, each inning try to go out there put up a zero. Hopefully at the end of the game, that pieces together to be a good start for the team. But I’m not trying to keep momentum from inning-to-inning, it’s just trying, each time out there, to not let them score.”



4. The Rays were aggressive Tuesday night, which played into Kluber being able to keep his pitch-count down and go the distance. Indians manager Terry Francona felt Kluber was fighting his control for the first three innings and then settled in. If Kluber was fighting his command, he still struck out four and allowed one hit in those three innings. “Then” he got into a rhythm, which is a pretty good picture for how the Rays couldn’t do much against him.

5. Francona didn’t think twice about sending him out for the ninth, saying, “No, not as long as he’s OK. We talked about pitch count lots of times. Sometimes it can be harder on a pitcher that’s laboring regardless of the pitch count. I think Kluber stayed in his delivery just fine.”

6. Jason Kipnis—sort of—had the most exciting play in baseball. With Yan Gomes on second, Kipnis lined a ball into center field. It took a weird hop and ricocheted off the glove of Rays center fielder Desmond Jennings and over his head, rolling all the way to the wall. It allowed Kipnis to go all the way around the bases for a de-facto inside the park home run, though in the scorebook it’s a single with a three-base error.

7. Besides a walk-off home run or the last out of the game, there aren’t many occurrences in which the crowd gets louder than when a hitter rounds third like that.

8. Said Kipnis, “Start running. Turn it up a notch. You’re already thinking about taking a wide turn for maybe drawing the throw, just to make sure the run scores. But once it got by him, you know you’re getting to third easy, and from that point, you’re just picking up the third base coach to see if you’re stopping or going.”

More: Michael Brantley gets second opinion, second cortisone shot

9. The last time Kipnis tried it, it didn’t go as well. Said Kipnis, “In Arizona. Someone put a piano on my back rounding third and Didi Gregorious threw me out by like 20 yards. I do remember that.”
 
10. “That’s when I wore a younger man’s shoes. I was trying to end the game. I was trying to play hero, trying to get out of there. This one was just fun. We already got the run in, the job was done, and I’m convinced that took a really bad hop and that’s a home run, that’s not an error. I’m hoping we send in a protest and get it changed. … It took a hell of a hop. It’s one of ones, it’s a fun thing, you’d love to have it, if not, oh well.”

11. Juan Uribe got hit a very sensitive region, missed time, came back and has now hit four home runs in four games. And that doesn’t include his off-the-wall double that missed being a home run by a few feet and nearly ended Sunday’s game. Since returning, he’s hitting everything hard.

12. Said Kipnis on Uribe, “There’s a sweet shot of him checking if it’s fair or foul with the umpire, that’s awesome. This is what he brings to you. He can get hot with the best of them sometimes. He’s a leader in the clubhouse, good defense, and he can change some games with the swing of a bat. And he’s been doing it the past four games. Just as long as he’s putting up consistent at-bats, you don’t care if he’s hitting .230 or not, because he can do that.”

13. Uribe’s home run came after Jose Ramirez hit a two-run shot. Kipnis joked it was the first back-to-back father-son home runs since the Griffeys.

14. Uribe’s home run was crushed, but it was down the left-field line. He used some body English to keep it fair.

All of Cleveland coming together tomorrow like:

(The usual h/t to our awesome photographers!) pic.twitter.com/VV8Nm8MtDn

15. Uribe really is one of the gems in the league. He’s known as one of the best clubhouse guys in the game. He’s 37. He shows up, he hits a home run, he leaves the clubhouse with a cigar in his mouth. There aren’t many like him.

16. The Indians have now won five in a row and 10 straight at home, improving their record to 40-30. It might be thanks to Jobu. Kipnis and Mike Napoli have a shrine to Jobu in-between their  lockers that includes two small figurines and three bottles of travel-sized rum. For now, it’s Bacardi, and the Indians are on a winning streak.

17. Said Kipnis, “We’ve had that there for a little bit, but it’s been working. He didn’t like the first airport vodkas we left him, so we tried Bacardi, and Bacardi seems to be working better. We’ll see. Right now it’s working. We’re not going to mess with what works. … Rum is what he likes best.”

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Corey Kluber dominates with complete-game shutout, Indians top Tampa Bay Rays 6-0

By Ryan Lewis Published: June 21, 2016

Corey Kluber has been plagued by low run support the last few years. Sometimes, he doesn’t need much, and it isn’t an issue.

Like on Tuesday night, when Kluber was again in his 2014 Cy Young form and led the Indians to a 6-0 win against the Tampa Bay Rays.

It was the Indians’ fifth straight win, one short of their longest winning streak of the season, and the 10th straight win at home.

Kluber had little trouble with the Rays, throwing a three-hit shutout. He walked two and struck out nine. The lone hit came in the second inning, when Corey Dickerson singled to right field. No Rays player ever made it into scoring position until the ninth inning.

For Kluber, it was his 10th career complete game and third career complete-game shutout. He tossed his second complete-game shutout earlier this season against Detroit.

Offensively, the Indians capitalized on a few Rays mistakes.

Still scoreless in the bottom of the third, Yan Gomes singled off Rays starter Blake Snell and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Tyler Naquin. Jason Kipnis lined a single into center field, which took a high hop and bounced off Rays center fielder Desmond Jennings’ glove and over his head. The ball rolled all the way to wall, allowing Kipnis to take the turn at third and head home for a de-facto inside the park home run, though it was a single and a three-base error in the box score.

In the sixth, the Indians added a third run of insurance for Kluber. Jose Ramirez singled and Juan Uribe reached on an error, putting Ramirez in scoring position. Lonnie Chisenhall sent a single back up the middle, scoring Ramirez and putting the Indians up 3-0.

In the bottom of the eighth, facing Rays reliever Steve Geltz, the Indians tacked on with the long ball. First, Jose Ramirez lined a two-run home run to right field, his fourth of the season.

Juan Uribe followed with a solo shot to the Home Run Porch, his fourth home run in as many games. With it, Uribe became the first Indians player to homer in four straight games since Kipnis did it in July-August of 2011.

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Indians OF Michael Brantley gets second opinion, second cortisone shot 


By Ryan Lewis Published: June 21, 2016

The wait for a Cleveland title is finished. The wait for Michael Brantley’s return continues.

After having his workload “ramped up” last week, Brantley felt discomfort in his biceps and lower shoulder area. He had a lighter day on Monday and was diagnosed with right biceps tendinitis.

The Indians flew Brantley to Dallas to meet with Dr. Keith Meister and get a second opinion. He also has received another MRI and a second cortisone shot. It’s more reason for concern that Brantley’s return will come later rather than sooner.

“Even though he was doing front-toss flips, the intensity was getting ramped up,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “The examination went really well—structurally sound. His biceps, that’s where the soreness is coming from. In the grand scheme of things, this is great news. … And if this is what it is, they can knock that out and he will get back on the path of coming back.”

That path was already being traveled slowly, as the Indians proceeded with caution after Brantley twice tried to return and twice had to be shut down. The Indians were pleased to see nothing structurally wrong, but multiple cortisone shots, opinions and stints on the disabled list has made his return a tricky case.

June is nearly coming to a close, and the Indians are still searching for answers with how to get Brantley back into the lineup.

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Indians 7, Rays 4: 16 Walk-Off Thoughts on Francisco Lindor, Juan Uribe, winning at home

By Ryan Lewis Published: June 20, 2016

 

Here are 16 Walk-Off Thoughts after the Indians’ 7-4 win against the Tampa Bay Rays Monday night.

1. There was an obvious cloud hanging over the stadium Monday night, the hangover of a title celebration with a crowd still flying high on pure elation. It was amazing to look over the crowd, thinking, ‘Every fan here now has one.’

2. The game included several nods by the Indians to the Cavaliers for their title win Sunday night. During the fifth-inning hot dog race, all three stopped to show homage to LeBron James with some of his well-known celebrations and routines. During a “Kiss Cam” montage, the Indians showed a picture of James kissing the Larry O’Brien trophy, which received a loud chorus of cheers.

 

Kiss cam at the @Indians game @cavs @KingJames pic.twitter.com/6qieBYaO3x

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Francisco Lindor breaks late tie, Indians beat Rays 7-4 for fourth straight win

By Ryan Lewis Published: June 20, 2016

With the aura of a championship still hanging heavy in the Cleveland air, Francisco Lindor kept the party going Monday night at Progressive Field.

In the eighth inning of a tied game, Lindor—with his Space Jam walk-up music, a link to LeBron James and his future appearance in Space Jam 2—came away with the key hit to break a deadlocked score and lead the Indians to a 7-4 win against the Tampa Bay Rays.

With the score tied 4-4 and Rays reliever Erasmo Ramirez (7-5, 3.49 ERA) on the mound, Lindor broke the tie with a solo home run to right, his eighth of the season. Later in the inning, Juan Uribe added on with a two-run shot to center field, his third home run in as many games, pushing the lead to 7-4.

Bryan Shaw (1-3, 5.14 ERA) worked the eighth and Cody Allen worked the ninth, securing his 14th save of the season and concluding a needed drama-free performance from the back-end of the Indians’ bullpen. The win was the Indians’ fourth in a row after being swept in Kansas City last week.

The Indians (39-30) chased the Rays (31-37) for most of the night, trading runs back-and-forth. It started early against starting pitcher Josh Tomlin.

Brad Miller reached on an error by Jason Kipnis and Evan Longoria made it costly, belting a two-run home run to left field to make it 2-0 before the Indians had an at-bat.

In the fourth, facing Rays starter Drew Smyly, that lead was cut in half after Francisco Lindor singled, advanced to second on a Mike Napoli single, stole third base and scored on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Carlos Santana.

A Desmond Jennings triple and Taylor Motter groundout in the fifth returned it to a two-run game. In the bottom half of the fifth, Yan Gomes singled on a play the Indians reversed with a challenge. He was followed by Rajai Davis and Kipnis, who each singled, the latter of which made it 3-2.

Tired with manufacturing runs, the Indians and Rays traded home runs in the sixth. Brad Miller and Santana each hit solo home runs, and each traveled more than 435 feet, per Statcast. Santana’s reached the second grouping of trees in center field.

In the seventh, the Indians caught the Rays. Gomes doubled, Michael Martinez advanced him to third with a sacrifice bunt and Davis sent a sacrifice fly to right field just far enough to score Gomes and tie it 4-4.

Tomlin threw seven innings, allowed four runs (three earned) on five hits and struck out three.

The game included several nods by the Indians to the Cavaliers for their title win Sunday night. During the fifth-inning hot dog race, all three stopped to show homage to LeBron James with some of his well-known celebrations and routines. During a “Kiss Cam” montage, the Indians showed a picture of James kissing the Larry O’Brien trophy, which received a loud chorus of cheers.

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On the meaning of a Cleveland title to so many, Terry Francona as a fan, Chris Gimenez’s lost bet

By Ryan Lewis Published: June 20, 2016

The first time I saw my mom cry was after Game 7 of the ’97 World Series.

And she was crying Sunday night, though for a much sweeter reason. She cried as the clock ticked away, and Cleveland had its championship—finally, it was over. She cried again on Monday watching on TV as LeBron James came out of the plane holding the Larry O’Brien trophy, the symbol to relieve so much heartache.

So, so many other Cleveland fans had the same experience. And that’s what this title meant to so many from this area. The relief of so much stress and tension and waiting and disappointment and dashed hopes.

I watched Game 7 with a good friend and our wives. The second it was over, as James and Kevin Love were embracing in Oakland, my buddy hugged me and started crying.

So, so many other Cleveland fans had the same experience. At the Cavs’ watch party at Quicken Loans Arena, where the available tickets were gone in minutes; Outside Quicken Loans Arena, where the available tickets were gone in minutes; In bars, where many of them ran out of alcohol; In homes, huddled around a TV, a lot of people unable to stay seated in the fourth quarter. Everywhere.

