All CATEGORIES
☰ Menu
Cleveland Indians

Indians beat Kansas City Royals 7-2; Francisco Lindor snaps streak, Yan Gomes makes sudden return

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 30, 2016

The Indians topped the Kansas City Royals 7-2 on Friday night behind a strong outing from Ryan Merritt.

Merritt had his start pushed back to Friday after Thursday’s game in Detroit was rained out. He responded by allowing only one run on three hits in five innings while striking out four.

Francisco Lindor went 2-for-3, snapping an 0-for-27 slump entering the game. In the seventh inning, Lindor hit a three-run home run, his 15th of the season, to make it 7-1. It’s a positive sign for the Indians, as Lindor had begun to slump in his first full season in the big leagues.

Friday night was also the surprise return of catcher Yan Gomes. Gomes was on the 60-day disabled list with a broken right hand and was seemingly done for the year. Earlier in September, Indians manager Terry Francona essentially said he had a one-percent chance of returning. On Friday night he did, checking into the game in the seventh inning. It remains to be seen if Gomes can swing a bat, but his inclusion into the game was nothing short of amazing considering his original timetable and injury.

Carlos Carrasco was transferred to the 60-day disabled list in a corresponding move.

The American League playoff picture also became a bit clearer Friday night. The Texas Rangers beat the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1, clinching the No. 1 seed and homefield advantage. That means the Indians will play the Boston Red Sox in the ALDS, with homefield in that series still to be determined.

To read more or comment...

Indians, Tigers game postponed; Possible make-up day on Monday in Detroit

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 29, 2016

The final game of a four-game series between the Indians and Detroit Tigers on Thursday was postponed due to rain and field conditions.

The game was called after a delay of more than four hours. Thursday’s postponement came after Wednesday’s game was cut short after five innings due to rain, which continued through the night, Thursday morning and into the afternoon. The rain warranted a flash flood warning and closed some highways near Comerica Park. One of the Indians’ team buses couldn’t make it to the ballpark, leaving many players to search for cabs.

Around 2 p.m., both managers walked the field and determined that it couldn’t take any more water. It then rained for the better part of three hours with more on the way before the game was finally called off.

“We walked the field once and I think we all knew the situation,” said Indians manager Terry Francona. “So put your seatbelt on and either play cards or watch TV. I think this is one of the days where you’re glad that you’re not 20 games out as opposed to being in it. All it is is an inconvenience. We can live with that.”

The Indians and Tigers not being able to get the game in on Thursday now opens up a couple of scenarios. The Indians travel to Kansas City for a weekend series and the Tigers travel to Atlanta to play the Braves. That means Thursday’s game would have to be made up on Monday in Detroit.

It could also be washed out, which would make for the second straight season in which the Indians finished with only 161 games played. If Monday’s make-up game ends up not affecting either the seeding for home-field advantage as it relates to the Indians or the Wild Card race as it relates to the Tigers, there won’t be a need to play it. If it does have potential playoff implications in any way, the Indians and Tigers will be back in Detroit on Monday.

“I don’t think it’s that big [of a deal],” Francona said. “We have three days off, we’d have two instead. I think it’d be a fun game to play, actually.”

The Indians entered Thursday 2.5 games back of Texas for the No. 1 seed in the AL and one game back of the Boston Red Sox for the No. 2 seed. Both of those teams have the tiebreaker over the Indians. The Tigers entered one game back of Baltimore for the second wild card spot.

The postponement means that Thursday’s starter, Ryan Merritt, will be pushed back to Friday. Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin will start on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. If Monday’s make-up game is needed, the Indians will go to another bullpen game.

To read more or comment...

Indians’ Danny Salazar to ditch third pitch for postseason bullpen role

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 29, 2016

If Danny Salazar is able to pitch in the American League Division Series out of the bullpen, he’ll do so with a refined pitch repertoire.

For the purposes of that role in the ALDS and possibly further into October, Salazar is ditching his curveball and only throwing his fastball and split-changeup. Throwing the curveball isn’t good on his strained forearm, and if he’s only working an inning or two out of the bullpen, having the third pitch to keep hitters honest throughout a start isn’t as necessary as when he’s starting.

His third pitch also hasn’t been used much this season. Per FanGraphs, Salazar’s fastball and split-change have made up for 87.1 percent of his pitches this season.

“He kind of felt it on the curveball,” said pitching coach Mickey Callaway. “So that’s one reason not to throw it. Another reason is he’s not going to need it if he’s throwing one inning. There’s no reason for him to throw his third-best pitch.”

Salazar threw around 30 pitches on Wednesday—all fastballs and changeups. He’s also been bumping up the intensity of each bullpen session.

“He looked good,” Callaway said. “Good intensity. No hesitation at all with letting the ball go, and he is in a pretty good spot.”

Callaway noted that the possibility still exists that if the Indians advance past the ALDS and Salazar has additional time to get stretched out, he could make a limited start. It’s also possible that Salazar could appear in a game on Sunday, though that would require some quick progress and his clearing several milestones.

Healing ace

Corey Kluber has started to play catch but is for the most part still resting his strained quad muscle. When asked if he was confident Kluber would make the start in the ALDS, Callaway brought up Curt Schilling’s toughness on the mound, albeit without a bloody sock this time.

“He's not going to not make that start,” Callaway said. “He'd be like Curt Schilling. He's going to go out there and pitch. It'll be fun to watch.”

It would be a surprise if Kluber were not the Game 1 starter, though it is possible the Indians could throw Trevor Bauer in Game 1 and Kluber in Game 2. Using a three-man rotation in a five-game series would then allow Kluber to throw twice if needed while also not going on three-days rest with an injured quad.

Though, Indians manager Terry Francona has previously said that the goal of a series is to win it, not just extend it. It’s something he’s always believed in and the one thing he spoke to when asked about the postseason last week. That was echoed by Callaway on Thursday, indicating if at all possible, Kluber will be the guy to throw on three-days rest as the ace of the staff. The Indians will have to abide by their medical situation, but they don’t plan on being passive if another route is available.

“I think we need to see how he's feeling at the time and go from there,” Callaway said. “The goal is to not just extend a series, it's to win one. We're going to put everybody in the best position to do that. We know how taxing coming back on three days rest can be. If his groin or his quad is not going to allow him to do that or give him the best chance to do that, then maybe we'll make a different decision.”

To read more or comment...

Indians fall to Detroit Tigers 6-3 in rain-shortened game

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 28, 2016

The Indians were snake-bitten by Miguel Cabrera yet again and fell to the Detroit Tigers 6-3 on Wednesday night in a rain-shortened game that lasted only five innings.

The Indians and Tigers underwent two rain delays before finally succumbing to the weather.
Cabrera again proved why he’s one of the most lethal hitters in baseball over the last decade or so. The Indians and Tigers entered the bottom of the fifth inning tied 3-3. There had already been a 45-minute rain delay and additional rain, lightning and thunder were on the way.

With a tied game, had there been a delay at that time, the two teams would have had to either finish it on Thursday or come back on Monday. But, facing Joe Colon, Cabrera made that all moot, blasting a three-run home run to the opposite field to give the Tigers a 6-3 lead. Fewer than 10 minutes later, the inning was over, the game was now official and the tarp came onto the field for a second time. The home run—Cabrera’s 36th—came just in time.

Prior to Cabrera’s game-winner, the Indians took an early lead, lost it and then fought back to again deadlock the score.

Carlos Santana doubled home a run in the first inning against Tigers starter and American League Rookie of the Year contender Micheal Fulmer, making it 1-0. The Indians had a chance to add on in the top of the third, loading the bases with nobody out. But Fulmer retired Jose Ramirez and Lonnie Chisenhall on pop-outs and Coco Crisp grounded out to end the inning.

Zach McAllister held the Tigers scoreless through two innings but was finished after the first delay. Cody Anderson entered and quickly ran into a buzzsaw. Brian McCann doubled and Jose Iglesias each doubled, and Ian Kinsler followed with a two-run home run. Seven pitches into Anderson’s appearance, he gave up three hits and three runs.

The Indians rallied in the fourth to tie it 3-3. Tyler Naquin—another AL Rookie of the Year contender—singled and scored on Rajai Davis’ single to left-center field. Santana then tied it with an RBI-single of his own to center field.

Wednesday’s result has positive and negative elements to it for the Indians. The Indians add a loss as they battle for the No. 1 seed in the American League. But, with the pitching staff barely being behold together, the Indians also save four innings of work for the bullpen.

To read more or comment...

Tigers 12, Indians 0: Ryan Lewis’ 14 Walk-Off Thoughts on Corey Kluber’s status, Mike Clevinger

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 28, 2016

Here are 14 Walk-Off Thoughts after the Indians’ 12-0 loss to the Detroit Tigers Tuesday night.

1. The biggest takeaway from Tuesday came during the game, but didn’t actually involve the Indians’ post-celebration game—and the lineup that came with it.

2. Just before the conclusion of Tuesday’s game, the Indians announced that Corey Kluber has a mild strain of one of his quadriceps muscles. His timetable to return to game activity is 7-to-10 days.

3. Counting Tuesday as one of those rehab days, Game 1 of the American League Division Series would fall on the 10th day. As long as he can stick to that timetable, Tuesday’s news means that Kluber’s Cy Young-contending regular season is over, but he should be ready to start Game 1 of the ALDS. Though, Kluber’s status will now be added to the list of growing concerns and things to monitor surrounding the Indians’ pitching situation.

More: Indians, healthy and not, celebrate a long road traveled together

4. Compared to how the Indians’ starting rotation would have looked in the ALDS if healthy, it feels as though everything is now being held together with Duct tape.

Game 1 — Corey Kluber, now dealing with a mild quad strain
Game 2 — Carlos Carrasco, out for the year with a fractured hand
Game 3 — Danny Salazar, likely to only be available out of the bullpen with a strained forearm, which could even be optimistic
Game 4 — Trevor Bauer, now the likely Game 2 starter or even Game 1 if Kluber isn’t ready
Available out of Bullpen — Josh Tomlin, now likely Game 3 starter

5. The Indians have their work cut out for them. They could ill afford another question mark with their rotation, but they got one Tuesday night.

6. Per Indians manager Terry Francona, Kluber could have a bullpen session or two between now and Game 1. Kluber declined to speak with reporters in the clubhouse.

7. Meanwhile, Tuesday’s starter Mike Clevinger was roughed up in two innings and is now heading back to the bullpen. Clevinger wasn’t listed in the possible starting pitchers for this weekend by Francona before the game, so it doesn’t appear to be a reaction to his outing.

8. It does appear to indicate two things: that the Indians feel confident that Corey Kluber will be ready to go for Game 1 or Game 2 of the ALDS, and that the odds that the Indians use a three-man rotation in the postseason probably went up.

9. Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway has said before that Kluber and Bauer could each throw on three-days rest. They’d only need Tomlin to follow suit, and could potentially try to work around it. Though, if the Indians did need Clevinger to start a game, as Callaway pointed out Tuesday night, he’s stretched out enough that a 1-2 week stint in the bullpen wouldn’t disallow that possibility.

10. Callaway and Francona have also noted before that Clevinger’s stuff might not be at the same level in inning 6 as it was in inning 1. Maintaining his velocity has at times been an issue. Clevinger moving back to the bullpen will allow him to only have to worry about throwing an inning or two, in turn negating that downside.

11. Francona has had his hands full the last few weeks managing the pitching staff. It doesn’t appear like much relief is coming.

12. As for Tuesday’s start, Clevinger was roughed up by Miguel Cabrera—like so many pitchers have—for a two-run double in the first and a three-run home run in the second.

13. Said Clevinger, “I wasn't there mentally. I wasn't mentally prepared to come into this game today. That's all on me. It's more of an embarrassment on my part than anything. … I’d say the past, probably, 10 times out, I felt like each time was a step forward. To have this step back, it's baseball, but I think there are some things I can control that I didn’t.”

14. The shuffling of the deck in the Indians’ rotation continues. It doesn’t matter that the visiting clubhouse at Comerica Park still smells like beer and champagne.

To read more or comment...

Indians with post-celebration lineup fall to Detroit Tigers 12-0 The lineup for a club one day aft

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 27, 2016

The lineup for a club one day after clinching its division is often more-so built toward getting the starters a day of rest, either due to attrition for a long season or the celebration that took place the night before. The Indians’ lineup on Tuesday certainly followed suit in that pseudo-tradition, and Mike Clevinger was roughed up early in a 12-0 loss to the Detroit Tigers.

Carlos Santana was the only every-day regular in the lineup, acting as the designed hitter, and he played only because the Indians ran out of players. Catcher Chris Gimenez ended up playing third base—he had logged five innings there in his career. Indians manager Terry Francona joked before the game that he “wasn’t thrilled about that,” but wanted to find a day of rest for the likes of Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, Jason Kipnis, Mike Napoli and others.

“I think today they’ve earned the right to—last night, they blew it out pretty good,” Francona said. “There is a balance there. But I think after 155 games, what they accomplished, they needed a night that where they can sit around and watch and enjoy, is good for them.”

The day of rest for so many might have worked out considering the Tigers quickly jumped on Clevinger and kept adding on later.

To read more or comment...

Indians’ Corey Kluber diagnosed with mild quad strain; Rotation for rest of week shuffled

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 27, 2016

Indians ace Corey Kluber on Tuesday was diagnosed with a mild quad strain after he left Monday’s start after only four innings and 60 pitches.

It was announced then that Kluber left with right groin tightness, but an MRI on Tuesday revealed that he sustained a mild strain of one of his quadriceps muscles. Per the club, Kluber is expected to return to game activity in 7-to-10 days, meaning his Cy Young-contending regular season is over but he should be ready for Game 1 of the American League Division Series on Oct. 6.

It’s another level of concern surrounding the Indians’ starting rotation, which has been decimated with injuries in the last month of the season. They’ll be without Carlos Carrasco through October, and Danny Salazar will most likely, at best, be only available out of the bullpen in the ALDS.

The Indians officially clinching the division, along with Kluber’s injury, has shuffled the starting rotation.

To read more or comment...

Indians, healthy and not, celebrate a long road traveled as one

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 27, 2016

As the champagne and beer flowed, covering every inch of the plastic-protected visiting clubhouse at Comerica Park, Michael Brantley stood just to the side, a calm smile on his face.

Others donned goggles and popped corks and, for all intents and purposes, went crazy like baseball teams tend to do after the Indians clinched their first American League Central title since 2007.

But Brantley stood just outside in the halfway, talking with guys walking by and sharing some hugs. Still rehabbing from August surgery, he has to be cautious.

“Yeah, I can’t get hit,” Brantley said. “I’ve got to look from the outskirts.”

But he was there, in Detroit, with his teammates to enjoy the party. It was important to the Indians that he, Yan Gomes, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar be with the club when they clinched and celebrated. It didn’t matter that Brantley has played only 11 games this season, or that Carrasco and Gomes are very likely done for the rest of the year.

“We wanted to make sure they were here for this,” said Jason Kipnis. “They’re as big a part of the team as anybody. You’re naming a bunch of our core guys. You’re naming a bunch of guys that got us this far. So, even if they may not be playing right now, they’re as big of a reason as some of the guys who are playing. They need to be a part of this. They need to celebrate. They need to enjoy themselves, because they earned it, too.”

Cody Allen delivered the final strike before joining the mob of players behind the mound. Once it calmed down, one of the first guys he hugged was Brantley.

“I know he hasn’t been on the field a whole lot this year, but he’s a huge part of this,” Allen said. “There are spots in the season where guys are down or in slumps and you could feel the thing going the wrong way and a guy like Brantley, his voice carries so much weight. He can pack it in mentally and physically and just focus on himself, but he doesn’t. He focuses on, ‘How can I help in any way, shape or form?’ Guys like that are special.”

Those who were hurt celebrated as they could. Carrasco partied with a water-proof seal over his cast protecting his fractured right hand. At one point, Gomes came up to Brantley—gingerly—and said, ‘We’re going to do it slow’ before sharing a drink.

It’s all Brantley was able to do during the celebration, but it did make him a part of it, just as it did for Carrasco, Salazar and Gomes. For much of it, he stood just inside the hallway peering into the clubhouse, looking as much like a proud parent as anything.

“It’s awesome,” Brantley said. “It’s an all-around team effort. We’ve preached that day in and day out. To be here, to celebrate with your teammates, with all the hard work all the guys put in together as one, I don’t know if there are the right words for it.”

To read more or comment...

Indians 7, Tigers 4: Ryan Lewis’ 26 Walk-Off Thoughts on clinching the Central and a fitting night

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 27, 2016

Here are 26 Walk-Off Thoughts after the Indians beat the Detroit Tigers 7-4 Monday night, thereby clinching their first American League Central title since 2007.

And here are eight videos of the celebration, from the final out to the champagne-soaked clubhouse.

1. Monday night was a fitting end to the Indians’ race to the top of the American League Central. It was a back-and-forth game that included a starting pitcher leaving early, the bullpen taking over and the offense doing enough to pull away. It was also the Indians beating the Tigers for the 14th time this season, the most in any year since 1959.

2. Said owner Paul Dolan, “It’s been a spectacular year. It’s great to finish it here, it’s great to do it in Detroit. The team did it all year and they continue to do it. … The champagne smells familiar. But it’s been a while, so it never grows old. We’ve done it before, we just want to get a little further on in the process now.”

3. And, it was the culmination of a long season, one filled with significant injuries to key pieces in the Indians’ clubhouse. This team hasn’t had an easy road. Clinching the division on Monday night was a release.

4. Said Indians manager Terry Francona, ”They deserve every minute of it. I want them to celebrate. They should be so proud of what they did. We're proud of them. It's hard. There's a lot that goes into winning a division. They deserve every minute of joy they have in there."

5. Celebrating on the Tigers’ diamond had some additional significance. The Indians and Tigers aren’t just divisional rivals, one has held down the other for three years like an older brother holding down his sibling. In 2016, the Indians have dominated the Tigers, a complete reversal of the recent past.

6. And for this team, one that has been knocking on the door for three seasons under Terry Francona, only to come up short in the division each time, it was a celebration four years in the making.

7. Said Jason Kipnis, “You know what? I’ve said it before. We had a little glimpse in 2013, with a bunch of the guys that are still returning, and the staff we had. In Spring Training, we were so certain that it was our year, that it was our turn. I don’t think you could convince us otherwise. As soon as we got ahold of first place, you probably saw the tightest grip on it ever. We never let go of it. That’s how much this team competed. That’s how much this team wanted it.”

8. One of the cool things about seeing that kind of a celebration is that everyone is there—everyone. From the owner of the team to the coaching staff all down the line to the players to the clubhouse guys. Everyone is pouring champagne and beer on everyone.

9. Said Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti, “It’s joy, it’s pride, when you think back to get to this point, so many people have helped when you think about all of our scouts, our player-development group, everyone in our front office, the coaches, the players, our trainers, our strength and conditioning coaches, everybody, our clubhouse staff, it’s really fun to be able to get to this point because it takes a lot of work and it takes a group effort.”

10. As I write this, I can’t get the small of champagne out of my nose. We’re all drenched in beer and champagne. While MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian and I interviewed Corey Kluber, midway through a question he slid on his goggles. We knew something was up but kept going. Then came Trevor Bauer from the other side, Go-Pro on his head and all, to douse us both with a beer. Luckily, phones can still be used while in plastic baggies.

11. While manager Francona conducted a TV interview, Jason Kipnis and several others doused him with beer and champagne. As Francona walked away he jokingly yelled, “Next person who throws shit on me is playing tomorrow.” Several players laughed and ran away from him.

12. The Indians made sure that those who are injured—Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, Yan Gomes, Michael Brantley—all were in Detroit for the celebration. Carrasco had a water-proof seal over his cast.

13. Said Kipnis, “We wanted to make sure they were here for this. They’re as big a part of the team as anybody. You’re naming a bunch of our core guys. You’re naming a bunch of guys that got us this far. So, even if they may not be playing right now, they’re as big of a reason as some of the guys who are playing. They need to be a part of this. They need to celebrate. They need to enjoy themselves, because they earned it, too.”

14. Added Kluber, “They’re still as much of a part of the team as anybody. Just because they didn’t get a chance to contribute in as many games as they want doesn’t mean they mean any less to the guys in here.”

15. Cody Allen sought out Brantley because of it, saying, “Brantley is one of the first guys I walked up to and hugged. I know he hasn’t been on the field a whole lot this year, but he’s a huge part of this. There are spots in the season where guys are down or in slumps and you could feel the thing going the wrong way and a guy like Brantley, his voice carries so much weight. He can pack it in mentally and physically and just focus on himself, but he doesn’t. He focuses on, ‘How can I help in any way, shape or form?’ Guys like that are special.”

16. Brantley began the celebration mostly watching from the side, calmly taking in the scene. He couldn’t get knocked around in the scrum. “It’s awesome. A lot of hard work pays off. We did a great job of playing this year and getting ourselves to the postseason. And now, we’ve got to look forward to the postseason. It’s a great time to be an Indians fan.” Yan Gomes then walked up, said, “We’re going to do it slow. We’re going to do it slow,” and shared a beer with Brantley.