All of the emotion came pouring out for so many people in that one instant, just like it did as James wept on the Oracle Arena floor, and Tyronn Lue wept into a towel on the bench, and on and on.

Many Dick’s Sporting Goods locations stayed open until early in the morning to sell championship gear. The lines were 50, 60, 70 people deep, all the way from the register to the back wall. People were driving around with their horns blaring. Some actually ran into the store to make sure they got a T-shirt or a hat. One fan yelled “533 dollars!” when his total was rung up, to which many started cheering.

Fans waited hours to spend money on a T-shirt, because it meant that much. There was so much tension, so much raw emotion, and it was being released and healed. They had been waiting so long to let it go of it all.

The emotions were for Northeast Ohio. The understanding was national. Celebrities, athletes, media members, all have spoken out, understanding what this has meant to the people here, congratulating fans here.

Cities have won a title. Sunday night, Cleveland won its title.

Those types of things act as a conduit to bring people together. Indians manager Terry Francona watched in a local establishment and then viewed the party going on from his downtown apartment.

“I was, by far, the oldest person in there,” Francona said. “And I was trying to be a little bit reserved, act my age. I caught myself a couple of times, my hand would go up in the air, like when [Kyrie] Irving made that three. Or when LeBron blocked [Andre] Iguodala’s layup. But when they won, I realized how old I was, and I tried to sneak up. I went to my room. [Indians replay coordinator Mike Barnett] and I watched all the partying from the 14th floor. It was kind of fun.”

He was at the helm when the Boston Red Sox ended their “curse” by winning the World Series in 2004. He was there, right in the middle of it. Some things don’t sink in until it really is done, mission completed.

“You don’t know that until it’s over,” he said. “People used to say all the time, ‘When did you know?’ When it was over. That’s why you have to kind of enjoy the journey a little bit, because there is no crystal ball and only one team can win.”

Cleveland fans will be reveling in the Cavs’ title for quite some time. Meanwhile, the Indians are battling for first place in the American League Central.  They’ll do it in front of a fan base so relieved, feeling so different than it has in the past five decades.

The response doesn’t have to be, ‘What do we do now that it’s over?’ Indians catcher Chris Gimenez hopes it brings more positivity, now that the veil of a curse is lifted.

“Hopefully the fact that the Cavs won gives people some hope, like, ‘Hey, we can do it,’” Gimenez said. “I think that’s what a lot of guys are hoping for, that we can get some people out there. Because we feed off this. The last couple nights have been phenomenal. And we hear the Cavs chants in the fifth inning. It’s pretty awesome, honestly.”

Gimenez grew up 45 minutes from the Oakland Coliseum and is a long-time Warriors fan. He might have a different look soon, as he made a friendly bet with one of the Indians’ clubhouse guys prior to Game 7 and is now not allowed to shave his head for a month, something he hasn’t done since the early 2000s. His shaving supplies were taped above his locker.

“Dude, I have no idea how it’s going to grow,” he said, laughing.

Even as a Warriors fan, Gimenez is well aware of what Sunday night meant, enough that he stayed up for three hours after the game watching the post-game interviews and celebration—and his team lost.

“You can just see the elation on people’s faces,” Gimenez said. “We’ve all been here long enough to know the past sports experiences of this town. I couldn’t be happier for the city, for the people of the city, for sports fans here in general. It’s pretty cool.”

A lot of people have been waiting a long time to feel what they are feeling right now, what they’ve been feeling since late Sunday night, what The King and the Cavaliers delivered. On Wednesday, there will be a parade 52 years in the making.

Soak it all in. This time—finally—the tears are for the best reasons.

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Jose Ramirez single wins it in walk-off fashion; Indians complete sweep of White Sox with 3-2 win

By Ryan Lewis Published: June 19, 2016

The Indians have found some Progressive Field magic in June.

In the bottom of the 10th of tied 2-2 game, Rajai Davis ripped a double to left field off of David Robertson (0-1, 3.95 ERA) for his fourth hit of the day and advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Jason Kipnis.

With the game-winning run 90 feet away and the bases loaded following intentional walks to Francisco Lindor and Mike Napoli, Jose Ramirez grounded a two-out single into right field to win it 3-2 and complete a three-game sweep of the Chicago White Sox.

Ramirez’s single was nearly fielded by first basemen Jose Abreu, which would have made it the second time in as many innings a nice play in the field by the White Sox (33-36) ended the game. This time, it went through, and Ramirez was mobbed by his teammates rounding first base.

“Every time I hit the ball, I always think it’s going to get past,” Ramirez said through a team translator. “I always think it’s going to get by the fielders.”

The walk-off win came two days after Carlos Santana beat the White Sox with a walk-off home run and after the Indians started June with back-to-back walk-off wins. They didn’t have any in April or May.

The Indians (38-30) also had a chance to end it in the bottom of the ninth. Juan Uribe doubled off the wall but with two outs, a Michael Martinez line drive was snagged by Brett Lawrie, sending the game into extras. Cody Allen and Dan Otero (2-0, 0.98 ERA) each pitched scoreless innings to get to the 10th, when Ramirez finally came through with the decisive hit.

Prior to it, the White Sox twice took the lead and the Indians twice answered.

The White Sox struck early against Indians starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco. Tim Anderson led off the game with a double to left field and later scored on Abreu’s double to deep center field.

The Indians answered in the bottom half of the inning against White Sox starter Carlos Rodon. Davis singled, Jason Kipnis followed with a bunt single and Davis, who now has an American League-leading 20 stolen bases, stole third base. Napoli narrowly missed a three-run home run, driving one to the warning track, and had to settle for trying the score with a sacrifice fly to right field.

In the top of the fourth, Melky Cabrera put the White Sox back on top with a solo home run to right field, making it 2-1. And, once again, the Indians answered in the bottom half the inning, as Uribe clubbed a solo shot of his own, his fourth of the season and second in as many days.

It was the strongest outing for Carrasco since returning from the disabled list. He tossed 7 1/3 innings, allowed two runs on five hits and struck out six. This was also the first day Carrasco felt back to normal since returning from a strained left hamstring.

“As soon as I walked to the bullpen and started throwing, that’s the way I felt,” Carrasco said. “I talked to [pitching coach Mickey Callaway] and said, ‘Hey, I feel the same way I did before, so I think today is my day,’ and it was.”

Carrasco’s day ended in the eighth inning after Adam Eaton doubled to put the go-ahead run in scoring position with the middle of the lineup due up. Bryan Shaw, who has struggled as the Indians’ set-up man as of late, retired Abreu and Cabrera to end the inning.

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Indians 13, White Sox 2: 14 Walk-Off Thoughts on Tyler Naquin, Danny Salazar, more

By Ryan Lewis Published: June 18, 2016

Here are 14 Walk-Off Thoughts after the Indians pounded the Chicago White Sox 13-2 Saturday night. The win pushed the Indians’ record to 37-30 and 20-10 in the division.

1. Facing James Shields, who is on one of the worst runs in recent history as a starting pitcher, the Indians piled on eight runs in the first two innings to cruise behind Danny Salazar.

2. The first four batters reached base, highlighted by Mike Napoli’s three-run home run, his team-leading 15th of the season. Shields didn’t make it out of the second inning.

3. It was a case of the Indians jumping on a struggling pitcher. Shields had a 1.67 ERA in his last four starts against the Indians but a 24.62 ERA since joining the White Sox.

4. Said Indians manager Terry Francona, “I can’t figure any game where it’s not [important]. He was having trouble locating early and we took advantage of it. Nap with a big swing, then we stayed after him. It’s a good way to play. It doesn’t happen very often so you take it when you get it.”

More: Trevor Bauer finding consistency; Michael Brantley not ready to progress

5. Tyler Naquin had perhaps the best game of his rookie season and is continuing to play well with his opportunity. Naquin went 3-for-3 Saturday night with a home run (his fifth), a triple, a single, two walks and four RBI.

6. Said Francona, “I think he’s more relaxed, especially at the plate. He had a little bit of a tough week in the road trip and then bounces back and takes some good really swings and does some damage. When you have guys sitting down in the 8 or 9 holes, it really helps.”

7. This is his third stint in Cleveland, and he’s performed each time. This third time, though, Naquin has gone above and beyond expectations. He’s now hitting .320 this season and has a 151 wRC+, per FanGraphs, meaning he's been 51-percent above average at the plate.

8. Said Naquin, “Absolutely. I think any time you do something more than once, even twice, you’re always going to feel better about it and yourself. So just go out there, play with a little savvy and have fun. That’s my big thing, play hard and have fun.”



9. He also made two quality plays in center field, one on a ball in the gap and one in which he went straight back. Those types of plays are things the Indians wanted him to improve upon.

10. Said Francona, “It’s nice to see guys get hits but it’s nice to see him go back and get behind that ball. That’s almost the same play he missed earlier in the year. We were thrilled about that.”

11. It was just another great start for Danny Salazar in his on-going bid for the American League Cy Young. He threw 6 2/3 innings, allowed two runs (home run to Jose Abreu in the sixth) and struck out seven. He’s now 8-3 with a 2.23 ERA. Prior to the home run, Salazar was inching toward getting his season ERA below the 2.00 mark.

12. Said Francona, “Then the way Danny was throwing the ball, his stuff was so good tonight. You see his velocity but his changeup almost looked like a breaking ball at times.”

With how good Salazar has been, an 8-0 lead after two innings will be plenty of offense to put the game away.

13. Said Salazar, “It was amazing. It makes the game a little bit easier for you, a little bit slower. It’s like you go out there and want to do your job, do your part. But it’s like you’re not rushing. You’re just calm in executing your pitches. … One thing I put in my mind was the game was tied, 0-0. So every time I go out there, I was confident. But I wasn’t just to trying to put every pitch [down the middle] so they could hit it.”



14. Perhaps it was the run support. Perhaps it was the emotional support. Trevor Bauer wore Danny Salazar’s batting practice jersey in the dugout. After the game, Salazar said, “That was great.” When asked if he’ll wear Bauer’s jersey sometime, he said, “I will. You’ll see.”

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Indians pound Chicago White Sox 13-2

By Ryan Lewis Published: June 18, 2016

The Indians have taken care of business within their own division this season. On Saturday night, they did so emphatically.

The Indians tore through James Shields and Danny Salazar continued his Cy Young bid in a 13-2 shellacking of the White Sox. The win improved the Indians’ divisional record to 20-10 in 2016.

Shields (0-2, 6.28 ERA), the White Sox’s recent pickup as they try to climb back on top of the American League Central division, has struggled since being traded and was at his worst against the Indians to the tune of eight runs in under two innings.

The first four Indians batters scored in the bottom of the first. Carlos Santana walked, Jason Kipnis doubled off the left-field wall, Francisco Lindor singled home a run and Mike Napoli blasted a three-run home run to right-center field, his team-leading 15th of the season.

Jose Ramirez followed with a double down the left-field line, Lonnie Chisenhall walked and Tyler Naquin made it a five-run first inning with an RBI-single to left field.

The Indians (37-30) kept adding on in the second. After Kipnis walked and Lindor singled, Juan Uribe singled home a run to end Shields’ day. Matt Purke entered and couldn’t find the strike zone, walking the first three batters he faced. That brought home one run and catcher Dioner Navarro made an error trying to pick off Uribe at third base to make it 8-0 Indians.

Naquin was far from done. In the fourth, he added a two-RBI triple that made it 10-0. In the seventh, he clubbed a solo home run, his fifth of the season, that followed a two-run home run by Uribe and extended the Indians’ lead to 13-2. He reached base five times, going 3-for-3 with two walks.

Salazar (8-3, 2.23 ERA) tossed 6 2/3 innings, allowed two runs on five hits and struck out seven in yet another strong performance. His lone blemish was a two-run home run allowed to White Sox (33-35) first basemen Jose Abreu in the sixth inning with the game already in hand.

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Indians’ Trevor Bauer finding consistency; Michael Brantley not ready to progress

By Ryan Lewis Published: June 18, 2016

Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer’s career arc has been rife with peaks and valleys, potential and inconsistency.

He’s had stretches where he’s pitched to the level of Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar. He’s also pitched himself out of the rotation, which he did last September as he struggled to keep the ball in the ballpark.

He got his chance this season when Carrasco strained his left hamstring and has done well with the opportunity. He’s also picked up the slack while Cody Anderson has struggled to find the same success as he did in his rookie year.

In his last five starts, Bauer has seemingly put things together like the Indians had hoped, owning a 2.52 ERA with 32 strikeouts while throwing at least six innings in each outing.

The movement has been good, especially on his changeup, as Indians manager Terry Francona noted. But what the Indians have liked to see out of Bauer even more has been the consistency.

“Consistency, in our game, it’s such a big word,” Francona said. “And he’s backed up his starts now, which gets exciting. I don’t think we’re ever looking for the glass to be half empty, but in his case right now, it’s been five pretty good ones.”

Bauer spent much of the spring wanting to increase his velocity. Per BrooksBaseball.net, Baeur’s fastball has been clocked at 95.08 mph this season, the highest mark of his career and up from 93.65 last year. Just as important, the Indians have seen that velocity come effortlessly and with solid command in this stretch of starts.

“Maybe it’s confidence, I don’t know, but it’s leading to really good starts,” Francona said. “He seems to be in control. It doesn’t seem like he’s trying to reach back and throw 100. Because whatever he’s throwing—whether it’s 93, 94—it has life through the zone, which is plenty good.”

Do not pass go

Left fielder Michael Brantley is still not ready to progress beyond soft toss as the Indians proceed with caution.

Brantley has twice tried to return from offseason shoulder surgery and has twice been sent back to the disabled list. The original timetable put Brantley’s return in early May. As June draws to a close, he’s still stuck at only 11 games played.

“It’s a process. You have got to stick with the process,” Brantley said. “I’ve got to stay confident. You’ve got to trust in what you’re doing, trust in the training staff and the doctors. I want to come back to the field as soon as possible, but I want to stay as healthy as possible as well.”

The first two times Brantley attempted to come back, he flew past his progression milestones faster than expected. This time, the Indians are making sure he’s healthy enough to move up past soft toss.

“He’s continuing to plug away and just grind through it,” Francona said. “The medical team is not yet ready to allow him to advance past that, so that’s what he’s been doing and he continues to bump up the intensity and the volume, but he’s still at that stage.”

It’s certainly been one of the more frustrating cases for the Indians, as they await the return of a key bat to their lineup.

“I’m disappointed for him,” Francona said. “He did everything in his power to be accountable because he’s so good at that—understanding he’s important to our team and everything, but it happens to every team. Every team has injuries and you either use that as an excuse or you try to figure out a way to win despite that. It makes it harder, but it shouldn’t stop us from winning.”

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Indians 3, White Sox 2: 15 Walk-Off Thoughts on Carlos Santana, Jason Kipnis, Trevor Bauer, more

By Ryan Lewis Published: June 17, 2016

Here are 15 Walk-Off Thoughts after the Indians’ 3-2 walk-off win against the Chicago White Sox.

1. After not being able to come up with a timely hit in a three-game sweep at the hands of the Kansas City Royals, the Indians twice used some clutch hitting to snap a three-game losing streak and notch their third walk-off win of the season.

2. The first was off the bat of Jason Kipnis, who put the Indians on top 2-1 in the eighth inning with a double to right-center field that scored Michael Martinez from first.

3. Kipnis has done so much damage ripping doubles to the opposite field—the gap in left-center—in his career that some center fielders have started to shade him the other way, as White Sox center fielder J.B. Shuck did Friday night. Kipnis made it costly, and the shading made it possible for Martinez to score from first.

4. Said Kipnis, “Me and [hitting coach Ty VanBurkleo] have been joking about that. When are we going to finally burn one of those center fielders playing me to left-center? Couldn't have picked a better time. I'm happy about this one.”

5. Kipnis joked that after the Cavs game last night, he didn’t want to go to extra innings. He nearly did, as Cody Allen blew the save and gave up back-to-back doubles that tied it 2-2 in the top of the ninth. It was another frustrating night from the bullpen—Bryan Shaw worked himself into trouble in the eighth but got out of it—in a poor stretch. The Indians had gotten used to Shaw and Allen working as one of the better tandems in the league for a stretch of time.

6. Said Kipnis, “I didn't want to go to extras tonight. After the Cavs game last night, I was just like, 'No.' No, it's going to happen. It happened before. It's going to happen again. You can't expect him to close it down every single time. He's a damn good closer. We give him a little too much credit sometimes because we just expect him to shut it down all the time. He held them to one. He kept it a tied ballgame. We weren't losing. The off-day did us some good and gave us some rest, so we could regroup and have a positive attitude. When we came to the dugout, everybody was like, 'Who wants it? Who's it going to be?’”



7. It was Carlos Santana, who led off the ninth by belting a solo home run to center field. It was his 14th home run of the season, which tied him with Mike Napoli for the team lead. It was Santana’s fourth walk-off home run of his career.

8. White Sox reliever Nate Jones threw two sliders low and outside to get to an 0-2 count. Santana watched both. When Jones threw a third slider in the same spot, he crushed it.

9. Said Santana, “Yes, he was throwing his slider. I tried to find the fastball but he threw a slider again and I tried to hit it down the middle with good contact. He threw a slider and I got a home run.”

10. Having the last at-bat comes in handy. Said Indians manager Terry Francona, “Obviously, emotions. It's like you kind of got punched in the stomach a little bit, but fortunately—we’ve played a lot of these games on the road—when you're playing at home, even though it's a kick in the stomach for a minute, you're still hitting last. You see what happens. You make a mistake on the road and you can lose. Fortunately, they did, because they had Santana down 0-2. Man, he took a nice swing. That kid's got a really good arm. But, we talk about it all the time when we're on the road.”

More: Indians first-round selection Will Benson setting sights on Miguel Cabrera, fashion trends

11. Trevor Bauer was solid again. He allowed one run in seven innings and struck out nine, and the only run given up came after Lonnie Chisenhall slipped in right field, which turned a single into a triple.

12. In Bauer’s last five starts, he has a 2.52 ERA. After starting the season in the bullpen and having some ups and downs, he’s beginning to put it together consistently.

13. Said Francona, “I thought Trevor was good. They were really more patient with him tonight than they have been in the past. I don't know if that was by design, but there were a lot of deep counts. The pitch count was up high. And I don't worry about him so much, because his arm's in really good shape. But, you start to get concerned when hitters are coming around and they've seen everything he has. But, I didn't really see a reason to take him out. He was really effective. His stuff wasn't dropping off. Really good changeup. His pitches were moving. I thought he pitched really well.”

14. Michael Martinez, of all players, is among the hottest hitters over the last week. He’s hitting .444 in his last seven games and is hitting .333 for the season. Not bad for a utility guy who looked to just be break-glass-in-case-of-emergency level insurance. Martinez collected two more hits Friday night.

15. Said Kipnis, “I'll tell you right now: He's probably everybody's favorite player on the team. The guy is awesome. He's a good dude that you like rooting for. He's a baseball player. He wasn't your prospect probably when he was coming up. He's not a big kid, but the guy is a good baseball player and does everything well. He can do anything you ask him with the bat. He can bunt and move guys over and play any position you need. He's awesome.”

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Carlos Santana walk-off home run lifts Indians to 3-2 win over White Sox

By Ryan Lewis Published: June 17, 2016

The Indians blew the lead in the top of the ninth, but Carlos Santana hit a ball far enough in the bottom of the ninth that it didn’t matter.

Santana led off the ninth by belting a walk-off home run to center field that capped a 3-2 Indians win over the Chicago White Sox Friday night. The win was the Indians’ third walk-off win of the season and snapped a three-game losing streak.

In the top of the ninth, Cody Allen came on for the save with the Indians leading 2-1 but allowed back-to-back doubles to Brett Lawrie and Avisail Garcia that tied it 2-2, as the bullpen woes continued and nearly wasted a strong outing by Trevor Bauer.

An inning earlier, trailing 2-1, Jason Kipnis came away with the type of hit the Indians lacked in their three-game sweep at the hands of the Kansas City Royals this week.

Facing White Sox starter Jose Quintana, Michael Martinez singled to lead off the eighth inning, setting up Jason Kipnis, who roped a double to center field that scored Martinez from first and gave the Indians the timely hit they had been missing while their lead in the American League Central was decimated in Kansas City.

Just prior to Kipnis’ winning hit in the eighth, struggling set-up Bryan Shaw worked into trouble but escaped with the 1-1 tie in-tact in the top half of the inning, striking out Todd Frazier with runners on the corners.

It was all finished by Santana’s game-clinching home run.

Bauer and Quintana battled for most of the night, both delivering strong performances but with different back stories.

Quintana has been among the American League’s more consistent starters this season, owning a sub-3.00 ERA despite a losing record while he’s struggled to get any consistent run support.

Bauer has slowly progressed in the right direction, albeit somewhat quietly, with Chris Gimenez acting as his de-facto personal catcher. Bauer entered Friday night with a 2.83 ERA in his last four starts, as he’s seen his season arc from opening the year in the bullpen to filling in for Carlos Carrasco when he strained his hamstring to now performing on a higher level.

Bauer allowed just one run on four hits and three walks and struck out nine in seven innings pitched Friday night. Quintana went 7 2/3, giving up two runs on seven hits and striking out six.

Bauer’s only run allowed came on a misplay in right field by Lonnie Chisenhall. In the third inning, Adam Eaton ripped a line drive that Chisenhall dove for but couldn’t reach. The ball rolled all the way to the wall and instead of being a single, Eaton ended up on third and then scored on a Jose Abreu ground ball.

That tied it 1-1 after the Indians took took an early 1-0 lead. In the bottom of the first, Rajai Davis singled, stole his 18th base of the season and scored on Francisco Lindor’s RBI-single to center field.

The Indians (36-30) improved to 19-10 against divisional opponents and 27-7 this season when scoring first

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Indians first-round selection Will Benson has sights set on Miguel Cabrera, fashion trends

By Ryan Lewis Published: June 17, 2016

Indians first-round pick Will Benson didn’t turn 18 until this week, making him about as young as a high draft selection can be. Benson was at Progressive Field with his parents for the first time on Friday.

And when he met with reporters, he already sported an Indians hat and shirt. He also had, of course, Mickey Mouse socks.

“That’s just me,” Benson said, smiling as he did all Friday while meeting with players and staff members on the field. “I’m different. I just like being out there. I liked Mickey Mouse as a kid. … You’ll be seeing me doing a lot of funky fashion trends. Hopefully, I’ll be a trendsetter.”

Benson was selected by the Indians with the No. 14 overall pick earlier this month and signed with a reported bonus of $2.5 million. He has already shown maturity beyond his years, even with the goofy socks. The night he was drafted he mostly talked about how he wanted to do charity work outside of the game. Part of his “mission” in the game, as he put it, is to help revive baseball as the No. 1 sport, particularly for inner-city kids who might not have access to proper equipment.

He spoke to that again Friday, elaborating that he’d like to put some of his signing bonus toward eventually having a facility that can act as a pick-up baseball field with equipment provided.

“It’s a sad sight because it’s hard to afford a $400 dollar bat when you only have to spend $20 on a basketball and $15 on a football,” he said. “I think when kids are given the necessary equipment, that’s when baseball will become a joy and that’s how baseball can become the No. 1 sport again. Pick-up baseball isn’t really a thing right now but hopefully with the facility I want to create, we will have a place kids can just go in.”