17. Perhaps the quote of the night came from Allen on the final out: “I couldn’t even tell you. It was almost like when I asked my wife to marry me. I couldn’t tell you what I said, what happened. I was so nervous, so excited, all at the same time. It just happened.”

18. As for the game Monday night, the Indians had a bit of a scare with Kluber, when he left after four innings and only 60 pitches with right groin tightness. Kluber would only talk about the team and the season after the game, but considering the depleted starting rotation, losing Kluber would be a devastating blow to the Indians’ chances. Kluber certainly didn’t seem to be bothered by anything after the game.

19. The Indians were for the most part being cautious and will know more in the morning. Said Francona, “He’s OK. He had a groin that he was kind of fighting there. He felt it in the third inning and then he got through the fourth and I grabbed him and we went downstairs. I thought it was getting a little bit worse and it didn’t really look like it when he was pitching, but I told him, ‘We need to find a way to win a game. We’re not going to go far without you.’ So we need to let him get healthy so he can do what he does.”

20. The bullpen once again stepped up. Dan Otero, Bryan Shaw, Andrew Miller and Cody Allen weren’t perfect but did enough to stay one step ahead of the Tigers, as the Indians’ offense did their part. Miller was bested by Miguel Cabrera for an RBI-single on Monday night. But he also worked a scoreless eighth. And acquiring Miller was one of the more aggressive moves the Indians have made in recent years. It’s also reshaped the bullpen into perhaps the league’s best.

21. Said Francona, “I thought it was a big statement to the players. Because of my job, I get to hear the conversations, so I knew that they were trying. When it got done, it gave everybody a shot in the arm. I think maybe one or two games he’s pitched in, we’ve lost. One was he was trying to get some work in. It was a big deal for us. We had to give up a lot, but we’re trying to win.”

22. Coco Crisp hit a two-run home run in the second and Roberto Perez, of all hitters, hit a home run in the seventh and added an RBI-single in the eighth. It was one of the biggest wins for the franchise in nine seasons, and it was a pretty accurate snapshot of the 2016 season.

23. Said Kipnis, “That was our M.O. We all pitched in. You had top to bottom lineup, everybody contributing, everybody hands on deck. That’s the way we needed to win games, and you saw that tonight.”

24. Now, the Indians can turn their attention to earning home-field advantage in the AL while also being able to rest players who need it. That includes setting up the starting rotation like they want prior to Oct. 6, which is Game 1 of the ALDS.

25. If the season ended Monday night, the Indians would be the No. 3 seed and travel to Texas for Game 1, while Boston played the winner of the Wild Card Game between Toronto and Baltimore. The Indians surely want that No. 1 seed, but now being able to figure a beat-up pitching staff in the right way will have its own benefits. That also isn’t mentioning the heavy workloads of Francisco Lindor, Mike Napoli and others, who now have a chance to an extra day off or two in the final week of the regular season.

26. This summer has been a wild one for Cleveland sports fans. For so many reasons, for so many people, the Cavs ending the drought was such a huge deal. Such a monumental moment that brought so much sheer joy and relief. The Indians will be entering the playoffs as division champs and in the ALDS for the first time in nine years. Cleveland fans might be able to enjoy this with a hint less anxiety, but all the same passion. See you on Oct. 6.

To read more or comment...

Eight videos of the Indians' 2016 AL Central title celebration

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 27, 2016

The Indians clinched their first American League Central title Monday night, beating the Tigers 7-4. Here are eight videos from the celebration, from the final out to the champagne-soaked clubhouse.

To read more or comment...

Indians top Detroit Tigers 7-4 to clinch American League Central title

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 26, 2016

Cleveland sports fans can keep on celebrating. For the first time since 2007, the Indians are American League Central champions.

Needing only one win in the final week of the regular season, the Indians secured a 7-4 win against the Detroit Tigers Monday night, and the celebration began at Comerica Park, a wave of players and coaches running to the mound and mobbing one another in hugs and high-fives. Then it turned to the clubhouse and a champagne-soaked victory party.  

It was somewhat fitting to finally clinch the division in Detroit, against the team that played such a significant role in holding the Indians’ down the last three seasons.

After trading two-run home runs, the Indians answered with a two-run fifth inning and remained one step ahead of the Tigers to support an extended night for the bullpen after a quick exit for Corey Kluber.

Coco Crisp came away with the first blow, belting a two-run home run to right field off Tigers starting pitcher Buck Farmer to give the Indians a 2-0 lead in the second inning.

The Tigers quickly responded against Kluber. After Victor Martinez singled in the bottom half of the inning, Kluber threw an 0-2 sinker that missed its intended location, and J.D. Martinez hit just enough of it to send it over the right-field wall for a game-tying two-run home run.

The Indians couldn’t escape the night without some further concern surrounding their already-depleted starting rotation. Pitching coach Mickey Callaway in the fourth inning visited the mound to check on Kluber, who went on to finish the inning. He was then pulled prior to the fifth after throwing only 60 pitches. The club later announced Kluber left with right groin tightness. The severity of the injury was unknown during the game.

In the top of the fifth, the Indians gave the incoming bullpen a lead. Carlos Santana started the inning with a single. Jason Kipnis followed with an RBI-double to the gap in left-center field, making it 3-2. A sacrifice fly by Mike Napoli later extended that lead to 4-2.

Dan Otero relieved Kluber in the fifth but quickly surrendered a run on an RBI-single off the bat of Miguel Cabrera to make it 4-3. In the seventh, Roberto Perez tacked onto the Indians’ lead with a lead-off, solo home run. The Tigers answered in the bottom half of the inning. Andrew Miller was brought in to face Cabrera with a runner on third but lost the battle, allowing an RBI-single to cut the Indians’ lead to 5-4.  

Perez, an unlikely hero offensively, came through again in the eighth, adding an RBI-single off Alex Wilson to make it 6-4. Then, a gift from the Tigers, as Santana’s two-out flyball was dropped by Martinez for an error, allowing Rajai Davis to score to push the advantage to 7-4.

That was plenty for Miller and then Cody Allen in the ninth inning, who nailed down the final outs for the club’s 91st win, the one that put away the rest of the division for good.

To read more or comment...

White Sox 3, Indians 0: Ryan Lewis’ 10 Walk-Off Thoughts on Josh Tomlin, going on the road again

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 25, 2016

Here are 10 Walk-Off Thoughts on the Indians’ 3-0 loss to the Chicago White Sox on Sunday.

1. The Indians will have to wait at least another day to break out the champagne. The Royals beat the Tigers 12-9, dropping the Indians’ magic number to one, but the Indians couldn’t complete the other half of the puzzle. In order for the Tigers to force a 163rd game for the division title, they’ll have to sweep the Indians in four games and then sweep the Atlanta Braves in three and hope the Indians are swept by the Royals to end the year. The Indians need only to win one more game this season, either in Detroit or Kansas City, or get one Tigers loss.

2. One of the loudest cheers of a quiet day for the Indians came when the Royals’ 4-0 lead over the Tigers was shown on the scoreboard. It’s impossible for players not to pay attention at that point.

3. Said Josh Tomlin, “A lot today because they were putting it on the scoreboard and you could hear the fans getting loud. It’s there. I’ll be honest with you. It’s there. You can see it. You can say you don’t see it but it’s up there. You see Detroit’s losing early in the game 4-0 and we have a chance to do this at home. So it's there, it’s very easy to look up there and kind of gaze and see if they’re winning or losing and see what we have to do.”

4. Indians fans knew it meant they might be able to see a division-clinching winner and celebration. But, Carlos Rodon had other ideas. He mowed through the Indians’ lineup to the tune of two hits and 11 strikeouts. Rodon has had the label of a young pitcher with a bright future for some time now. He’s lagged behind Chris Sale and Jose Quintana, but Sunday was a snapshot of why there’s been so much optimism.

5. Said Indians manager Terry Francona, “He's a young pitcher and he's getting better with starts. We've seen a lot of them because he's in our division. His off-speed is better, even his delivery is smoothing out and like a lot of young pitchers that have talent, you're starting to see him gain experience and he's pretty good."

More: Baseball world mourns the sudden, tragic loss of Jose Fernandez

6. So, the Indians will go to Detroit, the team that’s held them down for three years in a row, and try to secure their first division title since 2007.

7. Said Tomlin, “It’s a little fitting. But we have a resilient group in that clubhouse. We’re ready for the next challenge if it has to be in Detroit or Kansas City, [wherever] it may be, we need to get it done. So we know what the task is and we’re prepared for it. Hopefully we get it done sooner rather than later.”

8. One of the lone bright spots from Sunday’s game was Tomlin, who took another step in putting his rough month of August behind him. Tomlin threw 6 2/3 innings and allowed two runs—one earned on five hits. He took the loss, but in terms of his possibly starting Game 3 of the ALDS, it was another step in the right direction.

9. Said Tomlin, “I think it’s execution. Executing pitches when I need to execute them and when I miss I’m not missing over the heart of the plate for the most part. There are still times you’re going to miss over the heart of the plate but sometimes it’s up, sometimes it’s down. But for me it’s just staying  out of the middle the plate with four pitches to try to keep them off balance, try to make them pick a direction to go to. Basically out-guess them, keep them off-balance enough to get them out in front of some stuff and if you leave the ball down the middle the plate, it’s a lot easier for a big-league hitter to do damage with that than stuff that’s on the edges.”

10. The Indians finished the 2016 regular season with a total attendance of 1,591,667. That’s an increase of more than 200,000 fans from 2015 and an average of 19,650 per game.

To read more or comment...

Indians fall to Chicago White Sox 3-0, fail to clinch division in final home regular season game

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 25, 2016

If the Indians are to clinch the American League Central division, they’ll have to do it away from the friendly confines of Progressive Field.

The Indians needed to beat the Chicago White Sox and have the Kansas City Royals beat the Detroit Tigers to officially clinch the division. The Royals did their part, winning 12-9 and dropping the Indians’ magic number to one. But the White Sox’s Carlos Rodon denied a home celebration, as the Indians mustered only two hits in a 3-0 loss on Sunday afternoon.

The Indians came up empty in their one scoring threat—in the fifth inning—and were otherwise quiet offensively. They struck out 14 times, which included the last six Indians hitters of the game and eight of the last nine.

Rodon threw eight innings and accounted for 11 of those 14 strikeouts. He’s been thought of as one of the brighter young pitchers in the division dating back a few years. Sunday was a snapshot of why.

"He's a young pitcher and he's getting better with starts,” said Indians manager Terry Francona. “We've seen a lot of them because he's in our division. His off-speed is better, even his delivery is smoothing out and like a lot of young pitchers that have talent, you're starting to see him gain experience and he's pretty good.”

The lone bright spot for the Indians from Sunday’s game was another positive start by Josh Tomlin. He allowed two runs—one earned—on five hits in 6 2/3 innings pitched and put his tough month of August further behind him. The Indians will be leaning on Tomlin in the postseason. After a rough stretch, Tomlin has looked more like his first-half self as of late.

“I think it’s execution,” Tomlin said. “Executing pitches when I need to execute them and when I miss I’m not missing over the heart of the plate for the most part. There are still times you’re going to miss over the heart of the plate but sometimes it’s up, sometimes it’s down. But for me it’s just staying out of the middle the plate with four pitches to try to keep them off balance, try to make them pick a direction to go to.”

The Indians will now go on the road to Detroit for four games and then to Kansas City for three to close out the season only needing to win one of those games to clinch the division.

“It’s a little fitting,” Tomlin said, speaking of the Indians having to clinch on the road after the obstacles they’ve faced in 2016. “But we have a resilient group in that clubhouse. We’re ready for the next challenge if it has to be in Detroit or Kansas City, [wherever] it may be, we need to get it done. So we know what the task is and we’re prepared for it. Hopefully we get it done sooner rather than later.”

To read more or comment...

White Sox 8, Indians 1: Ryan Lewis’ 12 Walk-Off Thoughts on bullpen games, getting through September

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 25, 2016

Here are 12 Walk-Off Thoughts after the Indians’ 8-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox Saturday night.

1. Saturday night went about how you might expect a bullpen game to go in which the Indians face a pitcher like Jose Quintana while also trying to stay away from their better relievers.

2. The Indians threw eight different pitchers, none of whom were Andrew Miller, Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw, Dan Otero or Zach McAllister. The Indians were delivered a tough blow with the injuries to both Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar. Thanks to their sizable lead in the division and roster expansion in September, these bullpen games are possible every fifth game. The Indians are just trying to get through September and to October, when a fifth starter is no longer needed.

3. The Indians’ magic number is down to two, after the Tigers blew a ninth-inning lead to the Royals, meaning they could clinch on Sunday at home. It also means that if they don’t clinch on Sunday, they’ll have to win only one of the four games in Detroit.

4. Said Indians manager Terry Francona on if it was a challenge with the fifth spot in the rotation, “It was tonight because it takes a little bit of, I don't want to say the wind out of the sails, but it's a lot of moving parts and then we fall behind, I think it makes for a long night for the position players, I get it.”

5. It’s been an odd month for the Indians trying to piece together games. Francona isn’t a huge fan of roster expansion, but in this instance, it’s been a huge help. He said the other day that since it’s a rule, they’ll use it. The Indians’ last bullpen game could be needed on Thursday, though once they have clinched they could get creative beyond that to piece together innings.

More: Column: Carlos Santana has made 2017 club option a no-brainer

6. Said Francona, “I think we have enough guys to do that. It might not be the way you would draw it up necessarily, but I don't think that's going to get in the way of us winning or losing. I think we just need to ... the parts can reach. They didn't tonight, but that doesn't mean it won’t."

7. It hasn’t been the best situation. The Indians know that. But it’s been how they’ve chosen how to handle it without wanting to make a move on the 40-man roster and cost someone a job.

8. Said Chris Gimenez, “I think, honestly, they've done the best job they could have. Nobody really plans to lose two of your five starters in 10 days. Thankfully, it did happen in September, where we have plenty of people to kind of come up and fill that role. I think it's a little unconventional, obviously, and it also might not be ideal to have bullpen days every fifth day, but I think, too, a lot of times it's given a lot of these younger guys a chance to throw, to get in the games, some meaningful games late, at the back end of September. You feel bad for a lot of those guys, too, because some of them haven't thrown in 10 or 12 days, but they're going out there and they're competing. They might give up a few hits or a few runs, but I've been pretty impressed with a lot of the moxy of the younger guys. I think that's been impressive. And, honestly, it's invaluable experience for later on in their careers. You never know, obviously, when we're going to need them.”

9. The Indians used 24 players, a club record for a nine-inning game. Though, that’s in a way the heart and soul of September call-up season.

10. Said Gimenez, “You know what? That's kind of what September baseball's all about. You get a lot of the younger guys an opporunity to come in and play a little bit, even if it's for an inning or two, or an at-bat. You can never take something like that for granted, because you never know when your last day in the big leagues is going to be. I've heard of people coming up and only having one at-bat in a game like that, and that's the only experience they ever have in the big leagues. Every day you get up here is special. It's a good opportunity. It's a good to get those jitters out for a lot of those younger guys. And guys who haven't played third base in a while.”

11. Gimenez made an appearance at third base, just to make things weirder.

12. “That definitely caught me off guard a little bit,” he said. “I wasn't really thinking third base was in the mix, but I was kind of glad he did it. It kind of brought back my memories of when I was a young pup. And I even got a ball. I got a fly ball. I told Gonzo, 'Get the heck out of there. I'm catching that thing.”

To read more or comment...

Mike Napoli reaches 100 RBI as Ramirez, Crisp have big nights in Indians’ 10-4 win vs. Chicago

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 23, 2016

Mike Napoli reached the magic number of 100 RBI for the season and Jose Ramirez and Coco combined to drive in seven runs, as the Indians pummeled the Chicago White Sox 10-4.

The win secured a 90-win season and dropped the Indians’ magic number to three games, meaning the first day they could potentially clinch is Sunday. The Detroit Tigers beat the Kansas City Royals 8-3 Friday night.

The White Sox hit two two-run home runs against Trevor Bauer to lead 4-2 heading into the fifth inning. The Indians (90-63) then put together back-to-back four-run innings, led by the aforementioned trio, to put the game away.

Napoli went 3-for-5 with two RBI to reach 100. He became the first Indians hitter with 100 RBI in a single season since 2007, when Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez each reached that mark. At 34 years old, he also became the oldest Indians hitter to reach 100 RBI since 35-year-old Luke Easter did so in 1951.

Ramirez (2-for-5) tied it 2-2 in the fourth inning with a two-run home run off White Sox starter Miguel Gonzalez, his 11th of the season. He later made it 9-4 in the sixth with a two-out, two-run double to right field. In doing so he became the fifth Indians hitter this season to reach 250 total bases, joining Jason Kipnis, Carlos Santana, Francisco Lindor and Napoli. It’s only the second time in franchise history the Indians have done that, the first instance coming in 2005.

Crisp (3-for-4) gave the Indians their first lead of the ninth in the fifth with a two-out, two-run double of his own to make it 6-4. An inning later, he capped the night’s scoring with an RBI-single.

Bauer (12-8, 4.26 ERA) threw 7 2/3 innings, allowed four runs on seven hits and struck out six. He walked off the mound to a standing ovation, tipping his cap before entering the dugout.

His first-inning struggles continued, though. With one out in the top of the first, Tim Anderson tripled and Melky Cabrera followed with a two-run home run to give the White Sox (72-81) an early 2-0 lead. Tied 2-2, Avisail Garcia drove a two-run home run to right field. But a half-inning later the Indians’ offense caught fire, allowing Bauer to pitch deep into the game and give the bullpen a night off before Saturday’s “bullpen game,” in which Cody Anderson will start.

To read more or comment...

Indians bullpen picking up slack after injuries to rotation

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 23, 2016

The injuries to Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar have placed an intensified spotlight on Josh Tomlin and Mike Clevinger. It’s also meant the bullpen, one of the most active units under Indians manager Terry Francona, will likely need to play an even bigger role in the postseason.

So far, the bullpen has responded. Since the addition of Andrew Miller ahead of the trade deadline, the Indians have owned arguably baseball’s best bullpen. It’s probable that they’ll need every bit of it in October.

Since Aug. 1, Miller, Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw, Dan Otero and Zach McAllister have combined for a 1.81 ERA and 119 strikeouts to only 25 walks in 103 2/3 innings, per MLB.com. Tomlin and Clevinger had had mostly positive results since Carrasco and Salazar went down. But neither has the same kind of odds to last deep into a game and give the Indians 6-7-8 innings.

The Indians have felt comfortable going to the bullpen earlier. It’s a possible blueprint for how they might need to win some games in the postseason.

Much of it has resulted with the addition of Miller. He’s established himself as one of the best relievers in baseball and also has allowed the others to come into more favorable spots. The effects have been two-fold.

“Obviously he’s going to face the better left-handers,” Francona said. “And it’s not that Cody and Shaw can’t get them out, but it’s taken that off their plate. So not only are you getting a good pitcher, but you’re also getting a guy you can leverage against certain hitters that makes Cody, Shaw, Otero, whoever, makes their workload a little bit more manageable.”

That workload has been extensive for Shaw and Allen. Since the beginning of 2013—when Francona became manager—Shaw (297) and Allen (286) rank first and fourth in the game in relief appearances, respectively. What’s more is that Shaw’s highest single-season ERA in that span is 3.24. Allen has been under 3.00 all four years.

“With Cody and Shaw, they’re pretty remarkable in their ability to bounce back,” Francona said. “Because there’s a couple things, too, it’s not just your willingness, but you have to be able to still get people out. They maintain their stuff.”

Shaw, more than any other Indians reliever, has received an overwhelmingly negative response from fans on social media after any loss, despite that consistency. But it has Otero impressed.

“It’s uncanny. I can’t even say how amazing that is as a reliever, to keep his arm, his mind in that shape to be able to do that,” Otero said. “I think some of it maybe is he doesn’t think about it too much. I think that helps him. It’s impressive to watch. You don’t see many relievers do that, go 70-75 games, 3-4 years in a row. He’s been able to do it and effectively.”

Francona loves going to his bullpen as much as any manager in the game. Miller has given him a lethal weapon to use anywhere between the sixth and ninth innings. Allen has been a steady closer. Otero and others have helped. None have entered more games than Shaw, almost all of them as the club’s primary set-up man.

“That’s why I probably do get protective of him,” Francona said. “Because he takes the ball when a lot of other pitchers may not take the ball. And there’s something to be said for that. And he’s throwing harder now than he was in the beginning of the year. It’s amazing to me.”

If the Indians can advance deep into October, it’s possible that unit will be as needed as any.

To read more or comment...

Indians 5, Royals 2: Ryan Lewis’ 16 Walk-Off Thoughts on Mike Clevinger, Dan Otero, Carlos Santana

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 23, 2016

Here are 16 Walk-Off Thoughts on the Indians’ 5-2 win against the Kansas City Royals Thursday night.

1. Thursday night was essentially a blueprint for how the Indians would want a postseason game to look like with Mike Clevinger on the mound. Clevinger gave up two earned runs and worked into trouble three times but battled to give the Indians five innings before handing it over to the bullpen.

2. After those five innings, the bullpen took over. Dan Otero threw two scoreless to get to Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen in the ninth. And, of course, in a postseason game Andrew Miller would be available.