And what else will he do with the $2.5 million bonus? His plans include still getting his degree—he was recruited by Duke—and majoring in finance. They don’t include upgrading his 2001 Ford Explorer.

“No cars,” he said. “I got a Ford Explorer back home. It works. It gets me from point A to point B. I’ll take that. … We talked about donating to my school. Of course going to tithes with my church. Also putting money towards the facility I want to create.”

Benson added he’ll be giving back to his parents, who were in the room at the time, “whether they like it or not.”

He’s been an adult for all of a few days but has shown more maturity than many twice his age. He does look the part, though, standing 6-6 and 220 pounds. The Indians were impressed with him early on in the scouting process as they tracked about 165 at-bats of his at the Westminster Schools in Atlanta. Then, in a workout with the Indians, a minor change left Benson belting home run after home run.

“The amazing thing was Will felt it right away, was able to make the change right away,” said Brad Grant, the Indians’ director of amateur scouting. “Balls were going 450 feet away and going up over trees. I hadn’t ever seen anything like that before.”

Benson, an outfielder, hit .454 with 11 doubles, eight home runs and 41 RBI and had 11 stolen bases last season in high school. He’s drawn comparisons to Chicago Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward.

But he’d still like to become “smoother” at the plate. He admitted that, with the popular adage that “chicks dig the long ball,” he might have been trying to do a little too much at the plate, perhaps trying to be too impressive. And the name he has in mind is familiar to Indians fans, albeit for not the best reasons.

“I think in terms of an offensive player I like to look up to and admire a lot is Miguel Cabrera,” Benson said. “He’s a smooth killer, man. A smooth assassin. I’d like to be that one day—maybe even better. That’s a tough task, tough words. But I’m going to put in the work necessary to do so.”

For now, he’s just the big, strong kid with the Mickey Mouse socks.

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Indians rocked by Kansas City Royals 9-4, now tied in AL Central

By Ryan Lewis Published: June 15, 2016

Ace Corey Kluber was pounded by the Kansas City Royals in a 9-4 loss, and the Indians watched their lead in the American League Central division evaporate Wednesday night.

The loss finished a three-game sweep to the Royals, with both teams now at 35-30 atop the division.

Kluber (6-7, 4.23 ERA) was tagged for eight earned runs on nine hits in five innings to go with seven strikeouts.

The Indians return home Friday night for a three-game set against the Chicago White Sox and a three-game set against the Tampa Bay Rays.

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Indians blow late lead in 3-2 loss to Kansas City Royals

By Ryan Lewis Published: June 14, 2016

Josh Tomlin continued his All-Star case with another strong performance, but Salvador Perez’s two-run home run off Bryan Shaw in the eighth inning was the difference in a 3-2 Indians loss to the Royals Tuesday night.

Tomlin tossed seven innings, allowing just one run on seven hits and striking out five. He left the game with a 2-1 lead behind Carlos Santana’s solo home run off Chris Young in the third inning—his 13th of the season—and Jason Kipnis’ RBI-single in the fifth.

That was until Perez took Shaw (0-3, 5.68 ERA) deep for the game-deciding home run in the bottom of the eighth.

The loss dropped the Indians to 35-29 and cut their lead in the American League Central down to one game over the Royals (34-30).

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Indians select high school OF Will Benson with No. 14 pick in MLB Draft

By Ryan Lewis Published: June 9, 2016
Benson

(Photo courtesy of USA Baseball)

The Indians added another high-level prospect to the outfield in the selection of Georgia high-schooler Will Benson with the No. 14 pick of the first round in Thursday’s Major League Baseball Draft.

Benson, a left-handed power hitter who doesn’t turn 18 until later this month, is the fourth outfielder the Indians have taken in the first round of the last five drafts, following Tyler Naquin, Clint Frazier and Bradley Zimmer.

“It was a blessing. I’m so happy,” Benson said. “I’m on cloud nine. It’s an honor and I’m looking to just make the Cleveland Indians’ organization better.”

Benson stands 6-6, 220 pounds and has drawn comparisons to the Chicago Cubs’ Jason Heyward as an athletic outfielder. Last season for The Westminster Schools in Atlanta, Benson hit .454 with eight home runs, 11 doubles, 41 RBI and a 1.380 OPS and stole 11 bases.

Benson thinks he can actually bring more to the plate than Heyward.

“It’s an honor to have that comparison,” Benson said. “I think defensively, that’s a good comparison. I think we both have a lot of range and can throw the ball really well. I think offensively, I can possibly do better. That’s no discredit to what Jason Heyward has done, he’s a monster on the offensive end. He’s always on base and he can hit for average. But I think I can hit for a little bit more power and still have that average.”
Benson was named to the 2016 Rawlings Perfect Game All-American First Team, the USA 18U National Team and appeared in the 2015 Team USA Baseball Tournament of Stars and the Under Armour All-America game. He had signed a National Letter of Intent with Duke before being drafted Thursday night.

Still, he never focused on one sport, as he mom never wanted him to be specialized. Now, basketball will become the recreational sport.

“I think I've got my big boy shoes on now, so I think me being able to focus on one sport, focus on baseball, will allow me to improve my game far better than I've done these past couple years,” Benson said. “I think in the offseason I can still play basketball just for fun. I'm not saying I'm going to go back to Duke or any of that, but just for conditioning purposes and athletic purposes, I can still just play basketball with some friends or whatnot.”

Benson also has high aspirations for what he’d like to accomplish through the game of baseball culturally, similar to what Francisco Lindor has done with the R.B.I. program. Reviving the game among youth and giving more kids opportunities to play is a part of his “mission” within the game. They were profound words for somebody who hasn’t yet turned 18.

“I see plenty of opportunity in baseball,” he said. “It’s given me the opportunity to take my family around the world. It’s allowed me to meet different people of different backgrounds, different viewpoints. I think that’s a formula for world peace, honestly. I’m so glad the Cleveland Indians blessed me with an opportunity, blessed me with a platform to spread that love and peace that baseball provides me. I think baseball should be the forefront sport because I think anybody can play it. … I’m very glad the Indians drafted me, but it doesn’t mean anything if I don’t impact the people that are in Cleveland, impact the world.”

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Indians have 14th pick in Thursday’s MLB Draft; LHP Brady Aiken progressing

By Ryan Lewis Published: June 8, 2016

One of the ways in which the Indians have been able to build a stable base within the organization has been an improved return on investment from their top selections. They’ll look to continue that Thursday, when Major League Baseball begins its amateur draft.

The Indians hold the 14th overall pick in the first round, which begins at 7 p.m. and is being aired on MLB Network. They’ll make two additional picks Thursday night, as they also hold the 55th overall selection (second round) and the 72nd overall selection (competitive balance). Rounds 3-10 will be on Friday and rounds 11-40 will be completed on Saturday.

By most accounts, there doesn’t appear to be a clear top tier of 5-6-7 players who should without question be among the top picks in the draft this year. Indians director of amateur scouting Brad Grant is hopeful that benefits the teams picking in the middle of the first round.

“There is not a lot of certainty of what’s going to happen up top,” Grant said. “You have to be prepared to react to whatever is there. Our approach, as you have seen the last four or five years, is to take the best player available. We are not trying to focus in on a pitcher or a college player versus a high school player. We are going to react to see who is there and who is the best player for the Cleveland Indians at that time.”

The Indians went through a rough stretch in the early 2000s with the consecutive first-round selections of outfielder Bradley Snyder and first basemen Michael Aubrey in 2003, starting pitcher Jeremy Sowers (2004), outfielder Trevor Crowe (2005) and third basemen Brad Mills (2007). The Indians grabbed Lonnie Chisenhall in 2008, but then followed it with back-to-back misses in starting pitchers Alex White and Drew Pomeranz, though after White in 2009, the Indians did hit on Jason Kipnis in the second round.

Since that time, the Indians’ fortunes at the top of the draft seemed to have taken a turn for the better, though it’s still early for evaluations. The club grabbed Francisco Lindor, already one of the better shortstops in the game, in 2011 and then followed it by taking three straight outfielders in Tyler Naquin, Clint Frazier and Bradley Zimmer. Naquin has done well with his rookie opportunities this season. Zimmer and Frazier currently represent the top two prospects in the system. The 2014 class, headed by Zimmer, was rated as the league’s best by Baseball America.

Over the past couple weeks, Grant has been meeting with the roughly 25 area scouts focusing on the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico. Now, the ranking and sorting begins, which will eventually include about 800 players. Like every other team—and sport, for that matter, prior to a draft—Grant isn’t releasing any state secrets.
“Every time I say it’s leaning college, we end up taking all high school players and every time I say it’s leaning high school, we take all college players,” Grant said. “I think this year we are going to get a lot of players we are going to like. We always do. We don’t walk out and say we don’t like our drafts, but it’s going to be an exciting year because I think a lot of teams value players differently.”

Last year, the Indians took a surprise gamble on former first-overall pick Brady Aiken, a high-ceiling left-hander who had Tommy John surgery and fell to the Indians at No. 17. Aiken has been slowly progressing back to the mound.

“Brady is doing great,” Grant said. “He’s progressing and should be in simulated games here soon. He should be up on the mound in the next month or so throwing in real games. All the reports have been really good. It’s been really encouraging that he’s commanding his fastball. That’s the last thing that comes back from Tommy John.”

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Indians fall to Seattle Mariners 7-1, snap six-game winning streak

By Ryan Lewis Published: June 8, 2016

The Indians fell for the first time in June in a 7-1 loss to the Seattle Mariners. The loss snapped a six-game winning streak.

Cody Anderson, starting in place of Danny Salazar (shoulder fatigue), allowed a first-inning two-run home run to Nelson Cruz that ended up being all the offense the Mariners (32-26) would need. After a terrific start his last time out in Chicago, Anderson (1-4, 7.48 ERA) was hit hard for six earned runs in 3 2/3 innings pitched, though an indecisive play by Francisco Lindor that extended the fourth inning led to four more runs and didn’t help.

Cruz later also got to Jeff Manship for his second home run of the day, a solo shot in the fifth.

The Indians (32-25) never got to Mariners starter Wade Miley (6-2, 5.27 ERA), who tossed seven scoreless innings and allowed only four hits. The Indians’ lone run came in the eighth on Lonnie Chisenhall’s solo home run Joaquin Benoit.

Catcher Yan Gomes left the game with a testicular contusion.

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Indians promote SP Cody Anderson, demote RP Austin Adams to Triple-A

By Ryan Lewis Published: June 7, 2016

The Indians on Tuesday promoted starting pitcher Cody Anderson and optioned relief pitcher Austin Adams to Triple-A Columbus.

Anderson is being called upon to start in place of Danny Salazar, who has shoulder fatigue.

Anderson has struggled with home run issues this season and has a 6.81 ERA, though he had perhaps his best showing of the year in his last start in Chicago, allowing one run in seven innings and striking out a career-high nine.

The Indians had planned to activate relief pitcher Joba Chamberlain from the disabled list on Monday but needed the roster spot to promote Anderson. It’s likely Anderson is sent back down after this outing, with Chamberlain being added to the bullpen mix.

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Trevor Bauer deals, Indians beat Seattle Mariners 3-1 for sixth straight win

By Ryan Lewis Published: June 7, 2016

Trevor Bauer put together his best start of the 2016 season and the Indians extended their winning streak to six games with a 3-1 victory against the Seattle Mariners Monday night.

 

 

 

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Indians outfielder Tyler Naquin again making most of his opportunities; Michael Brantley concern

By Ryan Lewis Published: June 6, 2016

Indians outfielder Tyler Naquin has spent the season making the most of the opportunities he’s been given. They’ve been offered in spurts, and each time Naquin has responded.

Two of the those chances were unlocked thanks to Indians outfielders failing drug tests. The first was Abraham Almonte in the spring, which led to Naquin’s strong showing in Arizona and a spot on the Opening Day roster. The second came last week, when Marlon Byrd was suspended for 162 games for a second failed test. And there was a third promotion and demotion in-between them.

Naquin’s defense has left something to be desired in center field. The Indians have admitted as such, that he’s learning on the job. He’s also hit above .300 every step of the way. Overall, he’s hitting .351 with a .392 on-base percentage.

This is Naquin’s third stint at the major-league level this season. He’s been hitting for average, and now he’s added some power, hitting home runs in back-to-back-to-back games. He hit his first career home run Friday night, an opposite field shot. Then he hit his second to right-center on Saturday. On Sunday, he blasted a home run to the second deck in right field, the first Indians player to reach that part of the ballpark this season.

He waited his whole life to hit a major-league home run. Then he did it three straight days. It might have been a weight off his shoulders for a rookie trying to stay at this level.

“I think that happens sometimes,” said Indians manager Terry Francona. “Guys relax a bit. He hit the home run the other day and relaxed a bit. He’s showing some production at the bottom of the order. That’s what is really helpful. When we can get production throughout the order, that really helps.”

Naquin has logged plenty of miles on I-71 between Cleveland Columbus. It’s not always the easiest transition to make, particular for a player who has been hitting well.

“Man, we're only human. You just have to go and continue to play hard wherever you're at, whether it's Columbus or up here in the big leagues,” Naquin said. “I love being here. I love being here and being a part this team. I think we're going to win a lot of ball games. It's shown lately.”

With Byrd suspended and Michael Brantley still rehabbing from offseason shoulder surgery, Naquin and Lonnie Chisenhall have increased opportunities. So far, both have been responding.

For Naquin, it’s a third chance to show he belongs.

 Concern level rising?

Brantley has never had a clear timetable for his return. Now making his third attempt to return to the Indians’ lineup and stay in it, the Indians have said they won’t use a timetable at all. The level of concern could now be on the rise.

Per a report by Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan, the Indians are worried Brantley could miss a “significant” amount of time.

Brantley had surgery on his non-throwing shoulder in November. He was expected to miss roughly the first month of the season but progressed so quickly that he appeared in two Cactus League games in March. Soreness in his shoulder stopped that momentum and put him on the disabled list to start the year.

He then returned, but it was similar story. After 11 games with the Indians, Brantley was shut down again and then received an anti-inflammatory shot.

Now, the third attempt. Francona, Brantley and Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti have all said the goal is for Brantley to return when he’ll be able to stay in the lineup for the rest of the season.

For now, they’re still playing the waiting game with one of the top outfielders in the league and a key part to the middle of the lineup. The question of when Brantley might return has only grown murkier.

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Indians 7, Royals 0: Ryan Lewis’ 15 Walk-Off Thoughts on Corey Kluber, Tyler Naquin, Mike Napoli

By Ryan Lewis Published: June 5, 2016

Here are 15 Walk-Off Thoughts on the Indians’ 7-0 win against the Kansas City Royals Sunday.

1. The win completed a four-game sweep and put the Indians on top of the American League Central by 1.5 games, their widest margin of the season. They’re now 6-1 against the Royals and 18-7 within the division.

2. It’s a strong finish to the homestand that began on a down note after they dropped four of the first five games and briefly relinquished their hold of first place.

3. Said Mike Napoli on being in first place, “We don’t want to be anywhere else. But it doesn’t mean anything right now. It’s the place you want to be, but we need to continue playing good ball as a team and things should take care of itself. We’re going to try to continue that and go from there. … I mean, from the way we started our homestand to how we finished, it’s nice. Especially doing it against Kansas City, they were ahead of us. Being able to have a good series. Just want to win the series, but we put ourselves in position to sweep. We had a good day today. It’s definitely a good feeling going on a long trip.”

4. Napoli on Sunday kicked off a two-inning power surge in which the Indians peppered the stands in right field with four home runs off Royals starter Chris Young. Napoli’s home run, which put the Indians up 2-0, looked like a fly-out off the bat. There was a heavy wind going out to right field, and the ball carried to the warning track and then over the wall.

5. Said Napoli on what he was thinking, “‘Just go. Wind, catch it.’ I don’t know. It happens sometimes. Sometimes the wind is blowing in. You hit a ball really good and it knocks it down. You really can’t control. I was trying to stay right-center. It happened to get under it and carry it out.”

More: Indians' Francisco Lindor not among top AL SS in All-Star Game voting; Joba Chamberlain to return Monday

6. Napoli now has 14 home runs this season, which as of this typing is fifth in the AL, and he’s sixth in the AL with 42 RBI. Six of those home runs came on this 10-game homestand.

7. Then came Tyler Naquin, who blasted his third home run in as many games off the facing of the second deck in right field. He waited his entire life to hit a major-league home run and now, he can’t seem to stop. Naquin, since being called up, is 6-for-11 with three home runs and five RBI.

8. Said Indians manager Terry Francona, “I think what happens sometimes. Guys relax a bit. He hit the home run the other and relaxed a bit. He’s showing some production at the bottom of the order. That’s what is really helpful. When we can get production throughout the order, that really helps.”

9. Naquin and Chisenhall have increased opportunities after Marlon Byrd was suspended 162 games for a failed PED test. Both have been taking advantage of it.

10. Carlos Santana and Francisco Lindor also homered, and each added RBI-singles in the seventh. Lindor finished the 10-game homestand with nine RBI. The Indians’ offense scored at least five runs during their current five-game winning streak and have received contributions from just about every hitter in the lineup.

More: Major League Baseball PED penalties not enough to outweigh the penalties

11. Said Napoli, “It’s definitely a good feeling going into the game. You got a bunch of guys feeling good. We’re playing well as a team, we’re getting timely hitting. Our pitchers are doing their job and we’re playing good defense. We’re a confident group. We’ve got to stick with this and play as a team to get better. We had a good series. This is going to be a long west coach trip, so, we’ll take one game at a time, but it’s a big road trip.”

12. Corey Kluber also tossed one of his best outings of the season, limiting the Royals to just two hits and no runs in six innings while striking out six. Kluber was at just 82 pitches when the rain hit and would have likely gone at least one more inning if not more.

13. Kluber pitched inside effectively and threw first-pitch strikes to 17 of the 21 hitters he faced. And he looked like his ace-self again.

14. Said Francona, “I thought he pitched in both lefties and righties. And he commanded extremely well. I think he had that one walk, it was that four-pitch walk to the leadoff hitter. Other than that, he used both sides probably as good as he has and just really pitched. His command was so good.”

15. Added Kluber, “That's obviously the goal, is to work ahead. It puts things in your favor. If you fall behind guys, they're likely to be more selective and look for their pitch. If you're working ahead of them, you keep the pressure on them and they're not able to zone in quite as much on one particular pitch they're looking for. Seventeen of 21, that's what you're shooting for every time out.”

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Indians hit four home runs, complete four-game sweep of Kansas City Royals with 7-0 win

By Ryan Lewis Published: June 5, 2016

Midway through Sunday’s game against the Kansas City Royals, Indians fans sitting in right field had plenty raining down on them.

First, baseballs. Then, actual rain. It all came in a 7-0 win to complete a four-game sweep of the Royals and extend their lead in the American League Central to 1.5 games, their widest margin of the season.

Sunday’s game was delayed three hours and 10 minutes in the bottom of the sixth inning. Just prior to it, the Indians peppered the stands in right field with four solo home runs in a two-inning stretch against starter Chris Young.

Already leading 1-0 in the fourth, Mike Napoli started the power surge by going to the opposite field for his team-leading 14th home run of the season and sixth of the 10-game home stand.

Napoli’s home run barely got out of the ballpark, a hooking shot that off the bat looked more like a fly-out. The next three were crushed.

Rookie Tyler Naquin, who hit home runs both Friday and Saturday night, made it back-to-back-to-back games with a 419-foot home run that reached the facing of the second deck in right field. He’s the first hitter to reach the second deck this season.

Two batters later, Carlos Santana belted one of his own that cleared the seats in right field and landed on the concourse, his 10th of the year. Francisco Lindor followed with his sixth home run of the season to make it 5-0 Indians and end Young’s day.

Corey Kluber (5-6, 3.84 ERA) put together one of his best starts of the season, allowing only two hits and no runs in six innings while striking out six. At one point, he struck out five of six hitters between the third and fourth hitters.

“I thought [Kluber] pitched in both lefties and righties,” said Indians manager Terry Francona. “And he commanded extremely well. I think he had that one walk, it was that four-pitch walk. Other than that, he used both sides probably as good as he has and just really pitched. His command was so good.”

After the lengthy rain delay, the Indians added two more runs on RBI-singles by Santana and Lindor to increase their edge to 7-0 in the seventh inning. Lindor also put the Indians on top 1-0 in the first inning with a sacrifice fly that scored Jason Kipnis, who tripled to center field.

The Indians are now 6-1 against the Royals this season and 18-7 within the division, a key reason they now sit alone in first place.

“We don’t want to be anywhere else,” Napoli said. “But it doesn’t mean anything right now. It’s the place you want to be, but we need to continue playing good ball as a team and things should take care of itself. We’re going to try to continue that and go from there.”

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Indians 7, Royals 1: Ryan Lewis’ 20 Walk-Off Thoughts on Francisco Lindor, Mike Napoli, Josh Tomlin

By Ryan Lewis Published: June 5, 2016

Here are 20 Walk-Off Thoughts on the Indians’ 7-1 win against the Kansas City Royals Saturday night.

1. The Indians took back first place by a half-game in the American League Central with Saturday’s win. They’re now 4-0 in June, 5-1 against the Royals this season and 17-7 within the AL Central. They’re also six games above .500 (30-24) for the first time since the end of the 2014 season.

2. Josh Tomlin delivered another strong outing and Mike Napoli, Tyler Naquin and Francisco Lindor  each hit home runs. But first, the play Lindor and Jose Ramirez made in the ninth inning stole the show.

3. With Morales at the plate and the Indians in a shift to the right side, Lindor made an out-stretched, diving play to his right to field a hard grounder. Without time to get up, he flipped it to Jose Ramirez, who fired to first in stride to complete the out.

 

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4. It was arguably the best defensive play by the Indians this season, which for Lindor, is saying something. And, amazingly, Ramirez pretty much called for it.

5. Said Lindor, “Ramirez before that play happened, told me if I catch the ball, I’m going to give it to you. I said, ‘Alright if I catch it I’m going to give it to you’. As soon as it was hit, I knew I was going to give it to him.”

6. Tomlin had come back out to the dugout. Of course, a play like that is a pitcher’s best friend. Said Tomlin, “Yeah, I saw it. That's unbelievable. That's instincts. That's not something you learn or you teach or anything like that. It's just the instincts that he has in the game. It's unreal. Jose being right there ready for it is pretty instinctual, too. I enjoy watching stuff like that, because it's just a baseball play. It just kind of happens. It's instinctual and it's fun to watch.”

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Indians, Josh Tomlin down Kansas City Royals 7-1, grab first place in AL Central

By Ryan Lewis Published: June 4, 2016

The Indians had already taken first place in the American League Central away from the Chicago White Sox. Now, they’ve done it to the Kansas City Royals as well.

Josh Tomlin earned his eighth victory of the season and the Indians earned their third straight win against the Royals in a 7-1 victory, putting the Indians a half-game up in the division.

Tomlin (8-1, 3.54 ERA) continued his case for an All-Star selection. He tossed 6 1/3 innings, allowed just one run on seven hits and a walk and struck out four. He didn’t run into trouble until the seventh inning, already holding a 5-0 lead. Kendrys Morales doubled, Paulo Orlando singled and Reymond Fuentes singled home the Royals’ only run of the night.