3. The Indians are going to need Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer, for sure, throw strong outings. They’ll likely need Josh Tomlin and Mike Clevinger to at least give them five innings. Then, that bullpen, which has been among baseball’s best since the addition of Miller, will try to piece together the rest of the game. With the added off-days in the postseason, Indians manager Terry Francona could rely on Miller, Allen, Shaw, Otero and company even more. They just need Tomlin and/or Clevinger to give them roughly five solid innings to give them a chance.

4. Thursday’s game was a snapshot of that.

5. Said Francona on Clevinger, "I mean, his stuff is good, I thought maybe down a tick tonight but the way he pitches as he mature, I think you'll see less of that. On the guys where he throws strike one, instead of attacking he lets guys back into the count so that's what you're seeing a lot of deep counts, a lot of walks. As he pitches more and he gains more confidence, you'll see him attacking like after the home run, he tried to stay away from contact a little bit. Again, these are things he'll get better at. Saying that, other than the home run he kept them off the scoreboard."

6. Tomlin and Clevinger have a lot heaped onto their shoulders the last two weeks. So far, they’ve responded to it.

7. Said Otero, “I don’t think it’s a surprise to anybody in this clubhouse. I think everybody here knew they have the ability and mental fortitude to get it done. They haven’t really surprised anybody here inside this clubhouse. We have all the faith in them in the world. Tomlin’s done it three quarters of the year, he just had a bad stretch. Clev did it all through the minor leagues this year. Obviously his first couple starts up here weren’t the best but ever since then he’s been throwing the ball real well. Now he’s just rolling with it.”

More: Roberto Perez displaying defensive value; Yan Gomes throws, still working

8. Something that several players have said—Corey Kluber and Josh Tomlin among them—is that the pitchers who are now tasked with replacing Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar aren’t trying to be Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar. With their raw stuff, guys like that can’t be replaced. It’s also not quite who Clevinger is as a pticher, and it certainly isn’t Tomlin.



9. Francona was asked if the club views these last few starts as an important lead-up to the postseason, especially for those two. His response: "But I don't think we view it like that. You can't do more. They just need to do their job and again especially in September because you have numbers, but they just need to do what they're supposed to. Clevs a young kind that's still learning, you just can't push a button and all of a sudden be somebody else or be a veteran and we don't expect that. We just want him to try to continue to get better and we'll figure out when to take him out and who to put in."

10. The bullpen worked exactly as it should, and pretty much as it has since the beginning of August. Otero worked two scoreless innings, continuing his stellar 1.49 ERA season, Shaw worked a scoreless eighth and Allen earned his 29th save of the season. Much has obviously been made about the value that additions like Mike Napoli, Rajai Davis and others have brought to the 2016 Indians. Otero has been right there with them.

11. That bullpen as whole, since Andrew Miller was added, has been perhaps baseball’s best. Since Aug. 1, Miller, Allen, Shaw, Otero and Zach McAllister have combined for a 1.81 ERA, 119 strikeouts and only 25 walks in 109 2/3 innings pitched (thanks to Jordan Bastian of MLB.com for that stat). Just as the starting rotation has needed a lift, the bullpen has provided it.

12. The Indians’ bullpen was already strong, regardless of what Twitter thought of Allen and Shaw, before adding Miller. His inclusion has made it a truly top-tier group.

13. Said Otero, “… bringing in a guy like Miller into the bullpen has to help any bullpen, especially here where you already had two stalwarts down there in Cody and Bryan, what they’ve done the last few years. I think Tito has the confidence in pretty much everyday down there. I don’t think he shies away from anybody. He’s shown that, I think in the Chicago series, I think he threw Cody Anderson in a tied game in the seventh or eighth. Z-Mac has done it for him last year and this year. Manship has been in big spots. I don’t think he shies away from anybody. I think that helps his mentality going into a game.”

More: Marla Ridenour: Jose Ramirez's bold swagger gives the Indians the confidence they need

14. Shaw, especially, has received some undeserved groans from many when he enters a game. No pitcher in baseball has appeared in more games since 2013 than Shaw. He’s appeared in at least 70 games each year since then with an ERA of 3.24 or better. Otero used the word “amazing” to describe that kind of use and consistency, saying, “It’s uncanny. I can’t even say how amazing that is as a reliever, to keep his arm, his mind in that shape to be able to do that. I think some of it maybe is he doesn’t think about it too much. I think that helps him. It’s impressive to watch. You don’t see many relievers do that, go 70-75 games, 3-4 years in a row. He’s been able to do it and effectively.”

15. Carlos Santana has been among the better hitters in the American League lately. He’s heating up at the right time. He drove in four runs Thursday and belted his 34th home run of the season, which ties Mike Napoli for the team lead. He’s hitting .458 with seven RBI in this homestand. He’s also reached base in 22 straight games. So much has been made about Napoli’s power numbers—Santana has been right there with him, and he’s been drawing walks like he always does as well.

16. Coming into the year, one of the more intriguing questions was if the Indians would pick up Santana’s $12 million club option for 2017. At this point, Santana has made that decision a no-brainer.

To read more or comment...

Carlos Santana drives in four to propel Indians past Royals 5-2; Magic Number down to 4

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 22, 2016

Carlos Santana is having a career year for the Indians in 2016. On Thursday, the Kansas City Royals felt the full brunt of that, as the Indians dropped their magic number down to four games with a 5-2 win.

Aside from a Jason Kipnis solo home run in the first inning, the rest of the Indians’ offensive production came courtesy of Santana.

Kipnis put the Indians on top 1-0 with his 23rd home run of the year off of Royals starting pitcher Jason Vargas in the first inning. Santana later in the inning came up to bat with Francisco Lindor on second after he walked and stole second.

Santana first gave the Indians (89-63) a scare when he fouled a ball off his left foot and began limping. Indians manager Terry Francona and a trainer came out to look at Santana. He stayed in the game, and promptly responded by ripping an RBI-double to the gap in right-center field to make it 2-0.

The Royals (77-76) responded in the top of the second against Indians starting pitcher Mike Clevinger. With Alex Gordon on first, Alcides Escobar drilled a two-run home run to straightaway center field to tie it 2-2.

Clevinger spent the next three innings working into and out of trouble. All three times the Royals put the lead-off runner on base and all three times they came away with nothing. The Indians, likewise, struggled to do anything else against Vargas.

In the sixth inning, Santana broke it open. Jason Kipnis was hit on the left wrist with a pitch—another scare for a team that can ill afford any more injuries—and Lindor walked. Santana, facing Dillon Gee (7-9, 4.63 ERA), crushed a three-run home run to right field, putting the Indians on top 5-2.

Clevinger lasted five innings, allowing two earned runs on four hits and two walks and striking out four. It was a mostly-positive night for a pitcher the Indians might have to lean on in October. Clevinger threw 80 pitches, as he’s spent last couple of starts building up his pitch count.

Dan Otero (5-1, 1.49 ERA) worked two scoreless innings in relief of Clevinger. Bryan Shaw worked a scoreless eighth. Cody Allen secured his 29th save of the season.

J.R. Smith, still a free agent, was at the Indians game and received a standing ovation when shown on the scoreboard. He was, in fact, wearing a shirt.

To read more or comment...

Roberto Perez displaying defensive value; Yan Gomes throws, still working

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 22, 2016

It’s no secret the Indians haven’t gotten much value out of the catching position this season.

Yan Gomes never got going offensively, putting forth an abysmal season at the plate for a former Silver Slugger winner. Roberto Perez, then, broke his thumb and required surgery.

As Perez was reaching the point of being able to return, Gomes separated his shoulder, and the two flip-flopped with each other on the disabled list. The club added Chris Gimenez, though he doesn’t have a significant offensive pedigree either.

Per FanGraphs, Indians catchers have had the lowest value of any club in the league at -0.5 WAR this season, though defensive metrics for catchers are largely still unable to be properly quantified. The Indians over the last several weeks have taken to pinch-hitting for both Perez and Gimenez late in games. For the most part, the Indians have had to compensate for lost production at that spot in the batting order, especially with Gomes missing significant time.

The reason the Indians were patient with that group—namely Perez—has been their work behind the plate and defensively. It’s been on display this week.

Several pitchers and Indians manager Terry Francona talked about how Perez has improved as a blocker behind the plate, allowing them to throw any pitch with a runner on third, which isn’t always the case. On Wednesday, Perez delivered a potential game-saving throw to second base to nail Kansas City’s Terrance Gore in the ninth inning. It was the first time Gore had ever been caught stealing.

Plays like that are how Perez has to maintain his valuable presence the club, particularly in October, when every run seems so much more significant and he’s slated to be the primary catcher. Those moments are what Perez looks forward to, more-so than a potential big hit.

“As soon as they brought Gore in, I knew he was going to come in and try to steal a base,” Perez said. “For me, man, I had the opportunity to throw him out yesterday, some miscommunication covering the base, so I hesitated to throw to the base, but today, I was hoping Allen would give me a chance and he did. And I just [made] a good throw.”

Offensively, it’s been a slow going for Perez. He hit .182 with a .270 on-base percentage in August. In September, he’s hit .227 but his on-base percentage has dropped a touch to .255. Though with some of the plays made from this week, Francona still doesn’t hesitate to write his name in the lineup each day.

Gomes, meanwhile, is still very likely done for the season and postseason after he fractured his hand just days before being able to return from his shoulder injury. Though, he's still working and going through drills as if there might be a chance for him to return, should the Indians advance deep into October.

The Indians didn’t plan any baseball activity for Gomes on Thursday, but he felt good enough that he wanted to throw prior to Thursday’s games. Still, the club isn’t expecting a miraculous return.

“I mean, in all fairness to Yan, he shouldn't really have any chance to play,” Francona said. “I think that to be fair, if there's a one percent chance my guess is he'll probably be the one. He's trying to do everything he can and in five or six days he's made a lot of improvement. I don't think anybody knows if that continues at that rate or it levels off because there is a break, but he's trying and we appreciate that.”

To read more or comment...

Indians 4, Royals 3: Ryan Lewis’ 17 Walk-Off Thoughts on Roberto Perez’s throw, Jose Ramirez’s value

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 22, 2016

Here are 17 Walk-Off Thoughts after the Indians beat the Kansas City Royals 4-3 Wednesday night.

1. Corey Kluber was strong, Andrew Miller was terrific, Jose Ramirez joined some elite company in franchise history and Carlos Santana continued his career year. But the play of the game was a pinpoint throw by Roberto Perez in the ninth inning.

2. The Indians entered the ninth inning leading 4-2. Cody Allen then surrendered a solo home run to Salvador Perez, cutting the lead to 4-3. Alex Gordon drew a walk to put the tying run on base. Terrance Gore, a speedster who had never been caught stealing in his 17 career attempts prior to Wednesday night, came in to pinch run.

3. With Alcides Escobar at the plate, Gore took off, and Perez delivered a perfect throw to Francisco Lindor at second base, easily nailing Gore for the first out of the inning and the first time in Gore’s career. Instead of the tying run on second base with nobody out, the bases were clear with one out, and Allen quickly recorded the final two to end the game.

4. Said Perez, “I was just following the throw. It was right on the money. Lindor [made] a great tag. I knew I got him.”

5. Perez has often said his focus is on his work behind the plate first and foremost. That means handling the pitching staff, framing pitches, throwing out runners and fielding his position. He’s strong in every area, a real asset behind the plate for the Indians even as his offense lagged behind—though he’s been better lately. Last night, Miller and Cody Allen talked about being able to throw any pitch in a one-run game with the tying run on third base.

6. Wednesday night, it was Perez beating one of baseball’s fastest players to the bag. Perez takes a great deal of pride in his defensive work. Many players relish the chance to come away with the game-winning hit. For Perez, his moment is with a speedster on first base and everyone in the stadium knowing he’s going to go.

7. Said Perez, “As soon as they brought Gore in, I knew he was going to come in and try to steal a base. For me, man, I had the opportunity to throw him out yesterday, some miscommunication covering the base, so I hesitated to throw to the base, but today, I was hoping Allen would give me a chance and he did. And I just [made] a good throw.”

8. The last couple of games have illustrated why the Indians were so patient with Perez as he struggled offensively.

9. A under-discussed part of throwing runners out is how effect pitchers are at holding runners. Josh Tomlin and others do it well, which helps catchers and gives them and extra instant or two that can be the difference between out and safe. After the game, Indians manager Terry Francona of course praised the throw. He also gave some credit to Allen for a quick delivery home that gave Perez an opportunity.

10. Francona also joked that one of the reasons he thought Santana’s RBI-single in the eighth to make it 4-2 was so key was that it could have taken Gore out of the game. That was short lived. But the delivery and throw erased the risk.

11. Said Francona, “You know when we got the tack-on run I told Millsy, I said, ‘Boy, good, that’ll take Gore out of the game.’ It figures. And Perez, everybody will be talking about the throw because it was a great throw, but Cody also gave him a chance. I think Cody was a 1.22, 1.21—if you’re anything slower than that you don’t even give Roberto a chance. But that was a great throw. Tonight you probably saw two of the best throws: Salvador throwing out Raj and that one. Those were two of the best throws you’re ever going to see.”

12. Allen also paused a bit longer than normal before throwing, another part of trying to gain a half-step, saying, “On my end, all I'm trying to do is just disrupt his timing as much as possible. I don't want him to get a good jump. Jumps come off the pitchers. So, a guy that quick, that good at what he does, you're trying your best just to kind of let his feet sink into the ground a little bit right there, so he doesn't get a good jump. I'm trying to hold the ball, disrupt his timing, and I'm trying to be as quick as I can to the plate, at the same time of trying to throw a quality pitch. The last thing you want to do right there is, you're worried so much about the runner, that you get 2-0 to a hitter like Escobar, or you throw one right down the middle as Gore is running and he gets a base hit. So, I'm just trying to do as good a job as I can to just disrupt his timing and get the ball to Roberto.”

13. Offensively, Jose Ramirez led the way with a three-double night. It was the first of his career the first for an Indians hitter this season. After Wednesday’s game, Ramirez became the fifth Indians hitter to ever record at least 10 home runs, 40 doubles and 20 stolen bases in a single season, joining Roberto Alomar, Grady Sizemore, Shin-Shoo Choo and Michael Brantley.

14. Said Allen on Ramirez, “He's an unbelievable player. I think everybody forgets how young he was when he first came up. There was a lot thrown on his plate the last couple years. He's an extremely talented player. He has a lot of ability. And, for him, I'm sure the game's slowed down quite a bit this year. He's done a remarkable job day in, day out. We're lucky to have him.”

15. Some have called Ramirez the club’s MVP this season. At the very least, he’s provided huge value when little was expected of him this spring.

16. Said Ramirez, “It feels really good [to hear that], especially that people believe in me like that, but I don't worry about that stuff. I don't focus on it. I'm just focused on helping my team win.”

17. Ramirez has provided the Indians Brantley-like production all season, often hitting in the middle of the order. The Indians likely wouldn’t be where they are without him.

To read more or comment...

Indians’ Corey Kluber strong in 4-3 win against Kansas City Royals; Magic number down to 5

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 21, 2016

Corey Kluber furthered his case for the American League Cy Young award and the Indians’ offense struggled to convert chances but did just enough in a 4-3 win against the Kansas City Royals Wednesday night.

The win dropped the Indians’ magic number to clinch the AL Central down to five games and possibly four, depending on the Detroit Tigers’ game against the Minnesota Twins, which was delayed due to weather. It also officially eliminated the Royals from contention in the division.

No pitcher has been able to separate from the pack in a wide-open AL Cy Young race. Kluber ensured his name will appear near the top of the list for at least another week or so by allowing just two runs on six hits in 6 1/3 innings pitched.

The Royals entered the game with the fifth-fewest strikeouts in all of baseball this season. Kluber struck out nine Royals on Wednesday and at one point struck out five straight batters.  That stretch—in the fifth and sixth innings—came at same time that the Indians’ offense broke through to give him the first lead of the night.

That was in the bottom of the fifth inning trailing 2-1. Facing Royals starting pitcher Ian Kennedy (11-10, 3.64), Carlos Santana opened the inning with a double off the wall in right field. He was followed by Jason Kipnis, who went back-to-back with Santana and drove a double to center field to tie it 2-2.

With two outs, Jose Ramirez did what the Indians struggled to do in the first four innings and came away with a go-ahead two-out double to score Kipnis and put the Indians on top 3-2. Prior to that inning the Indians were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position, allowing multiple scoring threats to go for naught.

Ramirez finished with there doubles, a career high for him and the season high for any Indians hitter in a single game. He also scored the Indians’ first run after his initial double when Lonnie Chisenhall followed with a single to right field in the second inning.

Kluber (18-9, 3.11) left with one out in the top of the seventh and the tying run on second base after Chelsor Cuthbert doubled to center field. Andrew Miller entered, quickly getting Billy Burns to ground out on a nice back-handed play by Ramirez and striking out Jarrod Dyson to end the inning.

Santana in the eighth gave the Indians an insurance run with a single—his fourth hit of the night—up the middle to score Tyler Naquin, who singled and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Roberto Perez. It was Santana’s first four-hit game of the season.

That insurance run proved to be significant. Cody Allen entered in the ninth and quickly allowed a towering solo home run to Salvador Perez that cut the Indians’ lead to 4-3. Alex Gordon then worked a walk and was taken out in favor of the speedy Terrance Gore. Gore, the tying run, attempted to steal second but was thrown out via a perfect throw by Perez. It was the first time in Gore’s career he was caught stealing.

With the bases now clear, Allen (28th save) quickly recored the final two outs to secure the Indians’ 88th win this season.

To read more or comment...

Danny Salazar working to return in some form for postseason; Indians lead majors in walk-off wins

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 21, 2016

Indians starting pitcher Danny Salazar is progressing in his rehab from a strained forearm and reports that he now is beginning to feel better physically. The big question, though, is how much impact, if any, will Salazar be able to have on a potential American League Division Series should the Indians hold on to clinch their division.

Salazar threw from 75 feet on Wednesday and expects to progress to 90 feet on Thursday. He’ll then continue that progression up to 120 feet in the next few days.

“It feels good just to be able to throw a little bit,” he said. “Feeling great, taking it easy right now, throwing easy, trying to get back on track. We’re on it. I’m trying to get back and I know I will. By the way I feel right now, it’s good and I’m really positive about it.”

It’s possible Salazar could only be ready to appear out of the bullpen in the ALDS. The Indians are hopeful he can progress quickly but are also having to balance long-term effects of multiple injuries to one of their top, young assets.

“I don’t think you’re going to see him go 0-to-100,” said Indians manager Terry Francona. “I think the last few days have been to get the blood flowing again. And I’m sure some of it is going to depend on how he feels, how aggressive they get, how quickly they get aggressive, and if they need to go slow, they will. Again, the priority is to have him feeling good. If he starts to feel real good, they can speed it up.”

Salazar said he’s feeling “way better” and added he’s been coming to the ballpark early each day to receive treatment. He’s also having to weigh his rehab with not pushing too hard following multiple arm injuries this season. The Indians have a terrible need for his return but also can ill afford a setback that would render him sidelined for all of October.

“When you come back, you might not know it but you might be doing something different,” Salazar said. “Not just because you want to, your body is just doing it to try to hide the pain in one part of the body and then you start using another one. That’s why I think, not only me but a lot of people, they get hurt after an injury and get a different injury in another part of the body.”

Walk the line

The Indians registered their 11th walk-off win Tuesday night against the Kansas City Royals, the most in the majors this season. The Indians were tied with the Houston Astros with 10 prior to that.

The 11 walk-off wins have also come courtesy of nine different hitters, the most recent being Brandon Guyer on Tuesday.

“It says on any given night, it could be anybody,” Guyer said. “[Tuesday night] it was me. But really any night, if anyone’s got the opportunity, we all have full confidence that anyone can come through. It’s just really fun to be on a team like that.”

The Indians have made walk-off wins a habit recently, considering they didn’t have any prior to June 1. They’ve also had six since Aug. 18. And they’ve ended each with the baseball tradition of beating up the poor soul who delivers the winning hit.

“That’s my first walk-off, my first time getting beat up like that but I’ll take it any day,” Guyer said. “It’s a cool feeling. During it you don’t really feel anything, you just are happy in the moment and stuff. At the end of the day, we got a win, that’s really all that matters.”

To read more or comment...

Indians 2, Royals 1: Ryan Lewis’ 19 Walk-Off Thoughts on Josh Tomlin, 11 walk-offs, the bullpen

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 21, 2016

Here are 19 Walk-Off Thoughts on the Indians’ 2-1 win against the Kansas City Royals Tuesday night.

1. The Indians have now walked-off more than any team in baseball this season. With two on, Brandon Guyer drove a double down the right-field line that landed fair by only a few feet, if that, to win it in the bottom of the ninth.

2. The 11 walk-off wins this season surpass Houston’s 10 to lead the majors. On Tuesday night Guyer became the ninth different hitter with a game-winner for the Indians this season.

3. For Guyer, it was an especially big moment considering it came against Joakim Soria, a right-handed pitcher. Guyer has said this season that he feels comfortable against both righties and lefties, but it’s the latter that he’s found the most success against and why the Indians acquired him prior to the trade deadline.