From there, reliever Jeff Manship extinguished the only dangerous scoring threat the Royals (30-25) had Saturday night, getting Alcides Escobar to ground out and Whit Merrifield to line out to Francisco Lindor.

Most of Tomlin’s outing came with a slim 1-0 lead thanks to Chris Gimenez’s sacrifice fly in the second inning, though the Indians (30-24) broke it open in the sixth.

Facing Royals starting pitcher Ian Kennedy (4-4, 3.44 ERA), who shut the Indians down earlier in the year, Mike Napoli turned on a knuckle-curve and belted a solo home run to left field with one out in the inning. It was his team-leading 13th of the season, which puts him on pace for 39 for the year. Lonnie Chisenhall doubled two batters and later and just beat Orlando’s throw home on a single to right field by Rajai Davis.

Rookie Tyler Naquin, who hit the first home run of his career Friday night, made it back-to-back nights with a two-run home run to center field to extend the Indians’ edge to 5-0.

Francisco Lindor tacked on two more in the seventh with a two-run shot to the Home Run Porch off reliever Scott Alexander, his fifth of the year. He also had previously twice doubled in the game, making him the first Indians hitter this season with three extra-base hits in one game.

Lindor then played a role in arguably the best defensive play for the Indians this season. With Morales at the plate and the Indians in a shift to the right side, Lindor made an out-stretched, diving play to his right to field a hard grounder. Without time to get up, he flipped it to Jose Ramirez, who fired to first to complete the out.

The Indians are now 4-0 in June, 5-1 against the Royals this season and 17-7 within the AL Central division. And, for the second time this season, they have sole possession of first place.

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Indians' Lonnie Chisenhall producing; Danny Salazar among AL’s best; Terry Francona on Muhammad Ali

By Ryan Lewis Published: June 4, 2016

Following Marlon Byrd’s 162-game suspension for failing a test that revealed performance-enhancing drugs, the Indians need right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall to produce offensively. Somewhat quietly this season, he has.

Chisenhall entered Saturday’s game hitting .280 with a .357 on-base percentage to go with one home run, six doubles and a triple in 34 games this season. Per FanGraphs, he has a wRC+ of 111, which is above league average.

He’s also collected five hits—three for extra bases—in his 13 at-bats against left-handed pitchers this season. That’s an extremely small sample size, but Indians manager Terry Francona does think it’s good for Chisenhall to at times face some left-handed pitchers. He’ll likely have to now that Byrd is done for the season and Michael Brantley is still rehabbing his shoulder.

“I think at times it's good for him. I also think there's probably certain styles of left-handers that he actually has really good swings against,” Francona said this week. “And I think when he's swinging the bat well, it probably doesn't matter as much. Depending on how the roster shapes up or stays, we can pick our spots as much as we can, but I do think it does him some good, especially after facing a lefty, and then seeing some right-handers.”

Chisenhall thinks the increased exposure to left-handers, at times, keeps him “honest” with his mechanics. The result in his eyes has been better at-bats.

“I think my quality of at-bat has [improved],” Chisenhall said. “I’m not even sure what the splits are, so I don’t want to comment. I know I hit well against lefties one year, at least, maybe two. The splits are what the splits are, but I feel like my quality of at-bats and approach are much better against lefties.”

Near the top

Danny Salazar tossed eight strong innings in the Indians’ 6-1 win against the Royals Friday night. It was another strong start, and through the first two months of the season, he’s firmly in the top-5 in several key categories in the American League.

His 2.13 ERA is second only to Chicago’s Jose Quintana. His 3.01 FIP ranks fourth, per FanGraphs. And his K/9 rate of 10.67 tops all AL starting pitchers. As a complete pitcher, he’s arguably only behind Chicago’s Chris Sale this season.

When asked if Salazar thinks he can consistently dominate, he gave a confident, “Yes” after Friday’s start.

“I think working with [pitching coach] Mickey Callaway every day before I pitch and in-between starts has been helping me a lot,” Salazar said. “And being aggressive, attacking the zone, throwing strikes. I think I have to give him the credit for working with me.”

The Greatest

Legendary boxer and sports icon Muhammad Ali passed away on Friday night. He was 74. Ali is revered as one of the most influential athletes of all-time for what he accomplished both inside and outside of the ring.

Indians manager Terry Francona met Ali when he was managing the Boston Red Sox.

“I think it was ’05,” Francona said. “We were going to open the season in New York and we flew out to the Diamondbacks to play two exhibition games and he came into our clubhouse, took some pictures with us. I had a good picture, I have to find it, where I was putting my hand up like a jab and he was having fun with it. I just don’t know where it is, but he was very gracious to everybody.”

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Indians 6, Royals 1: Ryan Lewis’ 21 Walk-off Thoughts on Danny Salazar, Tyler Naquin, more

By Ryan Lewis Published: June 3, 2016

Here are 21 Walk-Off Thoughts on the Indians’ 6-1 win against the Kansas City Royals.

1. It was the Indians’ third straight win and the first time in two nights they didn’t need to do it in walk-off fashion. It also improved their record against the division-leading Royals to 4-1 this season and brought them to within a half-game of first place.

2. It was also another strong outing for Danny Salazar who is establishing himself among baseball’s best starting pitchers. He threw eight innings, allowed one run on three hits and five walks and struck out nine.

3. Salazar now has the eighth-best ERA in baseball (2.24) and the 12th-best FIP (3.01). His 10.67 K/9 ratio ranks eighth. He’s now arguably outperforming every American League starting pitcher with the exception of Chicago’s Chris Sale. In the AL, he has the best K/9 rate, the second-best ERA and the fourth-best FIP.

4. On Friday night, it was actually a home run allowed that got him going. That was a solo shot to Royals backup catcher Drew Butera in the third inning. Salazar wasn’t thrilled with the pitch he made, a slider that got too much of the plate.

5. Said Salazar, “That made me mad. I tried to throw a slider there and I threw it for a strike. I just put it there instead of throwing it down in the zone. After that I got a little bit mad and started being aggressive.”



6. Salazar had five more walks, and there have been times where his stuff has basically been so filthy his command hasn’t been there, but teams haven’t been able to string together enough hits to make it count. A good example was him basically walking the bases the loaded in Houston and then striking out the side to escape unharmed.

7. He had some misses Friday night. Most of them didn’t hurt. Said Francona, “Seemed like early when he missed, he missed by a lot. It seemed like the home run Butera hit kind of jolted him a bit. Even though he did have some walks, his stuff was so good. His fast ball, I think even on his last pitch was 97 or 98. Really effective off speed to go with it. When you are throwing that hard and he starts throwing that breaking ball and change up, a lot of good weapons. He did a good job. Because they came into the series swinging the bat pretty good.”

8. The control hasn’t always been perfect, but Salazar has been among baseball’s best this season.

More: Indians lefty Tom Gorzelanny benefiting from lower arm slot, chance to stick in Cleveland bullpen

9. Tyler Naquin hit a solo shot in the seventh for his first career home run. It’s obviously a special moment for any major leaguer, getting to round the bases for first time. He also got the ball back.

10. Said Naquin, “Awesome, man. Awesome. A major-league home run. No words that could describe that. … Put it in a case, man. Just gonna put it in a case and let it sit there.”

11. It had an exit velocity of 104 mph, per Statcast, and got over the left-field wall. A left-handed hitter doing that isn’t exactly the most common thing at Progressive Field. It might have been Naquin’s best swing in the majors.

12. Said Lonnie Chisenhall on it, “I haven't seen too many lefty oppo home runs here. There's probably been six or seven that I've seen and that was one of the more impressive ones. It's up there. He's got pop and quick hands.”

13. Naquin didn’t get the silent treatment some rookies do after hitting their first home run, instead getting a bear hug from Jason Kipnis and Mike Napoli.

14. Said Naquin, “I couldn't really feel anything [rounding the bases], man. It was pretty special touching home plate with Nap and Kip standing at the top of the dugout, man. It was a special feeling. Especially to be a part of a team like this, with good chemistry in the clubhouse and a bunch of good guys.”

15. Naquin has had to handle being called up and demoted multiple times this season, which isn’t the easiest thing to handle for a young player.

16. Said Francona, “The last time was harder than maybe we realized. I think that’s when you have conversations with guys. The big thing is maybe not the emotions at the time but where do you go from here. How do you make it better? I think we are in a really good place, which is really good. This kid’s got a chance to be a good player for awhile.”

17. Chisenhall made the defensive play of the day, taking a double away from Cheslor Cuthbert with a laser of a throw from one step in of the warning track in right field. Francisco Lindor made a nice play to receive the one-hop and apply the tag. Lindor joked with Chisenhall to hit him in the chest next time.

18. Said Chisenhall, “Yeah, he told me to hit him in the chest next time, too. He made a great pick. That was probably one of the better parts of the play. The throw was on line, but he did a good job staying with it. I'll try to hit him in the chest next time.”

19. Yan Gomes continued his solid week with a solo home run in the second inning off Royals starter Edinson Volquez. The new glasses seem to be working after he also delivered the game-winning hit in Wednesday’s game.

20. An argument could be made—pretty easily—that Jose Ramirez is the best hitter on the team right now. He went 2-for-4 with a double, a stolen base and scored on a throwing error while stealing third in the eighth. He’s now hitting .500 this home stand and .325 this season and has four straight multi-hit games.

21. In other words, when Michael Brantley does return, Ramirez’s bat will have to remain in the lineup every day, provided he’s still on this torrid pace.

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Indians take down division-leading Kansas City Royals 6-1

By Ryan Lewis Published: June 3, 2016

After two straight walk-off wins, the Indians had a calmer night in a 6-1 win against the Kansas City Royals on Friday.

The win was the Indians’ third straight and brought them to within a half-game of the division-leading Royals.

Instead of waiting until the 11th inning, like Wednesday, or the bottom of the ninth, like on Thursday, the Indians grabbed an early lead and held it.

The Indians took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second and received a positive sign going forward at the same time. Facing Royals starter Edinson Volquez (5-5, 4.03 ERA), Yan Gomes belted a solo home run to the bleacher seats in left field, a solo shot and his seventh of the season. Gomes has been wearing new glasses this week and delivered the game-winning hit in Wednesday’s game against Texas.

The Indians (29-24) tacked on three more runs in the third. Francisco Lindor singled home Jason Kipnis, who had doubled, to put the Indians up 2-1. Lindor then scored all the way from first on Mike Napoli’s double over Jarrod Dyson’s head in left field. Napoli later scored on a wild pitch, putting the Indians up 4-1.

In the seventh, rookie outfielder Tyler Paquin hit the first home run of his career, a solo homer to the opposite field that gave the Indians a 5-1 edge and the kind of breathing room they hadn’t been able to enjoy the previous two nights.

And in the eighth, Jose Ramirez continued his torrid pace this season, doubling, stealing third and scoring on a throwing error by Royals (30-24) catcher Drew Butera. It was Ramirez’s 14th double and raised his season batting average to .325, the highest mark on the team.

It was also yet another strong outing for Indians starting pitcher Danny Salazar, who has been one of the top pitchers in the American League this season. Salazar threw eight innings, allowed one run on three hits and five walks and struck out nine.

He’s now 6-3 with an ERA of 2.24, arguably outperforming every AL starting pitcher with the exception of Chicago’s Chris Sale. Salazar entered second in baseball in hits allowed (41) and tied for third in runs allowed (16), establishing himself among Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco in the Indians’ rotation.

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Indians lefty Tom Gorzelanny benefiting from lower arm angle, chance in Cleveland’s bullpen

By Ryan Lewis Published: June 3, 2016

The interest to bring in left-handed relief pitcher Tom Gorzelanny started some time in the second part of last season, when he was pitching for the Detroit Tigers.