4. Said Guyer, “I relish any opportunity to play. If it’s going in of defense, pinch run, hit, righty, lefty, it really doesn't matter to me. But with this team we have so many good players that my opportunities might not be a lot right now, and I’m fine with that. I came over to a great team and fortunately got a good opportunity tonight and with runners on base, in scoring position, glad I came through.”

5. He’s now added his name to the list of Indians hitters to receive a beating after winning a game. Guyer, on what it says that so many different guys have come through: “It says on any given night, it could be anybody. Tonight it was me. But really any night, if anyone’s got the opportunity, we all have full confidence that anyone can come through. It’s just really fun to be on a team like that.”

6. Said Josh Tomlin on the 11 walk-offs and the clubhouse, “I think it's just the group of people we have in that clubhouse. Everybody roots for each other. The definition of 'team' is in that clubhouse. Everybody loves hanging out with each other, loves playing cards with each other. It's just a good group of guys to be around every day. We try to get to the ballpark pretty early and everybody is always in a good mood, joking around, having a good time. It's just loose and everybody enjoys everybody. It's not surprising to me hearing that, that there's nine different guys out of 11 that have done it. It's not surprising. We have a good team. That's all there is to it. We have a great team.”



7. Tomlin, in terms of looking ahead to October, was probably the biggest positive from Tuesday night. He tossed 6 2/3 innings, allowing only one run and walking none. It was a strong start for Tomlin, who the Indians could need more than ever with Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar down.

More: Danny Salazar throws from 60 feet, possible involvement in ALDS unclear

8. In August, Tomlin’s struggles weren’t a code red situation. It was a concern, but Tomlin was most likely looking to be the fifth starter needed in a four-man rotation. The Indians were looking to give him time to figure things out as a long-term solution and to get through September. Now, Tomlin is looking like a Game 3 starter and a huge piece to the Indians’ playoff hopes.

9. Tuesday’s quality start was exactly what the Indians wanted and needed to see.

10. Said Francona, “I thought he was outstanding. Efficient, threw strikes, everything was crisp. He did a heck of a job. … I think his fastball has more life. I’m not sure he’s ever going to light up the gun but when he looks crisp, that’s a good sign, and he’s pitching in with it and then off of that he can throw his cutter or flip some breaking balls in for strike one or to get back into a count. I think he was pitching with confidence.”

11. Tomlin was strongly accountable in August as he struggled to turn things around. He still is accountable to a fault, saying, “It feels good. It feels good to be able to contribute and try to help this team win. I know I put them in a tough spot for [a few] starts before these last two. My job now is to look forward and try to go as many innings as I possibly can and try to keep this team in contention, and keep them in the game as long as I can, because that offense is really good, the defense is really good. So, my job is just to go out there and try to compete as much as I can, and try to give them a chance.”

12. Sometimes coaches will look for a pitcher to “miss in the right spots.” Missing for a ball in a 1-2 count off the plate isn’t the worst thing in the world. Missing in a 1-2 count on a pitch that finds the middle of the plate can be. That might have been part of Tomlin’s problem.

13. Said Tomlin, “Just execution of pitches. When I miss to a side that I'm going to, it's off the plate, as opposed to being in the middle of the plate. I think that was a big problem in that little run I had in August. When things weren't really going my way, you can look back and say, 'You kind of had a tough break every couple starts,' but the execution of pitches wasn't there. When I was trying to go away, the ball would leak back to the middle. If I was trying to go in, it was kind of the same thing. It was just in for effect and it was back away, and I was missing over the middle of the plate too much. You do that to a lineup that's good, or a big league lineup, they're going to end up hurting you eventually.”

14. Tomlin understands the situation, and that he and Mike Clevinger have a lot on their shoulders now. As Corey Kluber said a few days ago, the goal for everyone is to do what they can do, not try to be someone else. That’s especially the case when having to replace pitchers of the caliber of Carrasco and Salazar—it’s probably not going to happen, at least not in their style.

15. Said Tomlin, “We understand what happened. We get it. Carrasco and Danny are a key part of that rotation. We all know that. Everybody knows that. But, our job is to step up. Our job is to go out there and give this team a chance to win. It's not to try to do what Carlos Carrasco or Danny Salazar can do. It's to try to be ourselves and give our team a chance to win every fifth day. Both of us, we know we have to step up. We know we have to try to go out there and log innings and keep us in the game. We're up for the challenge. We're ready for it, and we're trying to do the best we can to try to help win the Central and get into the playoffs and play deep into the playoffs.”

16. After Tomlin and Guyer’s walk-off hit, the key to Tuesday’s game came with Bryan Shaw and Andrew Miller each stranding a would-be go-ahead runner on third base in the seventh and eighth innings, respectively.

To read more or comment...

Indians, Brandon Guyer down Royals in walk-off fashion in ninth in 2-1 win

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 20, 2016

The Indians were quiet offensively all night until the bottom of the ninth, when they again found some Progressive Field magic to beat the Kansas City Royals 2-1 Tuesday night.

Tied 1-1 and facing Royals left-hander Brian Flynn in the ninth, Jose Ramirez opened the inning with a walk to put the game-winning run on base. Coco Crisp, pinch-hitting for Lonnie Chisenhall, laid a bunt down the first-base line that Flynn couldn’t handle, putting two runners on with nobody out.

Abraham Almonte’s bunt, though, didn’t go as well. Salvador Perez made a great play in front of the plate to field Almonte’s bunt and fire to third for the first out of the inning. The Royals turned to reliever Joakim Soria to face Rajai Davis. Davis made solid contact but had it ricochet off Soria to first basemen Eric Hosmer for the second out.

That led to pinch-hitter Brandon Guyer, who hit a trailing fly ball down the right-field line that landed outside the sliding reach of Paulo Orlando and in fair territory by a foot or two each way. The game-winning hit that dropped by the slightest of margins was the Indians’ 11th walk-off win of the season.

The win also dropped their magic number to clinch the division to six games.

Josh Tomlin’s outing was a positive for the Indians both in terms of Tuesday night and looking ahead to to the postseason. With Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar injured, it’s looking like Tomlin will play a major role in the Indians’ postseason rotation. Considering his abysmal August in which his ERA ballooned to double digits, the club needed Tomlin to figure things out.

Tuesday’s start was a step in the right direction, as he allowed one earned run on five hits in 6 2/3 innings. He also struck out three and walked none. His previous start—one earned run in five innings agains the Chicago White Sox—also looked more like his first-half self in which he won his first seven decisions.

Tomlin did need some help to finish the seventh. With two outs in a tied 1-1 game, Alex Gordon ripped a triple to end Tomlin’s night in favor of Bryan Shaw, who induced Orlando to fly out to right field to end the inning.

In the eighth, the Indians again forced the Royals to strand the go-ahead run at third base. Chelsor Cuthbert singled against Shaw with one out, which prompted Andrew Miller to enter the game. Terrance Gore, pinch-running for Cuthbert, stole second and then advanced to third on a wild pitch. The Royals didn’t put another ball in play, as Miller struck out Christian Colon and Whit Merrifield looking to escape with it still tied.

But, the offense struggled to do much of anything against Royals starting pitcher Edinson Volquez. The Indians’ lone run prior to the game-winning ninth inning came courtesy via a no-doubt home run off the bat of Carlos Santana. It was the 33rd home run of the season for Santana and the 150th of his career.

To read more or comment...

Indians’ Danny Salazar throws from 60 feet; Possible involvement in ALDS unclear

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 20, 2016

Indians starting pitcher Danny Salazar threw from 60 feet on Tuesday, the first time he’s thrown since being shut down with a strained forearm.

Salazar is expected to be out until the first or second week of October, putting his possible involvement in the American League Division Series—should the Indians hold onto their seven-game lead entering Tuesday—in serious question.

It’s still possible Salazar could return to the starting rotation at some point in October. Depending on how quickly he can build up his pitch count, it’s also possible that Salazar could first return in a bullpen role with an eye on the ALDS. After Carlos Carrasco fractured the fifth metacarpal in his pitching hand, Salazar’s return date—as well as how much he’s able to contribute—carries a high level of importance to the Indians’ chances of advancing in the postseason.

“This was his first day after being down so it’s really just to kind of to shake the cobwebs off and everything went fine,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “He’ll do roughly the same thing tomorrow, maybe a little more. Again, just want to kind of shake away the cobwebs. Then we’ll start to see how he feels.”

Corey Kluber would get the nod for Game 1. If Salazar is still not ready, Trevor Bauer would likely go in Game 2. That leaves Josh Tomlin and, potentially, Mike Clevinger as other postseason starters. The Indians might be able to cut down on needing both Tomlin and Clevinger if Kluber and Bauer can each throw on short rest. It is an option should one of them be struggling heading into the postseason.

“We have to make sure that these guys are all prepared to do whatever job they're going to do when it comes to the postseason,” said pitching coach Mickey Callaway after Carrasco went down. “The good thing is Kluber and Bauer can probably pitch every fourth day or whenever you need them to. Bauer's arm never hurts and Kluber's just a beast. That helps. But, we're going to prepare guys for the postseason and, if we get in, we'll go from there.”

I do

Adam Plutko was in a tuxedo when he got the call from the Indians that he was being promoted to the major leagues.

Plutko was officially added on Tuesday as additional insurance for the pitching staff. In a corresponding move, TJ House was designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster.

Plutko was in his friend’s wedding as he was receiving the phone call of a lifetime. But it was just after the happy couple said “I do.” He had to send it through to voicemail.

“They had literally just got done saying, ‘I do’ and taking pictures and everything,” Plutko said. “It was in the middle of the wedding.”

Once he did get in touch with director of player development Carter Hawkins, he was informed that he needed to get to Cleveland.

Plutko hadn’t been throwing for about a week with the minor league seasons finished. He’ll spend the next couple of days building back up his pitch count. The first day he’ll be available to appear in a game will be Saturday’s bullpen game against the Chicago White Sox, in which Cody Anderson is slated to start.

To read more or comment...

Losses to the Indians’ starting rotation cause reshuffle

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 19, 2016

The losses of Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar from the starting rotation have effectively elevated every healthy starting pitcher not named Corey Kluber up a rung or two.

The Indians enter Tuesday leading the Detroit Tigers by seven games in the American League Central. Their magic number also stands at seven games with only 13 to play. Barring a drastic letdown the last two weeks, the Indians are barreling toward their first division title since 2007. Looking ahead to October, the injuries to those two starting pitchers will be the primary question regarding the Indians’ chances to advance to their first World Series since 1997.

Kluber remains the ace of the staff, and a needed workhorse. Should Salazar—rehabbing from a strained forearm—not be ready for the beginning of the postseason, Trevor Bauer is likely to start Game 2 of any series. That leaves Josh Tomlin as the probable starter for a Game 3, with Mike Clevinger the most likely candidate if a fourth starter is needed.

Tomlin was recently taken out of the rotation following an abysmal August that sent him and the club searching for answers. With a healthy staff, Tomlin was looking to be the No. 5 starter in a four-man playoff rotation. And as of a few weeks ago the club was hoping to keep Clevinger in the bullpen. Now, after those two signifiant losses, both could be key pieces to the Indians’ hopes in October.

Clevinger has been building up his pitch count his last three outings, increasing from 43 pitches thrown to 62 to 85. He’s now a part of the next-man-up mentality the Indians have looked to own the last several weeks.

“Obviously we know it’s going to be a little bit more of a challenge here, more pressure, more is put on your plate,” Clevinger said. “But I think everyone here is ready to go at any time. … This has been a wild ride. Everything from Marlon Byrd to this stuff happening now, it’s been eye opening.”

In the short run, the Indians are just trying to get through September. They continue their homestand with three-game series against the Kansas City Royals Tuesday-Thursday and then the Chicago White Sox this weekend.

Per Indians manager Terry Francona, Tomlin is slated to throw Tuesday, followed by Kluber. Clevinger will then start Thursday’s game, with Bauer slotting into Friday’s game.

Saturday’s game against the White Sox is when the Indians again have to get creative. Cody Anderson is currently expected to make that start, though it will be another “bullpen game,” as he won’t be able to lengthen out to the fifth or sixth inning just yet. Thanks to roster expansion in September, this is possible.

The Indians don’t currently have an answer for that fifth spot in the rotation past Saturday’s bullpen game and a few innings from Anderson. They’re piecing it together one turn through the rotation at a time.

“After that, we'll just kind of see,” Francona said. “We don't need to get too far ahead. I think the pitchers need to know to prepare for their turn coming through, but other than that, we'll just kind of go and see where we're at.”

To read more or comment...

Tigers 9, Indians 5: Ryan Lewis’ 18 Walk-Off Thoughts on Trevor Bauer and rising tensions

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 18, 2016

Here are 18 Walk-Off Thoughts after the Indians’ 9-5 loss to the Detroit Tigers Sunday afternoon.

1. Trevor Bauer struggled to locate much of anything from the start on Sunday. Combine that with his gameplan to pitch the Tigers inside, and it’s not a good recipe for everyone ending the day in a good mood.

2. Bauer hit three batters, which included three of the Tigers’ best hitters, in the first three innings. The latter two led to a 3-2 Tigers lead, which was extended from there.

3. Bauer and catcher Chris Gimenez knew they needed to jam the Tigers’ hitters. Pitch inside, establish that part of the plate and work out from there. That was the plan, but an especially wild Bauer ended up losing a couple pitches. Miguel Cabrera, Ian Kinsler and Victor Martinez were all plunked and then all looked at by Tigers trainers.

4. It led to some understandable tensions as the Tigers became growingly aggravated with seeing some of their top hitters beaned. Bauer, before answering questions, offered an apology to all three, Kinsler especially after he was hit in the head. Kinsler eventually was ejected from the game but per Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, he was experiencing concussion symptoms and needed to be taken out anyway.

5. Said Bauer, “First off, I want to extend my apologies to Ian, Victor and Miguel. The scouting report is to pitch in. I obviously did not intend to hit any of them. Regardless of game situation or anything that could happen in a game, I would never intentionally throw at someone’s head. That has no place in the game. I know saying sorry for it doesn’t change that it happened. I’m glad that he seemed to be OK and nothing else came of it.”

6. Justin Upton in the fifth inning admired his two-run home run a bit longer than normal, then took his time jogging around the bases. Tigers starter Daniel Norris then threw a pitch behind Rajai Davis, prompting both benches to be warned.

7. Upton taking his time before getting into his jog normally would have irked Gimenez. But these were different circumstances.

8. Said Gimenez, “Normally I would have, but given the situation, I have to have a little bit longer of a leash on that. I completely understand it. He definitely took his time around the bases, too, but the situation of the game, I completely understand it.”

9. Bauer plunking three Tigers batters—especially those three—doesn’t look great. But, the last one—Martinez—was with the bases loaded. It certainly wasn’t the ideal situation.

10. Said Gimenez, “I know it looks really bad. And, obviously, we were definitely not trying to hit anybody. I know how it looks. One of them was a cutter. One of them we tried to go up and in to Kinsler, or just in off the plate. That one kind of got away from him. The other one was a cutter. His cutter was really good this afternoon. It was moving a ton. We hit Victor with a cutter. The other one was the same thing to Cabrera. It was just up and in on him a little bit.”

More: Indians looking to overcome adversity yet again following loss of Carlos Carrasco

11. Sunday was just the next chapter in tensions between divisional rivals. The Indians have four games in Detroit coming up. Said Gimenez on how things were handled: “They did a good job of coming out the next inning, letting him throw one behind the guy. Everybody has their warnings. I would definitely expect them to not forget that when we play them in a week. Hopefully, nothing crazy happens. I didn't want to get into a fight today, I know that. Or, break one up, for that matter.”

12. Bauer ended up allowing six earned runs on 10 hits on the pitches that didn’t strike opposing hitters. He struck out five, but the command was never consistently there on Sunday.

13. Said Francona on Bauer’s command issues, “That’s probably the understatement. There were balls down, up, in, out. We never want to see somebody get hit in the head. You can see by Trevor’s reaction how he felt. And then the [timing] of it, certainly, you could tell there’s no intent. I also understand why they were aggravated. Guys were getting drilled pretty good. I get it.”

14. If the postseason were to start today, Bauer would start Game 2 after Corey Kluber starts Game 1. That hinges on Danny Salazar’s availability as he rehabs from a strained forearm. But Bauer will undoubtedly be a major piece to the Indians’ hopes in the postseason. The Indians will need Bauer at his best. It’s another case of the Indians needing to overcome an obstacle.

15. Said Gimenez, “That's what it comes down to. For some of our young guys, it's trial by fire. It's one of those things that, Clev's going to have to step up. He's very, very capable of doing that. Potentially, Cody Anderson might have to do the same thing. I think a lot of people have written Tomlin off because of the month-long stretch he had, but we can't forget about him, either. He was one of the best pitchers in the American League the first half of the season. Don't get me wrong: It absolutely sucks, losing those two guys. That's something that's going to be difficult to come back from. But if there is a team that's capable of doing it, it's this team. We've played without Brantley the entire year and have been doing OK. We've played spurts without Danny and Carlos and we've managed to do OK. I think everybody in here, it almost makes you have a little bit more motivation, because you want to do it so bad for those guys who aren't here to help us do it in their own right.”

16. The Indians also proved on Sunday—mostly via Twitter—that the notion that their postseason chances are buried following the loss of Carrasco isn't something they’re willing to accept. Jason Kipnis and Bauer were vocal on social media about it. It’s all out there. I won’t detail or comment on it any further.

17. The response from players goes along with any thought that the Indians are down and out—or more precisely, how the Indians have responded to it. They’ve had to overcome several significant losses this season. Not having Carrasco is a major blow—there’s no way around that, as Carrasco was one of the better starting pitchers in the AL. It makes their road to the World Series much tougher. Combined with the losses of Michael Brantley, Yan Gomes and possibly Danny Salazar, the Indians will enter the postseason banged up. But several players have spoken to a next-man-up mentality that’s been somewhat of a rallying cry. This is the hand they have been dealt. As Corey Kluber said, they aren’t in the clubhouse feeling sorry for themselves.

18. To that end, Bauer finished his post-game comments with this: “I know some people have said the season is over. They pronounced it yesterday, wrote articles about it. I think it’s complete b*******.”

To read more or comment...

Indians fall to Detroit Tigers 9-5; Trevor Bauer hits three batters, tensions rise

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 18, 2016

Trevor Bauer struggled with his command early and the Tigers delivered the knockout punch in the ninth to down the Indians 9-5 on Sunday afternoon.

Bauer hit three Tigers batters in the first three innings as he tried to establish the inside part of the plate. But he struggled to locate his pitches all day, leading to some tension between the two divisional rivals.

The Indians led 2-0 when Bauer, who had already hit Miguel Cabrera with a pitch in the first inning, opened the third by plunking Ian Kinsler in the head. A walk and a single later, the Tigers had the bases loaded with nobody out.

Another pitch got away from him, hitting Victor Martinez in the leg. Martinez was in obvious pain but stayed in the game. Kinsler had words for Bauer and home-plate umpire Jordan Baker as he jogged home to cut the Indians’ lead to 2-1.

Bauer apologized after the game. He, along with Indians manager Terry Francona and catcher Chris Gimenez, echoed the sentiment that there was no intent. Though all three understood why there was frustration on the Tigers’ part.

“First off, I want to extend my apologies to Ian, Victor and Miguel,” Bauer said before taking questions. “The scouting report is to pitch in. I obviously did not intend to hit any of them. Regardless of game situation or anything that could happen in a game, I would never intentionally throw at someone’s head. That has no place in the game.”

Bauer struck out the next two hitters but couldn’t escape the inning with the lead intact. Erick Aybar singled to right field field and Abraham Almonte was slow to throw home, allowing the Tigers to take a 3-2 advantage.

In the fifth, Justin Upton crushed a two-run home run to extend that lead to 5-2. Upton admired his shot for a few steps and took his time rounding the bases. Tigers starter Daniel Norris (3-2, 3.63 ERA) then fired the first pitch of the bottom of the fifth behind Rajai Davis, warranting Baker to warn both benches.

Gimenez would normally have taken exception to Upton taking his time to start jogging to first. But not under those circumstances.

“Normally I would have, but given the situation, I have to have a little bit longer of a leash on that,” Gimenez asid. “I completely understand it. He definitely took his time around the bases, too, but the situation of the game, I completely understand it.”

Trailing 6-4 in the sixth, Carlos Santana launched a solo home run off Alex Wilson, his 32nd of the season, but that was all the Indians’ offense could muster from there. Mike Napoli crushed a pitch to the wall in the eighth, but it fell for an out at the wall.

In the ninth, J.D. Martinez belted a three-run home run off Joe Colon to seal it.

Bauer took the loss, dropping to 11-8 this season. He allowed six earned runs on 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings.

The loss puts the Indians’ lead in the division and their magic number to clinch at seven games.

To read more or comment...

Indians looking to overcome adversity yet again following loss of Carlos Carrasco

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 18, 2016

The Indians have had to overcome a great deal this 2016 season. They’re gearing up to do it again.

Suspensions to Abraham Almonte and Marlon Byrd. Essentially a season lost for Michael Brantley. Multiple injuries to Yan Gomes and an extended stay on the disabled list for Roberto Perez, as well. Danny Salazar’s struggle to stay healthy after a dynamite first half. It’s hardly been a clean season as they’ve handled multiple losses to the lineup, a few in the bullpen and the starting rotation.

And, now, the loss of Carlos Carrasco for the rest of the season and the postseason can be added to that list, after he sustained a non-displaced fracture in his pitching hand on Saturday.

The latest setback is a significant one, as the starting rotation for a potential playoff series is now riddled with question marks after Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer. What was the Indians’ biggest asset in a 5-game or 7-game series is now the biggest uncertainty on the roster.

The tone from the Indians’ clubhouse is that they’ve battled setbacks to this point in the year. Their focus is on doing it again.

“I think that up to this point, and it would be the same thing moving forward, it hasn’t been one of those things where we’ve felt sorry for ourselves because of whether it be for Brant’s injury or Yan’s or Danny’s or now Carlos’,” Kluber said. “I think it’s one of those things where guys maybe pull together because of it and everybody’s looking to carry their own weight and not necessarily try to shoulder more of a load or anything like that. It’s everybody trying to pull together. You can’t really quantify the heart, but I think there’s a lot of guys with big hearts in this clubhouse, too, and that counts for something.”

The loss of Carrasco, Brantley and Gomes for October, along with the questions surrounding Salazar’s health, have piled on one another. The Indians’ standing in their bid to win the American League Central division is holding steady. But they’ll enter the postseason having to make up for several losses.

Saturday’s game was a bit of a microcosm of what the Indians hope to accomplish. With Carrasco out after two pitches, the Indians’ bullpen rallied to throw 10 scoreless innings that led to Jose Ramirez’s walk-off single to beat the Detroit Tigers in one of the more meaningful individual games of the year.

“I was very proud of the way the team responded today,” said Jason Kipnis Saturday night. “The infielders knew right away what was going on. Word made it back to us about what happened with Carrasco. You can let something like that linger. You can let something like that deflate a team. You have [Justin] Verlander on the mound, their ace. It's Detroit. There are a lot of excuses that could have come into play, but I thought everyone did a great job.”

Francisco Lindor said it was one of his favorite games of the season, Carrasco’s injury notwithstanding. Other players echoed that sentiment. Fighting back from a tough spot has become somewhat of a rallying cry.

‘When Carrasco got hit, a lot of times [like that] it feels like you got kicked in the stomach,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “And then, the way Verlander was pitching on top of it? But, they played their ass off. That was fun to be a part of that. I bet you, if you ask everybody but Carrasco, it was a fun day. It makes you, when the day's over, you're tired, but you feel like, man, you really accomplished something. I just think that's kind of how we look at it.”

The Indians have been put in a position to fight, as they were with Brantley’s bat out of the lineup and the setbacks they’ve endured thus far to build a lead in the division. Their road to the World Series continues to become tougher—Carrasco’s injury is a major blow, especially paired with the absences of several other key pieces to the roster. It’s the hand they have been dealt.

“We don’t have a choice,” said Andrew Miller. “It is what it is. We can’t change the reality of the situation. We’ll just find a way to cope with it. We’re going miss him, obviously. I think everybody would. But we’ll find a way."

To read more or comment...

Indians 1, Tigers 0: Ryan Lewis’ 13 Walk-Off Thoughts on Carlos Carrasco, clubhouse reaction

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 17, 2016

Here are 13 Walk-Off Thoughts to recap the reaction from the Indians’ 1-0 walk-off win against the Detroit Tigers and Carlos Carrasco’s crushing injury.

1. It was a head-spinning, roller coaster of a day for the Indians. On the same day the Indians’ path to the postseason became much clearer, their chances of advancing deep into October took a major hit.

2. There’s a lot to digest from Saturday’s game, from the potential fallout on the Indians’ playoff rotation to an impressive win that included 10 scoreless innings from eight Indians relief pitchers. Not to mention Jose Ramirez’s walk-off single. With the win, the Indians extended their lead in the division to eight games and dropped their magic number down to seven. With roughly two weeks to play, it would take a borderline collapse for the Tigers to make up that much ground.

3. But as impressive as the win was in a vacuum, the overriding effects of Saturday’s game will rest with Carrasco, not the divisional race. Indians manager Terry Francona said Carrasco is “done for the year” with a a non-displaced fracture in his pitching hand sustained on the second pitch of the game, when Ian Kinsler hit a line drive back to the mound.

4. It makes a questionable situation severely worse. The Indians are also without Danny Salazar, who sustained a strained forearm and is questionable for the beginning of the postseason. All of a sudden, Josh Tomlin and Mike Clevinger have quickly gone from question marks in the rotation to potential playoff starters.

5. Here’s the recap from Saturday’s game and an initial report on Carrasco’s injury, which won’t be repeated here. After losing Carrasco, several players chimed in on what it meant and the reaction to it, along with a thrilling walk-off win. All in all, the total transcription from the clubhouse totaled 2,779 words. Here’s an overview of what was said.

6. Tomlin: “We lost some pretty key pieces already. To lose a guy like that, it hurts. Don’t get me wrong. He’s an unbelievable pitcher. For us, we just gotta step up and try to keep winning games and see what happens. To lose a guy like that, it hurts. Don’t get me wrong. He’s an unbelievable pitcher. For us, we just gotta step up and try to keep winning games and see what happens.”

7. Andrew Miller: “I think top to bottom it was awesome. Obviously it’s not a situation you want to have. It’s pretty crushing to watch Carrasco have to go through this. But for today, we’ll put a little smile on our face at the end of it. Yeah, the bullpen really picked us up and I think the hitters, they had to grind it out. That was Verlander’s best right there. It just seems like this team is special. We have a feeling like we’re going to find a way. Came through again, and I don’t know how many walk-offs they have this year but it seems like we do it on a pretty regular basis. It’s just a fun team, a fun team win. I think we’re going to go home pretty happy.”

8. Miller continued, on Carrasco: “We don’t have a choice. We have to find a way to win no matter who is starting. I think it’s certainly good that we have a lot of starter depth and we have guys with great stuff. We’ve got Bauer going tomorrow and I think a lot of teams would be in this situation and not feel as comfortable with their starter the next day. It is what it is. We can’t change the reality of the situation. We’ll just find a way to cope with it. We’re going miss him, obviously. I think everybody would. But we’ll find a way.”

9. Francona: “Right when it happened, I called J.B. down there and said, ‘Tell them to put their seat belts on. Because they’re all going to pitch and we’re going to win.’ I mean, Carrasco aside, that was a fun game to be a part of. There was so much good baseball going on, so much good pitching. Guys just continuing to put up zeros. Our bullpen, Verlander, there was a lot of good pitching going on.”

10. Jason Kipnis: “I was very proud of the way the team responded today. The infielders knew right away what was going on. Word made it back to us about what happened with Carrasco. You can let something like that linger. You can let something like that deflate a team. You have Verlander on the mound, their ace. It's Detroit. There are a lot of excuses that could have come into play, but I thought everyone did a great job. It starts with the bullpen. They probably weren't expecting to pitch too much and all of them did their job and stepped up. We showed a lot of resiliency today. I just love the way we competed and fought today.”

11. Mike Napoli: “Like I said, you're going to have some things that are unfortunate during the year, with guys having injuries. When you have guys that come in and are able to step into the role of just being themselves, and not trying to do too much to try to impress, just play their game and step up, it's huge. That's what it takes. I don't think there's one team that goes through a whole year without a guy going down or being on the DL. It's the guys that are able to come up and contribute and fill in spots and stay within themselves, it's what we need.”

12. Pitching coach Mickey Callaway: “We have to make sure that these guys are all prepared to do whatever job they're going to do when it comes to the postseason. The good thing is Kluber and Bauer can probably pitch every fourth day, or whenever you need them to. Bauer's arm never hurts and Kluber's just a beast. That helps. But, we're going to prepare guys for the postseason and, if we get in, we'll go from there.”

13. Francisco Lindor: “Huge loss. That’s a huge. We can’t make up that loss. Unfortunately we have to go out there and compete. The way our pitching staff, the bullpen stepped up, huge, man, huge. This game, it meant a lot more to me than a lot of other games this season. I think this is one of my favorite games this season. The way every single guy battled. Verlander, tip our hat to him, great outing. The way the bullpen stepped up. The way everybody kept on battling. Just nobody was having the results we wanted, but we wanted. But we stayed in it and competed.”

To read more or comment...

Indians lose Carlos Carrasco to fractured hand, beat Detroit Tigers 1-0 in extra innings

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 17, 2016

It was a head-spinning, roller coaster of a day for the Indians.

Two pitches into the game, they lost their No. 2 starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco for the year. Roughly four hours later, after a gutsy performance by the bullpen, Jose Ramirez singled to cap a walk-off win in the 10th inning to beat the Detroit Tigers 1-0 and inch closer to securing their first American League Central title since 2007.

Carrasco was hit with a line drive off the bat of Ian Kinsler, the first hitter of the game. Indians trainers and manager Terry Francona immediately tended to Carrasco, who was wincing in pain. He was taken out of the game and it was later announced by the club that Carrasco sustained a non-displaced fracture of the fifth metacarpal (the base of the hand just below the pinkie finger) in his pitching hand.

The Indians were already without Danny Salazar due to a strained forearm. Salazar’s status for the postseason is still in question.

Per Francona, Carrasco is “done for the year.”

It was the low of a major blow to the Indians’ starting rotation. And it was the high of pulling out a gritty performance to beat the Tigers, a significant win that extends the Indians’ lead to eight games and drops their magic number down to seven. With only two weeks to play, it would now take a borderline historic collapse for the Tigers to make up that much ground.

With Tigers left-hander Justin Wilson (4-5, 4.28 ERA) on the mound, Jason Kipnis advanced to second on a wild pitch and then stole third. Francisco Lindor was then walked and Mike Napoli was intentionally walked, loading the bases with one out for Ramirez.

Ramirez, celebrating his birthday on Saturday, has been among baseball’s best hitters in the clutch thus far and came through again, rifling a single back up the middle to win it. It was the Indians’ 10th walk-off win this season, and it came after the Indians failed to record a hit until the sixth inning against Justin Verlander, a Jason Kipnis single, also back up the middle.

“I was very proud of the way the team responded today,” Kipnis said. “The infielders knew right away what was going on. Word made it back to us about what happened with Carrasco. You can let something like that linger. You can let something like that deflate a team. You have Verlander on the mound, their ace. It's Detroit. There are a lot of excuses that could have come into play, but I thought everyone did a great job.”

As the offense struggled to get anything going, the Indians’ bullpen put together their best collective effort of the season and one of the best performances in history. Eight Indians relievers combined to throw 10 scoreless innings after Carrasco’s sudden exit in the first inning, the last two by Andrew Miller (8-1, 1.59 ERA). The nine pitchers in all the Indians used were the most to pitch in a shutout by any team since at least 1913.

“Right when [Carrasco’s injury] happened, I called [bullpen coach Jason Bere] down there and said, ‘Tell them to put their seat belts on. Because they’re all going to pitch and we’re going to win,’” Francona said. “I mean, Carrasco aside, that was a fun game to be a part of. There was so much good baseball going on, so much good pitching. Guys just continuing to put up zeros. Our bullpen, Verlander, there was a lot of good pitching going on.”

But, the overriding effects of Saturday’s game will rest with Carrasco, not the divisional race. On the same day the Indians’ path to the postseason became much clearer, their chances of advancing deep into October took a major hit.

To read more or comment...

Indians SP Carlos Carrasco has non-displaced fracture in pitching hand

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 17, 2016

The Indians’ starting pitching situation was already shrouded in question marks as the club looks to secure the division and make a run deep into October. Two pitches into Carlos Carrasco’s start against the Detroit Tigers on Saturday, that situation became severely worse.

Carrasco was hit with a line drive off the bat of Ian Kinsler, the first hitter of the game.  Indians trainers and manager Terry Francona immediately tended to Carrasco, who was wincing in pain. He was taken out of the game and it was later announced by the club that Carrasco sustained a non-displaced fracture of the fifth metacarpal (the base of the hand just below the pinkie finger) in his pitching hand.

Francona said after the game that Carrasco is "done for the year."

The Indians are already without starting pitcher Danny Salazar, who’s sidelined for a couple more weeks with forearm tightness. His regular season is likely finished, and his availability for the American League Divisional Series—should the Indians win the Central—is still in question.

To read more or comment...

Indians 11, Tigers 4: Ryan Lewis’ 15 Walk-Off Thoughts on Mike Napoli, a lead, a magic number

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 17, 2016

Here are 15 Walk-Off Thoughts after the Indians’ 11-4 win against the Detroit Tigers Friday night.

1. All 162 games count the same, the only difference is that in September, the stakes are clearer and right in front of every team. In this sense, Friday night’s win was a big one. It extended the Indians’ lead in the American League Central to seven games and dropped their magic number to nine with 15 games remaining.

2. In that sense, the Indians put some serious pressure on the Tigers. In all likelihood, the Tigers probably need to win most or perhaps all of the remaining six games between the two clubs this season. And, if the Indians take care of business this weekend, they can all but wrap up their first division title since 2007.

3. For the most part, the Indians wanted to look at this as another game. But in terms of the divisional race, it was key.

4. Said Corey Kluber, “Obviously, it's a big series, but I don't know if it was more pressure or anything like that. You know the situation. You know that we're ahead of them and they're chasing us. So, in that sense, it's a big series. But, you try to separate all that stuff, I guess, when you get out there in the game, and really try to just take it as another game. And go out there and try to score more than they do.”

5. Added Indians manager Terry Francona, “I don’t know if I care about the tone as much as, we set out today to win, and we did. So if you’d have asked me after a loss I’d say we turn the page and move on. So it’s the same thing. You quickly turn the page because so will they. We play tomorrow at 4, so it’s always nice to win the first one.”

6. Friday night’s game had the feel of a near-playoff-like atmosphere. And whether it really has correlated to success, who knows, but the Indians are 22-8 in front of crowds of 20,000-plus at home. It was felt Friday night.

7. Said Mike Napoli, “Yeah, it was nice, especially coming off that road trip it was a so-so road trip but we've played really well at home all year so I think all of us were looking forward to coming back home and sleeping in our beds and playing in front of our fans. It was electric. We got people ... the pom-poms, the red shirts and you could just feel the energy, which is adrenaline for us.”



8. How a team does against another in one year doesn’t really mean it’ll happen the next. But considering the Indians’ severe struggles against the Tigers in recent years, and how they’ve basically been treated like the bullied little brother, the Indians’ dominance over Detroit has been one of the more astounding stats for their 2016 season. The Indians are now 12-1 against the Tigers this season, a complete reversal of the last several years.

9. The Indians were able to capitalize on a couple of mistakes by the Tigers, who had a particularly bad night in the field on Friday. The first, and most notable, mistake came in the first inning, when Justin Upton couldn’t find a Mike Napoli fly ball and it went for a two-run ground-rule-double. The Tigers ended up with three errors, which opened the door for the Indians to continue to tack on and pull away.

More: Indians C Yan Gomes has fractured wrist, season possibly done

10. Said Francona, “But I thought we also were aggressive at the right times and took advantage of it. But man it’s nice to put a few runs up because their lineup is so potent. And when they sniff it coming, they get even better. It was nice to put a little distance [from them].”

11. Added Napoli, “It's huge, especially in a big game like this, but we've been able to do that all year. Other teams make mistakes and we've been able to pounce on them and take advantage. It's especially when we've got Kluber on the mound, scoring some runs and letting him settle in and be able to do what he wants.”

12. Napoli added a two-run bomb in the fifth and has now slugged 34 home runs, his career high and the most by an Indians player since Travis Hafner hit 42 in 2006, and driven in 98 runs. He’s been everything the Indians could have hoped for and more in their $7 million investment (not including performance bonuses, which will probably tack on about another $2-2.5 million), both on and off the field.

13. Said Napoli, “It's been a fun year. Going through free agency last year I envisioned this with the pitching staff and being able to come here and play for a winning team. I've been fortunate to be on a lot of winning teams and looking at places where I want to go, I want to go where I think we'll be able to win. I definitely saw that with the pitching staff and coming here, trying to get everyone to come together as a team and it has definitely worked out.”

14. And, as Francona has predicted, his home runs have come in bunches this season. Said Napoli, "I wish I could explain it. I don't know, I go through different feelings through the year. I feel really good at times and sometimes I don't. I try to minimize those times where I'm not feeling good and get back to having that timing and separation with my swing. I work hard every day, good or bad. I'm feeling better.”

15. Napoli was just pleased to just get a hold of a high fastball, a pitch that he often tries to hammer. Said Napoli, "For me, a high fastball like that ... I swing at them a lot, but I don't really connect with them. For me to get on top of that one and be able to drive it, I was pretty excited about it."

To read more or comment...

Mike Napoli powers Indians to 11-4 win against Detroit Tigers

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 16, 2016

In one of the bigger individual games this season, the Indians grabbed an early lead and held the Detroit Tigers down in an 11-4 win Friday night that added clarity to the American League Central race.

With the win, the Indians (85-62) extended their lead in the division over the Tigers to seven games and dropped their magic number down to nine. It also put the Tigers (78-69) into a position of likely needing to win most or all of the remaining six games between the two clubs.

Mike Napoli was responsible for much of the damage, though he received some help in the first inning. Shortly after a louder-than-usual crowd response as the Indians took the field in a near-playoff-like atmosphere, Napoli hit a towering fly ball to left field off Tigers starter Michael Fulmer  (10-7, 3.03 ERA) with two runners in scoring position. Justin Upton, in left, couldn’t find the ball in the lights. It bounced well behind him and cleared the 19-foot wall in left field for a two-run ground-rule double.

Carlos Santana in the second inning added a two-run single through the right side of the infield to extend the Indians’ lead to 4-1.

In the fifth, Napoli didn’t leave as much doubt, crushing a two-run home run to the Home Run Porch that took one bounce and rolled out to the Gateway Plaza, making it 6-1. It was his 34th home run of the season, marking his career high and making him the first Indians player to hit that many in a single year since Travis Hafner clubbed 42 in 2006.

Upton did his best to make up for his first-inning gaffe. In the second, he rocketed a solo home run to center field off Corey Kluber and later slammed a three-run home run that cut the Indians’ lead to 6-4 in the sixth inning.

Kluber (17-9, 3.12 ERA) was strong aside from facing Upton, finishing with four earned runs on five hits and three walks to go with seven strikeouts in seven innings pitched. It was a performance that likely allows Kluber to tread water in the tight, crowded AL Cy Young race, but nothing more.

The Indians’ offense pulled away in the later innings. From the sixth inning on, both Roberto Perez and Jose Ramirez drove in two runs with an RBI-single and sacrifice fly each, and Jason Kipnis added an RBI-ground-rule-double in the eighth, all combining to put the Indians on top 11-4. And with the blowout win, the Indians’ magic number shrunk into the single digits.

To read more or comment...

Indians C Yan Gomes has non-displaced wrist fracture, possibly out for rest of the season

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 16, 2016

It appears as though Yan Gomes’s 2016 season will somewhat resemble Michael Brantley’s lost year, a frustrating journey back from the disabled list that won’t see a resolution until 2017.

Indians manager Terry Francona on Friday confirmed that Gomes has a non-displaced fracture of his right wrist, the result of his being hit by a pitch on Wednesday in a rehab assignment with the RubberDucks.

Gomes had been working his way back from a separated shoulder sustained on July 17, and was likely only a few days away from being able to return to the Indians’ lineup. The announcement of his fractured wrist came on the same day Gomes would have been eligible to return from the DL.

The club will have Gomes see a specialist Friday night to determine if it’s still possible that he can return at some point this year and help the Indians in the postseason. But a fractured wrist in mid-September seems to indicate Gomes’ 2016 season could be finished.

It was a nightmarish season even before the injuries. Gomes never could find an offensive rhythm, hitting just .165 with a .198 on-base percentage, eight home runs and 32 RBI in 71 games.

“I think it's the understatement that a few things have gone wrong,” Francona said. “I think when those types of things happen, and they do happen, I get to see how hard he worked to come back. When guys get challenged, it's nice to see that he doesn't tuck his tail and run. If this is something that takes a while to heal, he's going to continue to work. That's what you're looking for. Things do happen. Things are going to continue to happen, we're glad that we have fighters who want to come back and be every bit as good or better than they were.”

One day

Outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall was out of the lineup on Friday as he deals with lower abdominal discomfort. Per Francona, Chisenhall is considered day-to-day.

“The scan came back good, which, we’re glad,” Francona said. “Now, we’re trying to balance and go day-to-day with him, one, can he play, two, when he plays, we don’t want him to hurt himself. So we’re trying to balance giving him a day or two and then we’ll keep re-evaluating him.”

Chisenhall this season is having arguably the best year of his career, hitting .298 with eight home runs, 25 doubles and 55 RBI in 356 at-bats.
 

To read more or comment...

Indians release 2017 schedule, will open the year in Texas

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 15, 2016

The Indians will begin the 2017 season with a road trip through the Southwest before returning to Cleveland to face the Chicago White Sox in the home opener.

The Indians’ upcoming schedule makes sense weather-wise, as they’ll begin the 2017 season against the Texas Rangers on April 3 and then head to Arizona for an interleague series against the Diamondbacks. The Indians will then open Progressive Field against the White Sox on April 11.