That’s around the time Gorzelanny, facing the Indians, began throwing with a lower arm slot on a regular basis. It was more of a side-arm motion than his previous delivery, which was more over-the-top. The result: better break on his slider and curveball and more dip in his sinker and changeup.

The Indians took notice.

“I remember [Indians manager Terry Francona], when he pitched against us for Detroit last year, Tito and I were like, ‘Wow, this is pretty good,’” said pitching coach Mickey Callaway. “[Gorzelanny] came and pitched against us and I think [Michael Brantley] came back like, ‘Whoa, that’s different. That’s pretty good.’ And we went into the offseason saying, ‘Hey, we’d like to have that guy.’”

Gorzelanny tried working with the new arm slot through last season but wasn’t able to properly implement it until the second half of the year. He needed an offseason and some time in Triple-A to get comfortable with it. The Indians targeted him as a candidate to be a non-roster invitee, as he had a 5.95 ERA last year for the Tigers but had the potential to have a rebound year with such a significant change.

Gorzelanny, 33, now has his chance to stick in the Indians’ bullpen as primarily a lefty-on-lefty specialist, something the Indians haven’t consistently had this season.

“Now that I’ve gotten to this point, I feel light-years ahead of where I was when I started this and feel stronger and more confident with it,” Gorzelanny said. “I feel just as good as I did when I was throwing overhand. I think it was a good chance, a smart change and something that could extend my career.”

Ross Detwiler and Kyle Crockett haven’t been able to provide a reliable lefty out of the bullpen to enter games and get lefties out in high-leverage situations. Francine doesn’t want to simply have a lefty in the bullpen just to have one if he isn’t pitching well. Gorzelanny’s presence, in a way, keeps opposing teams honest.

“It’s such a valuable weapon when you’re trying to navigate a lineup, trying to give your main guys some rest, and if even if it’s one hitter, one batter a day, that’s a huge benefit for us and our team,” Callaway said. “We can make sure that they don’t pinch-hit at times, things like that. It makes it a lot easier on Tito to make a decision on who to bring in.”

Hit it hard

Normally when Francisco Lindor walks to the plate, he has his walk-up song in his head, often the “Space Jam” theme.

But as he walked to the plate with the Indians trailing 4-3 in the ninth inning to the Kansas City Royals Thursday night, he had Brantley’s voice in his head instead.

“It's funny, because [Carlos] Santana gets on base and I'm walking [to the plate] and all I'm thinking is Brantley telling me, 'Make hard contact. Make hard contact,’” Lindor said. “The whole entire time. I get on-deck, [Jason Kipnis] bunts, I'm walking to the plate. Usually I'm singing my song in my mind.”

Lindor responded with a game-tying triple to right-center. He then scored the game-winning run on Mike Napoli’s sacrifice fly, giving the Indians their second walk-off win in as many nights. The Indians hadn’t had a walk-off win in April or May, but have found some home-town magic this week.

“It means we can do it,” Lindor said. “We know we can do it, but it's always fun, it's always good to have moments like this, so we can continue to believe in ourselves. We can continue to push and we can continue to motivate each other, push each other and know that the game's not over until the 27th out.”

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Indians 5, Royals 4: Ryan Lewis’ 23 Walk-Off Thoughts on Francisco Lindor, Carlos Santana, walk-offs

By Ryan Lewis Published: June 3, 2016

Here are 23 Walk-Off Thoughts on the Indians’ 5-4 walk-off win against the Kansas City Royals Thursday night.

1. After going the first two months of the season without a walk-off win, the Indians have now won two straight games in that fashion, both 5-4. Thursday’s win came against the division-leading Royals, and it came after the Indians were down 4-3 entering the bottom of the ninth.

2. Facing Joakim Soria—Royals closer Wade Davis wasn’t available after being used multiple days in a row—Carlos Santana singled into right field. Just as importantly (at the time), he made the turn and advanced to second on an error by Royals right fielder Paulo Orlando, putting the tying run in scoring position.

3. The Indians have made base running a point of emphasis of season. They lead baseball in taking the extra base. Santana isn’t a speedster, but he’s been part of that aggressive mindset.

4. Said Indians manager Terry Francona on it, “You talk about hitting being contagious and things like that, I think the base running is. I think the guys take pride in it. And they should, because they’re doing a good job. It directly influences outcomes of games. It doesn’t show up in the box score, but it’ll show up in the win-loss column.”

5. Lindor gave the credit for the game-winner to that play, saying, “That's what won the game for us. Right there. That play. That's what won the game for us. Besides the stuff that happened in the earlier innings, that play right there, I think it won the game for us. First, it gave us the momentum. Second of all, we started to believe. It was like, 'Yes, we're going to score. That run has to score.' The hustle by him -- he's not the fastest guy -- but that hustle by him says a lot. He not only wanted a base hit, but he wanted to get to second. That's important.”

6. It’s the type of mentality the Indians want.

7. Lindor then picked the right time to break out of a mini-slump. He was 2-for-19 entering his ninth-inning at-bat and ripped a ball to right field that got past a diving Orlando—it was a horrific inning for him—that went for a game-tying triple.

8. Normally, Lindor has his walk-up music—either the “Space Jam” theme or “Trumpets” by Jason Derulo—in his head as he walks up to the plate. But as he walked up for that ninth-inning at-bat, he had Michael Brantley’s voice in his head, telling him to just make hard contact.

9. Said Lindor, “I talked to Brantley the inning before, an inning and a half before. He was just telling me, and he wasn't talking about me, it was just talking in general. He was like, whenever someone is going through a slump or struggling, which I never felt like I was going through a slump. I felt like I was having good at-bats. I felt like I was on time. I was just either getting on top of it or getting under it. So, I felt good the whole entire time. But, he was telling me, he was like, 'You can't go to the plate thinking, "I've got to get a hit." To get out of the slump, you can't go to the plate thinking, "I've got to get a hit." That's when you're going to go up and go straight back down. Think about making hard contact. If you make hard contact, that's a plus. Think what you did right and, after that, take it to the next at-bat.' That's what we were talking about. … It's funny, because Santana gets on base and I'm walking on-deck and all I'm thinking is Brantley telling me, 'Make hard contact. Make hard contact.' The whole entire time. I get on-deck, Kippy bunts, I'm walking to the plate. Usually I'm singing my song in my mind. It gets me off the game. I was just thinking, 'Make hard contact.' And I hit it and I was like, 'Yes, I did it.' That's what I wanted to do.”

More: Struggling Indians C Yan Gomes has new glasses, walk-off hit; Mike Napoli's meaningful home runs

10. Mike Napoli followed with the game-winning sacrifice fly in which Lindor beat the throw to the plate. Lindor was tagging up no matter what, saying, “No one is stopping me. I'm going no matter what. It could've been a little closer. I'm going no matter what. I wanted to score. That's the ultimate goal. You get on base, because you want to score. You don't want to get on base and just stay on base. As soon as I saw the ball go up, I'm going. I'm going. I'm going. And the third baseman kind of got in my way. I tried to get away from him. As soon as I saw him catching the ball, I was going no matter what. I saw the catcher pull up to my right a little bit. We won.”

11. Besides, as Lindor said, his mom is in town. Extra innings were a no-go.

12. It was a two-play show of stardom for Lindor, who also effectively hit a game-winning home run in Cincinnati. These big-time plays are becoming somewhat of the norm for him, while providing Gold Glove-level defense at shortstop and hitting third in the lineup.

13. The Royals rarely make defensive mistakes. Thursday night, they committed three errors, with Orlando’s missed dive in the ninth effectively being a fourth. The Indians also benefited from a fifth missed play, when Omar Infante couldn’t complete a double play and Tyler Naquin dropped in an RBI-single to make it 4-3 in the eighth.

14. To the Indians, the important aspect of it is that the mistakes ended up being costly, which again goes back to that aggressive mindset on the base paths.

15. Said Francona, “You don’t see that happen very often. But I also think Carlos putting himself in a position where maybe he kind of helped the miscue, because if you don’t push it, that doesn’t happen. And get himself in a position to maybe not only maybe cause it, but to be in a position to where he can move up, which kind of set up the inning. We have some really good chances, but Ventura’s got such a good arm. He can kind of take care of some of that stuff by himself. They got the tack-on run on the solo homer, but getting the one back really helped. And the fact that they had used their bullpen the previous series doesn’t hurt either.”

16. The Indians’ first two runs were hit in by two of the club’s hotter hitters right now: Lonnie Chisenhall and Jose Ramirez. Chisenhall quietly had a terrific May—he hit .313—and has been swinging the bat well, something the Indians need after Marlon Byrd’s 162 suspension for a failed drug test that revealed performance-enhancing drugs. Chisehall’s RBI single in the second put the Indians up 1-0, and his batting average for the season now rests at .292. Ramirez tied it 2-2 in the third with an RBI-single of his own. He’s now hitting .320 and has arguably been the best hitter in the lineup, along with Lindor.

17. Two walk-off wins is certainly something to lift the clubhouse, especially right after losing Byrd for the season. Said Lindor, “It means we can do it. It means we can do it. We know we can do it, but it's always fun, it's always good to have moments like this, so we can continue to believe in ourself. We can continue to push and we can continue to motivate each other, push each other and know that the game's not over until the 27th out.”

18. Thursday was also the return for Carlos Carrasco, a terrific sign for the Indians going forward. He threw five innings—78 pitches—allowed nine hits, three runs, one walk and struck out two. He also successfully covered first, which is how he strained his hamstring in Detroit.

19. Said Carrasco, “You know what, it was a lot of work that I did for the last six weeks with the trainer, Lonnie. It feels great to see my teammates fighting. We are close. Coming back today and pitching, I tried to go deep in the game. I only went five innings, but I feel great.”

20. Carrasco gave up a two-run home run to Drew Butera and then later allowed three-straight singles for a third run.

21. Said Francona on Carrasco’s start, “Good. I thought he threw the ball well. He made a couple costly mistakes. A pitch to Butera, he’s trying to go down and away and it came back middle-middle. But he got out to I think 77, 78, and that was going got be his last hitter anyway. He looked like he was starting to feel it a little bit. It’ll be nice to have him back—not yet, but—and contributing because he's a big, big guy for us.”

22. Carrasco had a guideline of about 80 pitches Thursday night. He should be able to be close to his normal workload his next time out.

23. Finally, it was a solid night for the bullpen aside from Austin Adams’ solo home run allowed in the sixth. Zach McAllister threw 1 1/3 and Tommy Hunter threw 1 2/3 scoreless innings. Meanwhile, the Royals bullpen and defense wasn’t itself, and the Indians got to walk off for a second night in a row.

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Indians walk-off for the second straight night, beat Kansas City Royals 5-4

By Ryan Lewis Published: June 2, 2016

The Indians didn’t have any walk-off wins through April and May. Now, it’s two straight games, two straight walk-off wins for the Indians.

Trailing 4-3, Carlos Santana singled and advanced to second on an error representing the tying run. Francisco Lindor then tripled home the tying run in the bottom of the ninth and then beat the throw home on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Mike Napoli to top the Kansas City Royals 5-4 Thursday night.

On Wednesday night, Yan Gomes singled home the winning run to beat the Texas Rangers 5-4 in walk-off fashion.

It was a furious finish to Carlos Carrasco’s return to the mound, as he allowed three earned runs on nine hits and one walk and struck out two in his first start since straining his left hamstring April 24 in Detroit.

The Royals got to Carrasco first with a home run and then with a string of singles that got through the infield. In the third, with the Indians leading 1-0, Royals backup catcher Drew Butera took Carrasco deep for a two-run home run, his first of the season. An opposing player has now hit his first home run of the season against the Indians in three straight series, after Baltimore’s Hyun Soo Kim and Texas’s Jurickson Profar each did so as well.