The Indians and White Sox will also end the year in Cleveland on Oct. 1. The longest homestead of the year comes in mid-September, a 10-game stretch against the Baltimore Orioles, Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals.

Along with the Diamondbacks. the Indians will face the Colorado Rockies, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants and, like every year, the Cincinnati Reds in interleague play.

To read more or comment...

Indians’ Danny Salazar out 3-4 weeks with strained forearm; Postseason status in question

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 12, 2016

It’s possible Indians All-Star starting pitcher Danny Salazar has thrown his last pitch in the 2016 regular season, and his place in the postseason rotation is also now in question.

Salazar underwent an MRI in Cleveland on Monday and was diagnosed with a mild strain to his flexor musculature. He left his most recent start after four innings with forearm tightness.

Per the club, Salazar will receive an injection and be shut down from throwing for approximately 10 days. More importantly, he's been given a timetable of 3-to-4 weeks to return to game activity, which could bleed into the postseason should the Indians hold on to win the American League Central Division or earn one of the two wild card spots.

Salazar likely would have started Game 3 of any series, following Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco. Now, the Indians will have to see where Salazar is health-wise before determining a postseason rotation.

With Salazar out, the Indians have penciled in Josh Tomlin and Mike Clevinger to receive starts on Wednesday and Thursday in Chicago, respectively. The Indians had been keeping their options open regarding the No. 5 spot in the rotation but with Salazar’s sudden edit, both Tomlin and Clevinger are needed.

Salazar this season has gone 11-6 with a 3.87 ERA to go with 161 strikeouts in  137 1/3 innings pitched. For much of the year, he was in the middle of the AL Cy Young race before landing on the disabled list with right elbow inflammation.

This most recent injury, though, might have completed his regular season and could affect the Indians’ chances in the postseason.

To read more or comment...

Danny Salazar’s health unclear; Josh Tomlin, Mike Clevinger to start; Two promotions

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 12, 2016

Indians starting pitcher Danny Salazar left his most recent start after four innings with forearm tightness, hurling the rotation into even more uncertainty but giving an opportunity to Josh Tomlin and Mike Clevinger.

Salazar was scheduled to fly back to Cleveland on Sunday for more tests and will miss at least one start, per MLB.com. The Indians hope to have more clarity on Monday, but forearm tightness certainly wasn’t a positive sign only a little more than a month after he landed on the disabled list with elbow inflammation.

With Salazar’s status in question, Tomlin and Clevinger have been penciled in as the starting pitchers for Wednesday and Thursday against the Chicago White Sox. Tomlin was being kept in line to possibly make his next start and Clevinger has slowly been extended in each of his last couple outings while the Indians try to figure out what to do with their No. 5 spot in the rotation. Now, there a couple question marks surrounding their biggest asset heading into the postseason.

Promotions

The Indians also recently called up first baseman Jesus Aguilar and left-handed pitcher Ryan Merritt.

Aguilar hit 30 home runs and drove in 92, leading the International League in both categories, but he hit just .247 for the year in Triple-A. He also struggled this spring and hasn’t yet been able to put it all together for an extended period of time. Merritt owns an 11-8 record and 3.70 ERA at the Triple-A level this year. In Cleveland, he’s tossed 5 1/3 scoreless innings after making his major-league debut in late May.

The Indians’ roster now stands at 36 players.

To read more or comment...

Indians 10, Astros 7: Ryan Lewis’ 18 Walk-Off Thoughts on an odd play, confusion and 30 HRs

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 9, 2016

Here are 18 Walk-Off Thoughts on the Indians’ 10-7 win against the Houston Astros on Thursday.

1. Confusion ruled much of the day on Thursday.

2. In the third inning, Lonnie Chisenhall was at the plate with two outs and the bases loaded in a 2-1 game. It was a key at-bat in the game, and it ended up being an odd one. Astros starter David Paulino bounced a pitch that Lonnie Chisenhall fouled off with a check swing. Except, it wasn’t a ruled a check swing. Home plate umpire Jim Joyce didn’t signal that play was dead and it was a foul ball, as Paulino’s pitch dribbled off to the left side in foul territory.

3. In a heads up play, Francisco Lindor ran home from third, as did Mike Napoli from second, while Astros catcher Jason Castro argued with Joyce. Joyce eventually called time, and the confusion continued. In the new few minutes, all four umpires would convene, Astros manager A.J. Hinch would be ejected, the play—part of it—would be reviewed and Jose Ramirez would be sent back to second base.

4. There’a s lot to this play to digest. The first aspect is Lindor and Napoli scoring on the play, which put the Indians up 4-1.

5. Said Lindor, “I heard a noise, but I didn't know where it hit, so I just went to the plate. I thought it was a wild pitch, so I was running with the flow. When the guys were asking me, I was like, 'I don't know. I really don't know where it hit.' I heard a noise, but I wasn't sure if it hit the bat or hit the mask. … It's huge. You have to continue to play the game and let the umpires make the call. I'm going to continue to play the game and I'm glad Napoli went hard.”

6. And said Napoli, “In that situation, with two strikes, I’m trying to go on contact. I saw Lonnie’s hands starting to move, so I was kind of breaking. I thought it was a ball in the dirt that went off the catcher, and then I saw him standing there and the ball by the backstop and nobody doing anything, so I kept going. I didn’t see what really happened. I just saw the ball go in the dirt and kick off. I was just running until they said stop.”

7. Francona added there’s “no reason” as to why a runner wouldn’t advance on that play. “Because all they’re going to do is send you back.”

8. Replays clearly showed that Chisenhall made contact, and it was a foul ball. Castro was so sure of it that he didn’t go after it.

9. When the four umpires met to discuss the play, Joyce was looking to see if one had a definitive view from their vantage point. None of them did. The umps eventually did call for a replay, but they weren’t allowed to see if the ball hit the bat or the not. They were only allowed to see where Jose Ramirez when time out was called, which made for even more confusion.

10. During the play—right after Napoli crossed the plate, to be exact—Joyce raised his arms to call time as Ramirez was heading for third and then home. That was an odd thing to do, since if Joyce thought it was a regular wild pitch, play wouldn’t have been stopped until Ramirez scored or an Astros player picked up the ball, stopped his advancing and called for time himself.

11. Here’s Joyce on that part, talking to a pool reporter: “I had a player I had discussing with me what had happened and he was emphatic about it. I’m not going to let bases loaded, keep rolling. To use a little bit of common sense and some fair play on that one, I wanted to call time and figure out what had happened.”

12. They then sent Ramirez back to second base. In the confusion, Napoli grabbed his helmet and started to run back to third base before his teammates stopped him. “I didn’t know what was going on,” Napoli said. “He pointed at third, so I thought I was supposed to go back to third. I didn’t know. Everyone yelled at me, told me to go back in there.”

13. It was an odd exchange. Joyce has been in these situations before, namely when he got the call wrong that ended Armando Galarraga’s bid for a perfect game on the 27th out. Joyce was in tears when he saw the replay then. Francona appreciates that.

14. Said Francona on Joyce, “Nobody ever wants to have a call go against them. I will say, that guy behind the plate gives you as good an effort and is as conscientious as any umpire I’ve ever been around. And there have been calls that have gone against us with him, it’s just hard to get mad at him because he gives you everything you ever ask for.”

15. After all the drama and confusion, Carlos Santana belted his 30th home run of the season, a two-run bomb to right field. It’s the first time he’s reached 30 and joins Napoli (31) as the first Indians teammates to reach the mark since Jim Thome and Ellis Burks did so in 2002.

16. In the spring, Napoli told Santana they’d both do it, and he congratulated Santana in the dugout on Thursday. Said Napoli, “It’s awesome. I’m happy for him. I remember saying in tpring training that we were both going to hit 30. I think it’s a pretty cool and a special moment for me and him. He’s done a lot to help us this year, especially be in the leadoff spot. Not really used to being up there, but he’s done a heck of a job filling that spot and having a hell of a year.”



17. Santana has had a great year, and he’s done while moving between DH and first base and between the leadoff and No. 5 spot in the lineup. He’s also made it a pretty easy decision for the Indians to pick up his $12 million club option for next season.

18. Said Francona, “I think Carlos has done a number of things this year that are improved over the past. It’s been so much fun watching it happen. His joining in more as a teammate and handling moving back and forth and hitting first, hitting fifth. Nothing has taken the smile off his face, and that’s a really good thing.”

To read more or comment...

Indians power their way past Houston Astros 10-7 in bizarre game

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 8, 2016

One of the most popular sayings in baseball goes something along the lines of, “You might see something new every day you come to the ballpark.”

For those at Progressive Field on Thursday, that was likely true in a game that included a good deal of confusion, a delay caused by an incorrect call, a lengthy delay caused by rain, a couple of odd scoring plays and, finally, a 10-7 Indians win.

The source of confusion came in the third inning, with the Indians leading 2-1 and Lonnie Chisenhall at the plate with two outs and the bases loaded. Astros rookie starter David Paulino bounced a pitch that Chisenhall fouled off with a check swing. Except home plate umpire Jim Joyce called it a wild pitch.

With the live ball dribbling away to the left side, Francisco Lindor ran home from third, with Mike Napoli behind him from second. Both scored while Astros catcher Jason Castro argued with Joyce.

“I heard a noise, but I didn't know where it hit, so I just went to the plate,” Lindor said. “I thought it was a wild pitch, so I was running with the flow. … You have to continue to play the game and let the umpires make the call. I'm going to continue to play the game and I'm glad Napoli went hard.”

All four umpires convened to discuss the play, but the other there were unable to add clarity from their vantage points, so the call stood. Astros manager A.J. Hinch was promptly ejected for arguing the ruling. Joyce and the umps did end up reviewing the play, but the only reviewable part was to see where Jose Ramirez, who was on first to start, ended up before time was called by Joyce due to Castro arguing so vehemently. It couldn’t be reviewed that the ball hit Chisenhall’s bat, though replays were clear that it had.

Amidst the confusion, the Indians took a 4-1 lead.

They loaded the bases again in the fourth. This time, Lindor grounded a dribbler to shortstop Alex Bregman, starting in place of Carlos Correa. Bregman attempted to bare-hand the ball but missed, allowing two more runs to score. The Indians took a 6-2 lead, four of those runs coming on one ball barely hit past the pitcher’s mound.

The scoring was a bit more conventional in the fifth. Abraham Almonte tripled home two runs and Carlos Santana followed with a two-run home run to right field, a no-doubter that went for his 30th of the season and put the Indians on top 10-3. It’s the first time Santana has reached that mark.

The Astros chipped away, but it wasn’t enough. Colby Rasmus drilled a two-run home run off starting pitcher Trevor Bauer in the sixth, making it 10-5 and ending Bauer’s day after he allowed five runs on seven hits in five innings to go with two strikeouts.

Then, since Thursday’s game had everything else, a 55-minute rain delay was added. Afterward, the Astros roughed up Perci Garner for two more runs to cut the Indians’ lead to 10-7 before Cody Allen shut the door in the ninth to record his 26th save of the season.

The win capped an odd day and an 8-2 homestead for the Indians, who extended their lead in the American League Central to six games.

To read more or comment...

Indians 6, Astros 5: Ryan Lewis’ 19 Walk-Off Thoughts on Carlos Carrasco, Mike Napoil, a lot of bugs

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 8, 2016
Screen Shot 2016-09-07 at 9.59.49 PM

Here are 19 Walk-Off Thoughts on the Indians’ 6-5 win against the Houston Astros (and some persistent midges).

1. The Indians battled the Astros and a swam of midges, bringing back memories of the 2007 ALDS. It wasn’t nearly as bad as it was then, but the Indians’ infield spent much their time in-between pitches swatting at their faces, neck and arms.

2. The midges returned, at least for a few nights. If the Indians go on to win the World Series, perhaps they’ll have their own float.

3. Joba Chamberlain, who pitched for the Yankees in the infamous Bug Game, might be having nightmares tonight. He did have some friendly advice, though.

4. In the fourth inning, a particularly aggressive midge became lodged in Carlos Carrasco’s eye, stopping play. The trainers had to come out. For the most part, they appeared to be nothing more than nuisance, with that lone exception. But it doesn’t mean they were welcome.  

5. Said Indians manager Terry Francona, “They were everywhere out there. In the dugout, it’s hard to sense it but when you get out on the field, man, they’re everywhere. Other than that one that went in his eye, didn’t seem like it got in the way too much, but they were all over the place.”

6. Napoli remembers watching the 2007 Bug Game. He knows he might have even been lucky, saying, “That was different. It was a little like that last night. Tonight was a little worse. I remember seeing it in the playoff game, Joba throwing. He had 10,000 of them on his neck. I know it could be worse. That was just part of [the game]. We both had to deal with it. … I was waving my hat until Cookie got into the windup. Then I put my hat on and did what I had to do. You still have to get ready. You hope nothing flies in your eye.”

7. After Carrasco was tended to, he allowed a single and then a two-run home run to Colby Rasmus within the next few pitches, which put the Astros up 3-2. Other than that stretch, Carrasco allowed one run on 7 1/3 innings pitched.

8. But did it bug him? (If you stop reading at this point because of how horrific that pun is, I completely understand.)

9. Said Carrasco, “It doesn’t feel good. But I just have to come back and make my pitches. I got a ground ball base hit. And the first pitch he homered, it was a bit inside.”



10. An inning later, Mike Napoli crushed his 31st home run of the season, marking a new career high for a single season. It was another bomb, landing at least two-thirds of the way up the bleachers in left field. It also gave the Indians a 4-3 lead.

11. After his hit his 30th recently, which came after a bit of a power slump, Francona mentioned Napoli can hit home runs in bunches. He was right.

12. Said Napoli, “Yeah, pretty much my whole career has been like that. I know that when I'm struggling, I'm going to find it. Just stay positive and do my routine in the cages and usually I get out of it.”

13. Added Francona, “That was nice. Obviously changed the game right there, go from losing to leading, and then Guyer with a huge hit for us. Sometimes winning’s hard. It doesn’t mean you can’t do it, but sometimes it’s hard. Tonight was one of those nights. But we go home with a win. And quick turnaround, but that was a good win for us.”

More: Indians to start Mike Clevinger Saturday, keep Josh Tomlin in line for next start; Carlos Carrasco nominated for Roberto Clemente Award; Gifts for the Tribe

14. Brandon Guyer, acquired to hit left-handed pitching, then drilled a two-run double to left-center of lefty Kevin Chapman. He also made a leaping catch at the wall.

15. It was a snapshot of why Guyer wasn’t a big-name acquisition at the trade deadline, but he was the right acquisition that fit perfectly with Tyler Naquin and Lonnie Chisenhall—and next year, Michael Brantley—in the Indians’ outfield.

16. Guyer also knows his role well, saying, “It’s a different thing every day. I’ve gotten into a pretty good routine having to do this the past couple of years, so about the fourth or fifth innings – whenever we see a lefty get up – Q, all the other guys on the bench will go in the cage and take some front toss, do some BP in the cage, run around, try to get loose.”

17. Andrew Miller allowed a two-run home run to Yuli Gurriel in the eighth. It was his first career home run, and it came against not only one of the best relievers in baseball, but against Miller’s deadly slider, that’s brought Brian Dozier and Khris Davis to their knees.

18. Miller threw five sliders in a row and then didn’t quite bury the sixth, and paid for it. Said Francona, “Yeah, he probably threw one too many. I think he threw five in a row. Gurriel had kind of stayed alive, alive, alive alive, on the balls that were down and in, really good pitches, then he left one up and he had seen four or five in a row.”



19. Francisco Lindor went 3-for-4, marking his 23rd three-hit game this season. That leads the majors and is the most for an Indians hitter since 1936. Francona asked if Lindor can get even better and said, “He’s 22. I think as he knows the league, you’ll see him, maybe not numbers wise necessarily but I think you’ll see him do things more to help us win as he understands the league and understands himself.”

To read more or comment...

Indians battle Houston Astros, midges in 6-5 win

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 7, 2016

If facing major-league hitters wasn’t tough enough, Carlos Carrasco went to battle with a swarm of midges to lead the Indians to a 6-5 win Wednesday night.

Early on, the bugs began annoying the Indians infield, similar—but not to the same extent—to the time they swarmed the field during the American League Divisional Series in 2007 against the New York Yankees.

This time it was Carrasco, and not then-Yankees reliever Joba Chamberlain, who had to fight them off. Carrasco, first baseman Mike Napoli, third baseman Jose Ramirez and others repeatedly swatted bugs away from their faces, neck and arms.

In the fourth, leading 2-1, Indians trainers had to tend to Carrasco after one particularly aggressive midge became lodged in his eye, forcing a mound visit. Though his eyes were free of bugs, Carrasco gave up a single to Yulieski Gurriel and a two-run home run to Colby Rasmus within his next three pitches, which gave the Astros a 3-2 lead.

With the exception of that three-pitch, post-bug stretch, Carrasco (11-7, 3.15 ERA) was strong Wednesday night, finishing with three earned runs on nine hits and five strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings.

The Indians (80-58) overcame the bugs and Astros starter Doug Fister (12-11, 4.14 ERA) in the fifth. Francisco Lindor opened the inning with a single and was followed by Mike Napoli, who crushed a no-doubt two-run home run two-thirds of the way up the bleachers in the left field, putting the Indians on top 4-3. Lindor finished with a three-hit game, his 23rd of the season, which is the most by an Indians hitter since 1936.

Lonnie Chisenhall and Rajai Davis each singled later in the inning, sending Fister to the clubhouse and left-hander Kevin Chapman into the game. The Indians countered with Brandon Guyer, who was acquired to hit left-handed pitching. Guyer did as the Indians envisioned, ripping a two-run double to left-center field, extending the lead to 6-3.

In the eighth, Andrew Miller didn’t bury one of his trademark sliders and paid for it, as Gurriel slugged a two-run shot, to left field to slice the Indians’ lead to 6-5. It was his first career home run, and it came against one of the best relievers and best single pitches in baseball. It marked the first time Miller has allowed earned runs in back-to-back appearances since Aug. 11/13 of last year.

Cody Allen allowed a single in the ninth but struck out George Springer, Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve in order to notch his 25th save of the season.

To read more or comment...

Indians to start Mike Clevinger on Saturday, keep Josh Tomlin in line for following start

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 7, 2016

A decision has been made—for now—with the Indians’ No. 5 spot in the starting rotation.

Mike Clevinger will start Saturday’s game against the Minnesota Twins, but it won’t necessarily be a full start. Indians manager Terry Francona still wants Clevinger to stay on his normal routine out of the bullpen. The goal is to keep him within that workload, just extend it a bit.

“We’ve talked to him about approaching it like a bullpen, kind of like [Carlos] Carrasco did back aways,” Francona said. “Go out at 4 o’clock, do your stuff with the relievers, your throwing, then when the game starts just prepare it like you’re coming into a normal game, like if it’s the fifth inning. We want to keep him on one routine.”

Josh Tomlin, then, will be available out of the bullpen, but the club will do so while keeping the following start in mind. Tomlin could enter a game out of the bullpen in that time and/or throw a side session so that, if the club decides to go that way, he could be ready for his next start.
With that, the Indians are keeping their options open.

Cookie awarded

Major League Baseball announced that Carrasco has been named as the Indians’ 2016 nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, an annual recognition of one player from each club who best represents the game through character, community involvement and positive contributions on and off the field.

Carrasco has partnered with the United Way of Greater Cleveland for a book drive this summer, visited patients at local hospitals, donated books to children at Cleveland’s Luis Munoz Marin School and been involved in the community of Goodyear, Ariz., helping to build a playground for kids.

Fans can vote by posting hashtags to Twitter and Facebook. For Carrasco, his corresponding hashtag is #VoteCookie.

Gifts

Indians fans have sent in a number of gifts in the past week, including a customized jersey and a whole bunch of blankets.

Francisco Lindor, who walks up to the plate to the opening song from the movie Space Jam, received a custom Looney Tunes jersey from the film, complete with his name and number on the back.

“It’s cool. I appreciate it,” Lindor said prior to Tuesday’s game as he warmed up in the jersey. “The guys that made the jersey, they’re pretty cool guys. I met them yesterday and they gave me a shirt. It’s awesome. It’s one of the reasons I picked the walk-up song, to please the crowd with it.”

And on Wednesday, Jacque Mazey of Perrysburg hand-crocheted an afghan blanket for every Indians player, coach and TV broadcaster. She also sent in a hand-written latter, saying each blanket took 3-4 weeks to complete and has around a million stitches.

“By the time the season’s over maybe I’ll be able to have a couple,” said Francona. “If people think we need help, I’ll take whatever they’re willing to send.”

To read more or comment...

Astros 4, Indians 3: Ryan Lewis’ 12 Walk-Off Thoughts on Corey Kluber and one bad stretch

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 6, 2016
Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 8.58.30 PM

Here are 12 Walk-Off Thoughts after the Indians’ 4-3 loss to the Houston Astros Tuesday night.

1. Even the best pitchers in the game can have an inning unravel on them. It included Corey Kluber Tuesday night.

2. Kluber has put himself in the thick of the AL Cy Young race and has seemingly gotten better as the season has progressed. But on Tuesday, combined with a slow offensive night, a six-batter stretch in the second and third innings was enough to sink the Tribe.

3. Kluber retired the first five batters of the game and then, with two outs in the second, pitched like someone other than Kluber. He walked Evan Gattis and Colby Rasmus to put two on and then, up 0-2 on Marwin Gonzalez, left a curveball in the middle of the zone that was crushed for a three-run home run.

4. It was supposed to be in the dirt. Here’s where it ended up.


5. Said catcher Roberto Perez, “I think Kluber, his curveball has been really good the last, I don't know how many outings. I was trying to get him to bounce one and he just hang it.”

6. Said Kluber, "Yeah, I mean it was a two-strike count and I’m not trying to throw breaking ball right in the middle of the zone and it was a bad pitch and he took advantage of it."

7. Kluber was bothered by the two walks, saying, "No, I think it was moreso the walks than the curve. I threw a bad curve, just one of them. The one for the homer obviously wasn't a good pitch but I think the walks were the bigger issue."

8. To open the third, Kluber gave up a double to George Springer and a triple to Alex Bregman. Just like that, the Astros had enough offense to outlast the Indians on Tuesday.

More: Indians mulling options for No. 5 starting spot

9. Kluber ended up throwing seven innings and striking out nine. Outside of that six batter stretch, he allowed one hit and one walk.

10. It just shows how quickly an inning can unravel, and how that one unraveling can be the difference in an otherwise terrific start. It happens fast, even to Cy Young candidates.

11. Said Perez, “Oh man, it sucks. Especially that second inning. Two outs. We walked two batters and then a mistake. You've got to give them credit. They put good ABs against him that inning, and that's what cost us the game.”

12. Kluber has been about as solid as they come in recent weeks. Tuesday’s outing snapped Kluber’s streak of 10 consecutive quality starts (three or fewer runs allowed in at least six innings), which had been the second-longest such streak in the majors, behind only Detroit’s Justin Verlander. It also ended his streak of seven consecutive decisions won, the longest streak of his career. On Tuesday night, two walks led to a major mistake.

To read more or comment...

Corey Kluber loses quality start streak, ninth-inning rally falls short in 4-3 loss to Astros

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 6, 2016

Even for some of the best pitchers in the game, an inning an quickly unravel and ruin an outing. And in the case of Corey Kluber’s start against the Houston Astros Tuesday night, a bad second inning was enough to sink the Indians 4-3 despite a ninth-inning rally.

For most of the night, Kluber pitched to his Cy Young candidate pace, but an uncharacteristic stretch in that second inning led to a 3-0 Astros lead, from which the Indians’ offense was unable to recover.

Kluber quickly dispatched the first two hitters in the inning, marking five straight outs to start the game. But he then walked Evan Gattis and Colby Rasmus, putting two on. He went up 0-2 to Marwin Gonzalez but instead of burying strike three and escaping the inning, Kluber left a hanging curveball in the middle of the zone, which Gonzalez crushed for a three-run home run to right field.

An inning later, George Springer doubled and was followed by Alex Bregman, who tripled in a run to right field, putting the Astros up 4-1. It ended Kluber’s streak of 10 consecutive quality starts (three or fewer runs allowed in at least six innings), which had been the second-longest such streak in the majors, behind only Detroit’s Justin Verlander.

Kluber (15-9, 3.16 ERA) settled from there, finishing after seven innings and allowing four runs on four hits and three walks and striking out nine. Aside from that six-hitter stretch in the second and third innings, Kluber allowed no runs and only one hit. But, with the offense sputtering, it was enough. Tuesday’s game also ended his streak of seven consecutive decisions won, the longest streak of his career.

The Indians (79-58) struggled to rally against Astros starting pitcher Brad Peacock, who started in place of Dallas Keuchel. In the bottom of the second, Lonnie Chisenhall doubled and later scored on a ground ball by Naquin.

Back came the Indians. Carlos Santana drilled a solo shot to right field off of Astros reliever Luke Gregerson, his 29th of the season. Still, it was a quiet day for the Indians’ offense, which appeared to have caught a break when Keuchel, the Astros’ ace, was scratched on Monday.

In the ninth, the Indians finally threatened the Astros’ lead. Jose Ramirez singled, moved to second on a passed ball and third on a wild pitch. Coco Crisp then draw a walk, bringing the winning run to the plate with one out against Astros closer Ken Giles.

With Naquin at the plate, Crisp stole second, and Gattis’ throw sailed into center field, allowing Ramirez to score. Naquin, though, flew out for the second out. Brandon Guyer, the Indians’ last chance, accidentally connected on a check swing, grounding a slow roller down the first base line to end the game.

Despite a flurry of walk-off wins in recent weeks, this time the Indians fell just short, with a couple of second-inning mistakes by Kluber looming large.

To read more or comment...

Astros 6, Indians 2: Ryan Lewis’ 19 Walk-Off Thoughts on Josh Tomlin, the No. 5 rotation spot

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 6, 2016

Here are 19 Walk-Off Thoughts on the Indians’ 6-2 loss to the Houston Astros Monday night (but more-so what's next for the rotation).

1. The Indians pieced together nine innings by using eight different pitchers. Josh Tomlin was skipped in this turn through the rotation in order to give him time to figure things out.

2. In Monday’s game, Michael Clevinger, Perci Garner and Co. held it to a one-run game until Dan Otero and Bryan Shaw ran into some trouble in the seventh. Aided by a close play at the plate, Jason Kipnis’ second error of the night and an infield single, the Astros extended their lead to 6-2.

3. But moving forward, it’s unclear what Monday’s game solved for the Indians’ No. 5 spot in the starting rotation. As one of the leading contenders in the American League, the Indians still have a major question mark for the rest of September. The good news is that with rosters expanding, Tomlin’s slump has coincided with the Indians being able to have several additional arms available in the bullpen.

4. Said Francona, “I’m not sure what we are going to do. It’s not like its during the middle of the year where you are putting your bullpen in jeopardy. I’ll want to talk to the guys and see what we think is best for us.”

5. Francona mentioned about a week ago that Tomlin’s fastball-cutter usage was flip-flopped from when he normally was at his best. Pitching coach Mickey Callaway added that they want him to “fire” his hips, in that his delivery might have had him a bit off from where he needs to be.

6. Said Callaway, “We've identified things for the last month and we've ben working on them in the 'pen. Sometimes a guy gets tired and it's tough to get that body going again. We've been working on his hips, really firing his hips for the last three weeks or so. It looked a little better tonight. Maybe that little bit of a blow, some days off, helped him. And then going out there and having to do it for one inning, as opposed to worrying about seven.”

7. For now, the Indians aren’t sure about how they want to proceed with that spot as they weigh both long-term and short-term plans.

More: Jose Ramirez's clutch season continues; Roberto Perez hitting; Kyle Crockett recalled

8. There are four base options. One is that Tomlin remains in the No. 5 spot for the rest of the season, with the Indians hoping they’ve identified the issues. The club doesn’t want to “run away from him,” Francona has put it. As a No. 5 starter, he necessarily doesn’t need to set the world on fire and match what Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco are doing. But he does have to do better than his abysmal August.

9. Callaway liked what he saw in Tomlin’s one inning Monday, saying, “I thought he was really good. [Bullpen coach Jason Bere] said he warmed up really good in the 'pen. I thought he got his pitches where he wanted them. He looked a little more like the old Tomlin. He was really getting the balls in when he went in, and was getting them away when he went away, and up when he went up, and down when he went down. That's all you can ask. That's the kind of pitcher he is. He had good sharp stuff tonight. He had a little late action on his cutter that he got swing and miss out of. I thought he looked good.
10. A second option is to repeat what they did Monday. Even with the extra arms, it doesn’t seem likely the Indians could simply return to a “bullpen game” every fifth game for the rest of the month. And while they’ve held a solid lead in the division, there’s still plenty of baseball to be played. A solution is needed eventually, and if the Indians were to run into trouble the day before or after, the bullpen could be taxed. Though, that scenario hasn’t been ruled out, and roster expansion does make it possible.

11. Said Callaway, “You know what? A lot of guys' fifth starter probably doesn't do as good as we did tonight, going into the seventh. I think we've got the bullpen to do it. Perci Garner showed up tonight. Anderson looked really good, I thought, his stuff. Colon looked like a better version of Colon than we saw. He's healthier. He feels good. We've got the bullpen arms to do it, if we want to do it. It's nice to have a few game lead, now that we're trying to figure out what our fifth starter is going to look like.

12. A third option would be for the Indians to stretch out Mike Clevinger, something Francona has previously said they’d like to stay away from. He’s pitched well recently and has a starter’s background—the team still views him as a starting pitcher past this season. It would likely take at least another turn through the rotation, though, before he could start and give them 5-6 innings.

13. Said Callaway, “In the next start, we could feasibly plug him in if we thought that was the way to go, and our bullpen was intact and we hadn't used him, and all those factors.”

14. But would they go ahead with stretching him out now? “Not at the expense of losing a game,” Callaway said. “If we think Clev is our best option and he's available—he’s going to be down for a couple days—but if we think he's our best option three days from now to throw two innings and keep us in a game and maybe help us win, then we won't hold him back for that.”

15. A fourth option would be to promote someone from Triple-A who can give them extended innings. Calloway mentioned Ryan Merritt and Shawn Morimando as two options, both as left-handers. That would also likely bring in the opposing lineup into question, adding to the complexity of the issue.

16. It’s an odd situation for a division leader and legitimate World Series contender to be in this late in the season. The Indians are stuck in the middle of attempting to combine a long-term solution with trying to win now.

More: Perci Garner, Coco Crisp enter Indians' clubhouse on opposite ends of the career spectrum

17. It’s still all up in the air. Said Callaway, “I think we want to try and figure out where we're at when each start comes up. If we're going to have to use a guy to win a game before that, and we think we're going to win a game using him, then we'll do it again. But, if somebody's available, and we don't know who that might be, we'll try and let him start. I think that would be the best approach to go about it, because if we hadn't used a guy, no matter who it is, maybe they can start. If we have used them, maybe we'll do a bullpen day or something like that. So, we're not quite sure.”

18. Said Callaway, “So, we have a couple left-handed options, if we want. If we started thinking about a left-hander, it would probably depend on who the team is. You could see one of those guys after the playoffs are over.”

19. If the Indians make the postseason, they won’t need a fifth starter. It’s all about getting through September. Though with about a month left to play, it’s the biggest question mark surrounding the AL Central leaders.

To read more or comment...

Indians lose ‘bullpen game’ 6-2 to Houston Astros behind tough seventh inning

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 5, 2016

The Indians’ “bullpen game” was largely a success for the most of the night, but a tough seventh inning and a quiet night offensively led to a 6-2 loss to the Houston Astros on Monday night at Progressive Field..

In an attempt to give struggling No. 5 starting pitcher Josh Tomlin some time off and to align the rotation a little more in their favor for the stretch run against divisional opponents, the Indians on Monday attempted to piece together the game using only the bullpen, something that was largely possible due to roster expansion.

The Indians used eight pitchers to get through all nine innings, with only the night’s starter Michael Clevinger, rookie Perci Garner and Cody Anderson throwing more than one inning. The Indians entered the seventh inning still battling in a tight game, trailing 3-2.

That’s when the hope for attaching a win to the unorthodox bullpen game largely evaporated.

Dan Otero began the inning, allowing a single and striking out Alex Bregman before being taken out in favor of Bryan Shaw, the night’s sixth pitcher. Shaw gave up a single to Jose Altuve and then walked Carlos Correa to load the bases with one out.

Yulieski Gurriel drove a fly ball to center field just deep enough to score George Springer, who slid ahead of Rajai Davis’ throw and Roberto Perez’s attempted tag. Evan Gattis then grounded a ball to second base, but the would-be third out turned into another run when Jason Kipnis' throw pulled Mike Napoli off the bag, allowing Altuve to score. It was Kipnis’ second error of the game.


Colby Rasmus followed by reaching on an infield dribbler to the right side, extending the Astros’ lead to 6-2.

Clevinger threw 1 2/3 innings to start the game but the Indians didn’t want to see him advance too far because he’ll remain a reliever for the time being. Garner threw 2 2/3 innings, allowing just one hit and striking out two. Anderson struck out four batters in 1 1/3 innings. Jeff Manship, Joe Colon and Otero all threw two thirds of an inning.

Tomlin worked the ninth inning, allowing an infield single and adding a strikeout.

The Astros took a 1-0 lead in the first inning, when Altuve drove a double off the left-field wall to score Bregman, who walked. In the third, Bregman added a two-run home run off Manship to push it to 3-0.

Jose Ramirez cut that deficit to 3-1 in the bottom of the third with an RBI single off Astros starter Mike Fiers that scored Francisco Lindor, who doubled in part thanks to a swim move slide that was needed after Teoscar Hernandez’s throw from right field beat him to the base.

In the fifth, Mike Napoli crushed a solo home run, his 30th of the season. It was his first home run since Aug. 11. With it, he became the first Indians hitter to hit that mark since Grady Sizemore in 2008, and the first right-handed batter to do it since Ellis Burks in 2002.

The loss snapped a six-game winning streak for the Indians and cut their lead over the Detroit Tigers in the American League Central Division to 4 1/2 games.

To read more or comment...

Indians 6, Marlins 5: Ryan Lewis’ 14 Walk-Off Thoughts on Chisenhall, Ramirez, nine walk-offs

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 4, 2016

Here are 14 Walk-Off Thoughts on the Indians’ 6-5 walk-off win against the Miami Marlins on Sunday.

1. The Indians did it again—another thrilling walk-off win highlighted by a three-run bottom of the ninth that followed a two-run top of the ninth.

2. It was their ninth walk-off win this season, the second most in baseball behind only Houston, with 10. It was also their fourth walk-off win since Aug. 18, a stretch of 11 games. That doesn’t include Jose Ramirez’s game-winning home run in the eighth inning of the Aug. 21 game against Toronto.

3. Three walks wrapped around two outs—which included a strike-three call on Jason Kipnis when he attempted to check his swing—loaded the bases for Jose Ramirez. He’s been among baseball’s best with the game on the line to this point in the season and he came through again, roping a two-out, two-run single to left field to tie it 5-5.

4. Said Ramirez on the those big moments, “I don’t really worry about that. I try to have a good at-bat every single time I’m up. Sometimes there’s more emotion, there’s more energy, but I don’t worry about that.”

5. That led to Lonnie Chisenhall, who fouled off several pitches and then yanked an 0-2 single to right field to win it. It was his first walk-off win since Sept. 9, 2012.

6. And it completed one of the Indians’ more thrilling games this season, perhaps only behind Tyler Naquin’s inside-the-park walk-off home run on Aug. 19.

More: Perci Garner, Coco Crisp enter Indians clubhouse on opposite ends of the career spectrum

7. Said Chisenhall, on the team as a whole, “In the dugout, we're never down. We're always constantly chattering. We never feel like we're behind. That's a huge thing to have, even if you don't win the game, to come back and fight and claw and make them work, even in a loss. That's something we have on this team and it's fun to be part of it.”

8. Yan Gomes, Mike Napoli, Carlos Santana, Ramirez, Francisco Lindor, Naquin, Kipnis and Chisenhall have now all collected at least one walk-off hit this season. So they all know the punishment that comes with it from the charging dugout.

9. Said Chisenhall, laughing, “It's never good. You try to be aggressive and get on the ground quick. They get their punches in and things like that. It's totally worth it for the win, especially with how we won it.”

10. In the top of the ninth, the Marlins took a 4-3 lead against Andrew Miller and then with Cody Allen on the mound made it 5-3. It was a rare time of Miller not protecting a lead or holding a tie. The Indians’ bullpen has been strong for the last several weeks. On Sunday night, the lineup picked up the bullpen twice, after Bryan Shaw in the eighth allowed a solo home run to J.T. Realmuto that tied it 3-3 two pitches after the Indians rallied to take a 3-2 lead.

11. Said Francona, “Guys are going to give up runs. It happens. Bryan was trying to go down and away and actually missed by a lot. Miller actually I thought made a pretty good pitch to Suzuki, he just went down and got it, too. And that’s going to happen. I’d rather hat happen than guys walking guys and stuff like that. But I thought we did a really good job to get back in the game. And then we had the lead for what, one pitch, two pitches. And those are easy games to kind of let the air come out, especially when they took the lead again. But they keep playing.”

12. This was just the type of game for Francona, as he used 14 position players in pinch-hitting or pinch-running situations. It was also, in a way, showed how the Indians’ bench can fit nicely with the starting lineup, giving the Indians additional flexibility late in games. That particularly goes for the outfield, which with Crisp’s addition becomes as balanced as it’s been all year.

More: Indians to start Michael Clevinger in 'bullpen game' on Monday

13. Said Chisenhall, “Tito does a great job of that. You put a team together. You don't stack one guy on top of each other. I'm complemented and I complement someone else. It's the same thing in the bullpen and a couple other places on the field. It's a puzzle and they did a great job of putting it together.”

14. For a team that has continued attendance issues, the Indians have certainly treated those who have made the trip lately.

To read more or comment...

Indians pull off wild comeback with three-run ninth to beat Miami Marlins 6-5 in walk-off fashion

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 4, 2016

The Indians fell behind late but rallied for three runs in the bottom of the ninth inning, completing a come-from-behind, walk-off 6-5 win against the Miami Marlins on Sunday.

The Indians and Marlins entered the top of the ninth inning tied 3-3 with Andrew Miller on the mound. One day after the Indians knocked around Marlins ace Jose Fernandez—a rare occurrence—the Marlins returned the favor by taking the lead against Miller. Miguel Rojas and Ichiro Suzuki opened the inning with back-to-back doubles to make it 4-3 and with Cody Allen on the mound, Martin Prado added a sacrifice fly to put the Marlins up 5-3.

Once again, as has often been the case over the last 2-3 weeks, the Indians brought some bottom-of-the-ninth magic to Progressive Field. Facing Marlins closer Fernando Rodney, Brandon Guyer and Carlos Santana opened the inning with walks. Jason Kipnis, though, struck out and Francisco Lindor flied out, bringing the Indians to their last out.

Mike Napoli then drew a third walk to load the bases for Jose Ramirez, who’s been among baseball’s best with runners in scoring position all season. The Indians’ personal magician, he came through again, roping a single to left field. Guyer easily scored and Santana, on second, made the turn at third and slid home just ahead of the throw, tying it 5-5.

That brought up Lonnie Chisenhall, who fouled off several pitches and then yanked a ball to right field that Suzuki couldn’t track down, winning it and sending the entire Indians’ bench out toward second base to mob him.

It was the Indians’ ninth walk-off win this season, second in the majors only to the Houston Astros’ 10. It also continued a wild stretch of walk-off wins and thrilling finishes dating back to mid-August.

One day after finding success against Fernandez, one of the top pitchers in baseball, the Indians were silent against Sunday’s starter Tom Koehler, managing just three hits and no runs in six innings. Once he was taken out in favor of reliever Kyle Barraclough, the Indians put together a three-run seventh inning to take their first lead of the day.

Ramirez opened the inning with a double down the left-field line and scored from second when Rojas missed an attempted bare-handed play on a slow roller off the bat of Abraham Almonte, cutting the Marlins’ lead to 2-1. Rajai Davis came in to pinch run for Almonte and promptly stole second base on Barraclough’s next pitch.

After Tyler Naquin grounded out to put Davis at third, Coco Crisp and Santana each drew walks to load the bases with two outs for Kipnis, who delivered a two-out, two-run single up the middle.

That lead didn’t last long. Two pitches into the eighth inning, Bryan Shaw allowed a solo home run to Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto, tying it 3-3. It was the first earned run Shaw had allowed since July 18, a span of 18 appearances and 17 scoreless innings.

Danny Salazar had another positive outing to put his disabled list stint behind him, allowing just one run on six hits and striking out 11, which tied a career high. It was the 10th double-digit strikeout game of his career and third this season.

It all led up to the ninth inning, and another Indians’ walk-off victory.

To read more or comment...

Indians to start Michael Clevinger in ‘bullpen game’ Monday; Fixing Josh Tomlin's August issues

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 4, 2016

Michael Clevinger will receive the start for Monday’s game against the Houston Astros as the Indians try to give Josh Tomlin additional time to rest and rebound from an abysmal month of August.

It doesn’t mean, though, that Clevinger is taking Tomlin’s spot in the rotation going forward. The Indians view Clevinger as a starting pitcher in the future, but for now, he’s been effective in the bullpen, and the club wants to keep him there in the short run.

“We want to keep him on his bullpen routine,” said Indians manager Terry Francona. “We’re not going to let him get real deep, just because he’s been in the bullpen and I think we all view, at this time of the year, that he has a chance to help us in the bullpen.”

As a reliever, Clevinger has a 3.18 ERA and 1.147 WHIP with 13 strikeouts in 11 1/3 innings. He’s also entered in some key situations, like when he struck out Toronto’s Edwin Encarnacion on Aug. 21 with the bases loaded that eventually led to Jose Ramirez’s game-winning home run in the eighth inning and an 8-7 win.

When he was starting, the Indians talked about Clevinger needing to maintain the same velocity he displayed in the first inning throughout his entire start. Now in the bullpen, that’s not a concern.