In a 2-2 tie, the Royals hit three consecutive two-out singles to retake the lead. Reymond Fuentes started the rally, Chelsor Cuthbert put him in scoring position and Jarrod Dyson brought him home to put the Royals up 3-2. Another growing trend, it was the Royals’ bottom of the order that plagued the Indians, something that several teams have done this season.
Austin Adams entered in the sixth and was promptly taken deep by Cuthbert, giving the Royals a 4-2 edge.

The Indians’ initial two runs were driven in by two hitters who have quietly been among the most productive on the team this season. In the second inning, Lonnie Chisenhall drove in Mike Napoli with an RBI-single to right field, raising his season batting average to .292, something the Indians could certainly use after Marlon Byrd was suspended 162 games by Major League Baseball for failing a drug test that revealed performance-enhancing drugs.

In the third, Jose Ramirez added an RBI-single of his own to score Francisco Lindor, who singled and advanced to second on an error. That raised Ramirez’s average to .322, the highest mark on the team, even though he hasn’t had a regular position in the field to date.

The Indians threatened in the eighth but came up short. With two on and one out, the Royals got the double-play ball they needed, but Omar Infante couldn’t make an accurate throw and the inning continued. Tyler Naquin made it costly by dropping an RBI-single into right field to cut the Royals’ lead to 4-3. Royals reliever Kelvin Herrera then struck out Rajai Davis, though, to end the inning.

That was until the ninth, when the Royals’ defense abandoned them and Francisco Lindor came away with the game-tying hit and game-winning run.

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Indians 5, Rangers 4 (11): Ryan Lewis’ 19 Walk-Off Thoughts on Yan Gomes, Lonnie Chisenhall, more

By Ryan Lewis Published: June 1, 2016

Here are 19 Walk-Off Thoughts after the Indians’ 5-4 walk-off against the Texas Rangers in 11 innings Wednesday night.

1. If a game-winning hit can jumpstart a hitter, the right one was at the bottom of a dog pile near first base after Wednesday night’s win. With Lonnie Chisenhall on second after a double in the bottom of the 11th, Yan Gomes singled back up the middle to give the Indians their first walk-off win this season.

2. Gomes is actually near the top of the rankings among production for catchers in terms of RBI and home runs, but he’s struggled at the plate this season, hitting just .176. And it hasn’t just been a bad stretch—Gomes has been fighting uphill to get above .200 for two months.

3. Wednesday night, he entered late, hit the game-winner and got mobbed. The Indians hope it was enough to get some weight off his chest, as they need his bat in the lineup.

4. Said Gomes, “It felt amazing. Once you get any kind of chance to impact a ballgame, you try to take full advantage of that. As you can see I tried bunting that first pitch, didn’t quite work out. After that you just gotta figure out a way to get him to third or try to get him in.”



5. Added Francona, “Oh, it was so good. Obviously, it was good for us, but it's so good for him. … I think that will do Gomer a world of good. It didn't hurt us, either.”

6. Francona spoke to reporters first, and then Gomes entered the room. As Francona passed the microphone to Gomes, he said, “Enjoy it.” Francona has noted the last couple weeks that Gomes has been “wearing” his frustration a bit. He’s aware Gomes might have needed a hit like this.

7. Gomes is one of the real leaders on this team and one of the more respected guys in the clubhouse. Several players were glad to see him be able to enjoy some success. Chisenhall was talking in the dugout to Mike Napoli that Gomes would be the guy to win it.

8. Said Napoli, “If we wanted anyone to do it, it was him. This game is tough sometimes. He's struggling a little bit, but he's in there working every day. We all see that. He's a competitive person. He wants to do good. But for that to happen for him tonight and get us the big win after dropping a couple, it's huge in both ways: for him and for us.”

9. And of course, Gomes tried to get a bunt down on the first pitch and failed, looking to get Chisenhall to third base. The next pitch, he ended the game.

More: Indians OF Marlon Byrd suspended 162 games for PEDs; Tyler Naquin recalled

10. Chisenhall’s at-bat was a good sign as well, as he got the key double off of Alex Claudio, a lefty. Francona has spoken about how it might be beneficial for Chisenhall to face lefties every now and then.

11. Chisenhall has come up with a couple of key hits late in games against lefties now. Said Chisenhall, “I think my quality of at-bat has [has improved]. I’m not even sure what the splits are, so I don’t want to comment. I know I hit well against lefties one year, at least, maybe two. The splits are what the splits are, but I feel like my quality of at-bats and approach are much better against lefties.”

12. Chisenhall might be facing a few more lefties now that Marlon Byrd’s involvement with the Indians in 2016 is done. He’s still more a platoon hitter, but anything he can give the Indians closer to being an everyday hitter would be a boost to the lineup.

13. Pulling off a walk-off win on the same day an outfielder is suspended for an entire season is a pretty emotional day. Said Francona, “I'm exhausted tonight. It's a good end to a really long day. You can't help but have emotions when you're dealing with some of the stuff we did. It's a nice way to end the day. I think we're all going to sleep good.”

14. It was a release, so to speak, if only for one night. Said Gomes, “Once you hear that kind of news, it definitely hit us, in there. Once we step between our lines, you gotta put that stuff aside. It is big, man. We haven’t done so well in the late innings. The team that’s coming in right now, they have done well. So we’re just excited to play well against a first-place team like the Rangers, just come in and get the momentum going after this game.”

15. Also, a cool note. A woman, Kat Heintzelman, who was beginning chemo, came to Monday’s game with a sign asking Mike Napoli for a hug and a homer. It went all over Indians social media, as it should. Napoli responded by belting a home run.

16. After he chemo session on Tuesday, Kat came to Wednesday’s game as well and met with Napoli again. And in the first inning, Napoli hit a two-run home run.

17. Said Napoli, “Yeah, it was pretty cool. I got to talk to her for a little bit. She started chemo. We just talked about how awesome it worked out. It was a cool moment.”

18. Sports aren’t really the most important thing in the world, though we do love them. Those types of moments, though, are definitely cool.

19. It was only three days ago that Francona said as long as the Indians keep giving themselves chances, they’ll have a walk-off win. That came to fruition quickly.

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Indians top Texas Rangers 5-4 on Yan Gomes' game-winning single in 11th inning

By Ryan Lewis Published: June 1, 2016

Indians manager Terry Francona prophesied that if the Indians kept giving themselves chances, they’d end up with a walk-off win. “It’ll happen,” he said.

That was after Sunday’s loss to Baltimore. As it turns out, he’d only have to wait three days for it to come to fruition, as the Indians beat the Texas Rangers in walk-off fashion 5-4 in 11 innings Wednesday night.

In the bottom of the 11th, Lonnie Chisenhall doubled off Rangers reliever Alex Claudio (1-1, 4.30 ERA) and Yan Gomes, struggling to his footing offensively this season, failed to get a bunt down but then singled into center field to win a back-and-forth game and snap a three-game losing streak.

Tom Gorzelanny (1-0, 0.00 ERA), called up on Wednesday, recorded one out and the win in the 11th after Jeff Manship put two runners on base.

Neither team could hold the lead for long Wednesday night, and that included Cody Allen in the ninth. Allen blew his first save this season after he walked Mitch Moreland to lead off the inning, Elvis Andrus blooped a single into center field and Jared Hoying got the run home with a ground ball to the left side to tie it 4-4.

The Indians (27-24) had taken the lead for the third time in the eighth inning. Tied 3-3, Jose Ramirez doubled to left-center field off Rangers (31-22) reliever Luke Jackson. Juan Uribe followed, rifling a single back up the middle, and Ramirez beat Ian Desmond’s throw home to put the Indians on top 4-3.

Then came Allen’s blunder and Gomes’ game-winner.

In a back-and-forth affair, it was never more than a one-run game at any point.

The Rangers took an early lead for the third straight day on Prince Fielder’s sacrifice fly, which scored Jurickson Profar, who opened the game with a double against Indians starting pitcher Trevor Bauer.

The Indians took their first lead with one swing in the bottom half of the first inning against Rangers ace Cole Hamels. Jason Kipnis walked and two batters later Mike Napoli belted a two-run home run, his team-leading 12th of the season.

The Rangers tied it in the third. With Bobby Wilson on third, Ian Desmond grounded a ball to Francisco Lindor. Lindor tried to step on second and make the throw, but it wasn’t in time.

The Indians pulled ahead for the second time in the fifth. With two outs, Rajai Davis reached on an infield single and scored from first on Kipnis’ RBI-double to right field, putting the Indians up 3-2.

In the seventh, Ryan Rua, who went to Amherst Steele High School, tied it again with a solo home run to left-center field.

It was a positive start for Bauer, who went seven innings, allowed three runs on hour hits and three walks and stuck out six, lowering his season ERA to 4.27.

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Indians OF Marlon Byrd suspended 162 games for positive PED test; Tyler Naquin recalled

By Ryan Lewis Published: June 1, 2016
Byrd



Outfielder Marlon Byrd’s involvement with the Indians in 2016 is finished. His career could be, too.

Byrd was suspended by Major League Baseball for 162 games on Wednesday for a failed drug test that revealed the human growth hormone secretagogue Ipamorelin.

It’s the second failed PED test for Byrd in his career. He was suspended 50 games in 2012. A third PED suspension would mean a lifetime ban. It also makes him the second Indians outfielder to be suspended for performance-enhancing drugs this season after Abraham Almonte was suspended 80 games in spring training.

In a statement, Byrd claimed he didn’t knowingly take the drug but accepted responsibility and will not appeal the suspension.

“After an extensive investigation by my lawyers and an independent chemist, it was concluded that the most likely source of Ipamorelin was a tainted supplement,” Byrd said in the statement. “I alone am responsible for what I put in my body, and therefore, I have decided to forgo my right to an appeal in this matter and accept the suspension. I apologize for any harm this has caused the Cleveland Indians, Indians’ fans, my teammates and most importantly, my family.”

Byrd was signed as a low-risk, non-roster invitee by the Indians this spring and has helped to solidify right field, hitting .270 with five home runs and 19 RBI while primarily splitting time with Lonnie Chisenhall.

"It's disappointing, you know, any time you lose a player who is contributing to your team or is expected to contribute to your team in a meaningful way, it's disappointing,” said Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti. “But our responsibility now is to deal with that reality and give other guys opportunities to contribute and step forward and contribute and pick up the slack with it.”

Byrd was packing up his things Tuesday night and informed Indians manager Terry Francona Wednesday morning. He then addressed the team on Wednesday.
“Marlon came in and talked to his teammates and the coaches and stood up in front of everybody and took responsibility and apologized,” Francona said. “And also, basically, he told the guys that his career is over and this is not how he wanted it to end.”

The Indians, in a corresponding move, have recalled Tyler Naquin to Cleveland. The Indians’ outfield, until Michael Brantley is able to return from the 15-day disabled list, currently consists of Chisenhall, Naquin and Rajai Davis, along with Jose Ramirez and Michael Martinez as utility players.

Antonetti will speak with Brantley about him not trying to push to be back sooner now that Indians are down an outfielder.

“We will about that explicitly with Michael,” Antonetti said. “I think we are all of the same mindset in making sure that we go through his rehab in a very thoughtful and judicious way to make sure that when he comes back again he’s not only healthy but strong and ready to contribute for the balance of the season.”

It was already possible the Indians could be looking to add an outfielder at the trade deadline to bolster the lineup. Byrd’s suspension only increases that possibility.

The Indians also optioned relief pitcher Shawn Armstrong down to Triple-A Columbus one day after promoting him in place of Ryan Merritt and purchased the contract of Tom Gorzelanny. Gorzelanny, who takes Byrd’s place on the 40-man roster, was also a non-roster invitee to spring camp. A left-hander, this season posted a 3.38 ERA and limited left-handed batters to a .156 average in Triple-A.

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