“I think when you look at his stuff, and as a young starter, like in Triple-A especially, his first two innings were aways his highest velocity,” Francona said. “His stuff could almost be electric, and then he’d settle in. So that was the thought, if you’re coming out for 20 or 30 pitches and you’re able to throw 95, 96 with a breaking ball and a changeup, that’s why we wanted to give him some opportunities doing this.”

In addition to skipping Tomlin’s start on Monday, they also cut back on his off-day throwing program to allow him to “reset,” look at film and see if he can correct his issues. He’ll be available out of the bullpen on Monday.

The Indians hope that they’ve identified at least part of the issue from his August starts, in which he posted an 11.48 ERA.

“The biggest thing is over the course of those [outings]—not just the last couple, but six or seven—his fastball-cutter usage has flip-flopped so drastically,” Francona said. “He’s very aware of it. He did some digging on it himself. I think he understands one of his strengths is throwing his fastball in. And when he’s going good, he does that, and then he opens up the plate for his cutter. And he had kind of gotten away from that.”

Rosters expanding allowed the Indians to call up Cody Anderson and Joe Colon from Triple-A, giving the bullpen two additional arms and making a “bullpen game” possible. The Indians view Clevinger and Anderson as starters in the long run but for now want to keep both out of the bullpen. If Tomlin can correct his issues, he’ll easily slide back into the No. 5 spot the next turn through the rotation. If not, the Indians could have a decision to make about how to finish September.

To read more or comment...

Indians 8, Marlins 3: Ryan Lewis’ 15 Walk-Off Thoughts on Trevor Bauer’s rebound, Coco Crisp’s debut

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 3, 2016

Here are 15 Walk-Off Thoughts on the Indians’ 8-3 win against the Miami Marlins Saturday night.

1. Early on, things weren’t trending the right way for the Tribe. Trevor Bauer was roughed up for three runs in the top of the first inning and with Marlins ace Jose Fernandez on the mound, it’s not a great recipe for success.

2. But the Indians’ bats rallied against Fernandez and Bauer was nearly untouchable from the first inning on, not allowing another hit until the ninth inning.

3. In the first, it looked like Bauer wouldn’t last long in Saturday’s game. But in the ninth, there he was, still rolling. He was at 103 pitches when Indians manager Terry Francona took him out two outs short of a complete game, opting for Andrew Miller to close the door. It ended up being one of his more impressive outings, the first inning notwithstanding.

4. Said Francona, “It wasn’t just the first inning because the second inning, he got them out but it was three balls hit really hard. And then it just looked like he had another gear and he wasn’t just throwing, he was locating. He really did a good job. At one point I think when they got the hit in the ninth, he had faced the minimum because we had the double play and the guy that left early. Boy, that was impressive. I think us coming right back certainly helped. You look up in the first inning, you’re thinking, ‘Boy, we might be in our bullpen early’ and he pitches into the ninth inning.”

5. Bauer has at times—at least more often than other pitchers—felt good about certain pitchers that went for key hits or home runs. Right or wrong, that was the case again Saturday night. He felt OK in the first inning, without much of a difference afterward, though the results were on opposite ends of the spectrum.

6. Said Bauer, “I thought I threw the ball really well in the first, honestly. I gave up three hits and two of them were on pitches that weren’t even in the zone. So I got guys to chase and they turned into hits again. But the offense came back and put up two really quick. Big for the team’s psyche. Especially facing a guy that’s really good like that. That was big and to keep tacking on throughout the game. All around it was a really well played offensively game for us.”

More: Sunday Story—Perci Garner, Coco Crisp enter Indians clubhouse at opposite ends of the spectrum

7. Bauer has now thrown four straight quality starts and has worked at least six innings in six straight outings, owning a 3-1 record and 2.61 ERA in that stretch. Bauer also recorded his 10th win this season, the first time the Indians have had five pitchers reach that mark since 1961. Corey Kluber is getting the Cy Young attention. Carlos Carrasco has been racking up strikeouts lately. With Danny Salazar returning from the disabled list and Josh Tomlin reeling, Bauer hasn’t been far behind the Nos. 1-2 starters in the rotation, at least as of late.

8. Coco Crisp made his Indians return debut Saturday night, going 3-for-5 with three runs scored. He opened the first inning with a double, leading to a more-than-positive first game back in front of Indians fans.

9. Crisp just wanted to make sure he did something positive, saying, “Facing one of the best pitchers in the game, it's hard to get some rest the night before. But coming into today, I was just like, 'Just get on base one time. Just doing something positive for the team would be a good day.' I got on my first at-bat and that made it a little easier for the rest of the game. … You don't want to come here and strike out four or five times. You want to do something special. I was able to get it out of the way in the first at-bat and keep things rolling. It was definitely a weight lifted off my shoulders to do it right away.”



10. He also, of course, received a loud ovation for his first at-bat. Said Crisp, “The love that the fans showed me today, I'm really appreciative of that. That was pretty cool.”

11. After Crisp’s double in the first, Jason Kipnis ripped a two-run home run. It was his 22nd of the season—his career high—and his ninth first-inning home run this year, which ties him with Albert Pujols, Justin Turner, Jose Altuve and Mike Trout.

More: Yan Gomes has positive rehab assignment; Corey Kluber named AL Pitcher of the Month

12. Francisco Lindor went 4-for-4 Saturday night with two doubles, a walk and an RBI. It was his 22nd three-hit game this season, which is the most in the majors and the most for an Indians hitter since Carlos Baerga hit 22 in 1992. It was also his first career four-hit game, per the club. He came up to bat in the eighth with a chance to notch his fifth hit but drew a walk.

13. Said Lindor, “Every at-bat I’m thinking about a hit. There’s no one here in this game that would tell you I’m not thinking about a hit. If they are, they’re lying to you. I was just trying to do something to help my team in that situation, there was guys on first and second, I was trying to get a base hit to score Coco from second. When they moved on the passed ball, I was just trying to get on base, hit a hard ground ball somewhere to go through the infield. They were playing in. I didn’t get the pitch I wanted.”

14. The Indians knocked around Fernandez in a way that really no team has before, to the tune of six earned runs (tied a career high) and 12 hits (career high) in 5 2/3 innings. And it was all done to erase an early 3-0 deficit.

15. Said Francona, on getting to one of the NL’s best starting pitchers, “I thought we did a really good job. I thought early, we tried the best we could to lay off the softer stuff, the off-speed pitches, and try to his his fastball and we did a very good job of that. As he started getting into the game, he started using it more, the off-speed, and it’s tough. It’s hard to hit all of his pitches because they’re so good, but we made him work, got his pitch count up and we were fortunate enough to score runs in the process. I thought we ran the bases good. I thought we played a really good game tonight.”

To read more or comment...

Indians pummel Miami Marlins’ ace, Trevor Bauer rebounds from rough first inning in 8-3 win

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 3, 2016

The Indians knocked around one of the best starting pitchers the National League has to offer and received eight-plus innings from Trevor Bauer en route to downing the Miami Marlins 8-3 Saturday night.

The Indians’ bats had little trouble with Marlins ace Jose Fernandez (13-8, 3.03 ERA), piling up seven runs on 12 hits in his 5 2/3 innings. The 12 hits allowed were a career high for Fernandez, and the six earned runs tied a career high. No team had given him that much trouble until the Indians on Saturday, who extended their current winning streak to five games in the process.

Bauer (10-6, 3.70 ERA) struggled in the first inning as well, allowing three runs on three hits and a walk. From that point, though, Bauer found the other end of the spectrum, allowing only one hit in his final 7 1/3 innings pitched. He finished two outs short of a complete game, allowed four hits and three walks and struck out four.

With two on in the first, Christian Yelich drove a double to right-center to put the Marlins (68-68) up 2-0. Derek Dietrich later added a sacrifice fly, giving the normally lock-down Fernandez a three-run cushion before he ever stepped on the mound.

The Indians (78-56) cut that deficit down in the first, erased it in the second and overtook it in the third.

It started with Coco Crisp, appearing in his first game back with the Indians since 2005 after being acquired from the Oakland A’s, who led off the first with a double. Jason Kipnis a few pitches later clubbed a two-run home run to right field, his career-high 22nd home run of the season.

In the second, Tyler Naquin and Roberto Perez hit back-to-back doubles to tie it 3-3.

Lindor opened the third with his second double of the night. Carlos Santana then singled him home to put the Indians on top 4-3. After Jose Ramirez walked and Lonnie Chisenhall laid down a sacrifice bunt, Abraham Almonte extended the lead to 5-3 with a sacrifice fly to left field, scoring Santana.

Crisp, Kipnis and Lindor hit back-to-back-to-back two-out singles in the sixth. Lindor’s single, to right, scored Crisp. Kipnis was also able to score on a throwing error by Ichiro Suzuki.

Crisp later scored again in the eighth. Santana, batting with the bases loaded, tapped a ball back to reliever Nefi Ogando, who flipped it to catcher Jeff Mathis. Mathis, though, never stepped on the plate before throwing to first.

Lindor ended the night 4-for-4 with two doubles and an RBI. It was his major-league leading 22nd three-hit game of the season and his first career four-hit game. Crisp finished with a three hits and three runs scored in his return debut.

To read more or comment...

Indians catcher Yan Gomes has positive rehab assignment; Corey Kluber named AL Pitcher of the Month

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 3, 2016

Indians catcher Yan Gomes appeared in his first rehab assignment with the RubberDucks Friday night, earning a positive report from the training staff as he works his way back from a separated shoulder.

Gomes went 2-for-3 while acting as the designated hitter. Between innings, he went down to the cage and simulated some catching activities.

Gomes was transferred to the 60-day disabled list to make room on the 40-man roster for relief pitcher Perci Garner. That pushed his earliest possible activation date to Sept. 16. It takes away any notion of Gomes rushing back, as he still has roughly a two-week window before he can return. Though, he might have needed that time regardless.

“He wasn’t going to be ready before that,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “Believe me, if I think if anybody thought he was going to be, we probably would have done something different. … I think probably some of the reason was [we] don’t need him to do something too fast and hurt himself. He’s going as fast as he can. He’s done a great job with this.”

Gomes worked out in Cleveland and Saturday and is slated to again be the DH for the RubberDucks on Sunday. The Indians will make a determination on his plan moving forward after that.

AL POM

Ace Corey Kluber was named the American League’s Pitcher of the Month for August, the second time in his career he’s been given that honor.

Kluber in August went 5-0 with a 2.43 ERA and 44 strikeouts in 40 2/3 innings pitched. He was top-5 in the AL in all three categories.

The last time Kluber won AL Pitcher of the Month was in September of 2014, when he went on to win the AL Cy Young Award as well.

Film study

Coco Crisp is in an Indians uniform for the first time since 2005. It also means when looking at film from his Cleveland days, Crisp is seeing his 2005 swing. He’s liked viewing it again.

That year Crisp hit .300 with a .345 on-base percentage—both career highs—with 16 home runs, 42 doubles, 69 RBI and 15 stolen bases. He’s now comparing his current swing to his swing from 2005, seeing if there’s an adjustment to be made at 36 years old.

“The good thing about here is that they have some of my at-bats from back in 2005, when I was rolling,” Crisp said. “So I was able to come in here and look at those and compare it to my batting stance and the way that things were then versus how things have transpired in my batting stance since my neck injury. … That was exciting, to see my younger self rolling on some video tape and to try to implement some of that to now.”

To read more or comment...

Perci Garner, Coco Crisp enter Indians clubhouse on different paths

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 3, 2016

Coco Crisp is the old veteran returning to the team that gave him his first major-league job more than a decade ago and the place in which he became a fan favorite. He’s getting a chance for another—potentially just one more—chance to play in the postseason.

Perci Garner is the green rookie walking into a major-league clubhouse for the first time as a member of the active roster of his favorite childhood team. He’s getting to live out his dream and enjoy the ride.

Together, they represent a microcosm of the group of characters able to be added to the mix late in the season, particularly once rosters expand every Sept. 1. The roster expansion doesn’t just allow some to get onto the roster in September, it also helps them to stay a while longer.

For the Indians, they welcome these two on opposite ends of their respective careers. Crisp, the 36-year-old veteran who had a locker in Cleveland’s clubhouse in 2002. And Garner, the 27-year-old rookie who was a released minor-leaguer without a job in March of last year and is now taking his first steps of what he hopes is a long journey in the majors.

They’re both in Cleveland trying to help the Indians make the postseason and win their first division title since 2007.

Crisp has had a long, stable career. Garner was facing the possibility, not too long ago, that his might never get off the ground. When the Phillies released him last year, he became another wondering minor-leaguer, just trying to hold on. Then he got a phone call from the Indians.

“No to be honest, I didn’t,” Garner said when asked if he could have dreamt this scenario. “When I got drafted by the Phillies, I completely sold into the Phillies and I wanted to play for them. Then unfortunately things didn’t work out, then the Indians called me. It was almost like this moment when they called me, I was like ‘Man this is too good to be true.’”

Now, he’s one of the best stories in the clubhouse of a player who received one more chance and has made the best of it, turning around his career. He’s so delighted by it all that he can’t stop smiling.

“If you need a little pick up for your day, spend five minutes with him,” said Indians manager Terry Francona. “He’s already leading the American League in smiles. But it’s a good story. It’s also just starting.”

For Garner, it’s his beginning. For Crisp, it’s his continuation of a past road traveled, albeit with a sizable sabbatical in the middle. Crisp has been in the majors for more than half of the time that Garner’s been alive.

Garner walked into the clubhouse wide-eyed. Crisp walked in and felt comfortable, remembering everything. He remembers where Grady Sizemore’s locker was, as well as CC Sabathia’s and Victor Martinez’s. He notices that he now has Milton Bradley’s old locker. He remembers that he and Ben Broussard used to beat-box.

After being traded and quickly flying to Cleveland, he’s also staying at the same Hyatt Regency he was at during his rookie season. And he still remembers what he was told by a kind doorman at the hotel each day as Crisp went to the ballpark.

“He would open up the door and say, ‘As it should be,’” Crisp said. “What response do you have? ‘I guess so.’ I guess being older thinking about it, I can make some sense out of it. It’s just, I’m here and this is where you’re supposed to be. This is exactly what’s supposed to be going on, going down. Everything is how it should be.”

Crisp often smiled when talking about being back at that hotel, the doorman, his old teammates and his former experiences with Francona in Boston. Garner joked after his some-what positive, some-what negative major-league debut that the Indians gave him the ball from his first walk and that his 3-year-old son was more interested in his teammates.

One reminiscing, one looking forward. But they’re both enjoying it. And they’re both now in the Indians’ clubhouse, two roads of varying lengths intersecting along with 29 others, all trying to go the same direction. Perhaps the doorman was right.

To read more or comment...

Indians, Carlos Carrasco cruise to 6-2 win against Miami Marlins

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 2, 2016

After a string of wild finishes and walk-off thrillers in recent weeks, the Indians’ 6-2 win against the Miami Marlins Friday night was a little closer to how the club would like to draw up a victory.

The Indians’ offense used some patience in the right spots to build an early lead and starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco cruised to one of his best starts of the season.

Carrasco (10-7, 3.06 ERA) threw 7 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing six hits and walking one. He also struck out 11, marking the 10th time in his career he’s struck out at least 10 in a game and the third time this season.

He’s now struck out at least eight batters in six consecutive starts, the longest active streak in the majors and tied for the longest such streak this season, joining the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw as the only two to accomplish that feat. An Indians pitcher hasn’t pulled it off since Corey Kluber did so in May of 2014.

While Carrasco racked up strikeouts, Marlins starting pitcher Andrew Cashner (0-4, 5.00 ERA) struggled to find the strike zone. Aided by some patience, the Indians took a 4-0 lead in the first two innings that allowed Carrasco to cruise the rest of the night.

The bottom of the first began with two walks and a bloop single to load the bases with nobody out. Mike Napoli drew the third walk of the inning to bring in a run. Jose Ramirez and Lonnie Chisenhall each followed with ground balls that led to an out but added a run, putting the Indians up 3-0 with only a bloop single to show in the hit column.

In the second, Tyler Naquin doubled to center field, advanced to third with a sacrifice bunt by Roberto Perez and scored on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Carlos Santana.

Abraham Almonte tacked on a couple more in the fifth, ripping a two-run double off the wall in right-center field that scored Jose Ramirez, who had doubled, and Lonnie Chisenhall, who had walked.

Jeff Manship entered in the eighth inning and promptly allowed a two-run home run to J.T. Realmuto, leading to Cody Allen working the ninth inning.

Coco Crisp was available off the bench for the first time but did not make it into the game. Friday night also marked the first time that some members of the Indians and Marlins, in addition to many teams across the league, wore gold wristbands for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

To read more or comment...

Indians could throw ‘bullpen game’ on Monday; Roster expansion adds flebility

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 2, 2016

Josh Tomlin’s awful August has put Monday’s start in some jeopardy as the Indians give him time to figure things out and regain his first-half form.

A decision hasn’t yet been made, but the Indians could be leaning toward piecing the game together as a “bullpen game,” as Indians manager Terry Francona put it. It’s an option possible to the Indians thanks to rosters expanding around the league on Sept. 1.

The Indians are choosing not to throw Corey Kluber on Monday, which was possible thanks to Thursday’s off-day. Without directly saying it, Francona could be looking ahead to the middle and end of September, jam-packed with divisional games against the Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals, hot on their tail in the American League Central.

“Just looking forward, if you kind of take it another couple weeks … it makes sense,” Francona said.

The Indians on Thursday promoted Cody Anderson and Joe Colon from Triple-A Columbus to give the bullpen additional protection. Per Francona, Mike Clevinger for right now will remain in the bullpen. He could potentially get the start on Monday, though, as he can throw multiple innings and allow the Indians to piece the game together with the extra arms available. Anderson could as well, though he’s exclusively been pitching out of the bullpen the last few weeks.

“Monday, we need a starter. I think we’re still going to wait and see how we get there,” Francona said. “It’s going to be more likely than not almost like a bullpen game. I think we can do that because it’s September. So regardless of who starts, I don’t think you’re going to see them go very deep.”

Expansion

All MLB teams were able to expand their active rosters to 40 players on Sept. 1. The Indians’ roster was bolstered to 31 players, as they activated Danny Salazar, added Coco Crisp and called up Anderson, Colon, utility man Michael Martinez and catcher Adam Moore to add depth to the bullpen and bench without having to make any corresponding moves.

Francona, about as much as any manager, often loves having the extra arm in the bullpen or the added flexibility of a utility player on the bench. Even he isn’t sure all of a sudden being able to add up to 15 players to the active roster makes sense.

Francona has before talked about possibly seeing more value in being able to expand rosters at the beginning of the season. On Friday, he looked at the endless matchup issues as a plus and a negative.

“On one hand I do, on the other hand, I still think there should be a limit of who should be available nightly,” Francona said. “Because you get into some games and it’s just impossible to know who all the bench players are, or the relievers. You can go back and forth all night. We play under different rules for five months. I’d like to see that at some point a little bit different.”

To read more or comment...

Indians activate Danny Salazar, add Coco Crisp, recall Cody Anderson and others in roster expansion

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 1, 2016

With Major League teams able to expand their rosters to 40 players on Thursday, the Indians made a series of moves that included the activation of starting pitcher Danny Salazar, the inclusion of Coco Crisp to the active roster and additions to the bullpen and bench.

Salazar was placed on the Paternity List this week, and his activation on Thursday allows the Indians to forego a corresponding move on the active roster. He won’t miss a scheduled start.

Crisp was officially acquired on Wednesday in a trade with the Oakland A’s, making him postseason eligible, a key element since Abraham Almonte is ineligible for being suspended for performance-enhancing drugs this season. He’ll be available for Friday’s game. Crisp was able to be added onto the 40-man roster thanks to Tommy Hunter’s release in August.

To bolster the depth of the bullpen, the Indians also recalled pitchers Cody Anderson and Joe Colon.

Anderson has been trying to find his stride in the bullpen at Triple-A after opening the season in the Indians’ starting rotation. Since Aug. 7, he’s posted an ERA of 1.23 and has tossed six straight scoreless appearances. Colon was put on the 15-day disabled list in July with right shoulder inflammation. He had a 2.45 ERA in his short stint with Cleveland and has owned an 0.82 ERA in Triple-A as a reliever.

To add some depth to the Indians’ bench, utility man Erik Gonzalez and catcher Adam Moore have been promoted. The Indians needed to purchase Moore’s contract to get him on the 40-man roster. In a corresponding move, outfielder Collin Cowgill has been designated for assignment.

Gonzalez has hit .296 with 31 doubles and 53 RBI in Triple-A this season en route to earning a Triple-A All-Star bid and offers Indians manager Terry Francona a second utility player off the bench after Michael Martinez. Moore offers additional depth behind catchers Roberto Perez and Chris Gimenez.

Yan Gomes is slated to appear in a rehab assignment for Double-A Akron Friday and Sunday and is eligible to come off the 60-day disabled list on Sept. 16.

The Indians’ major-league roster now stands at 31 players.

To read more or comment...

OHIO.COM VIDEOS

Prev Next

Indians news, features and notes

Links

ROSTER

STATS

SCHEDULE

AP NEWS