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Indians 6, Reds 2: 12 Walk-Off Thoughts on Josh Tomlin’s resurgence, Carlos Santana-Manny Ramirez

By Ryan Lewis Published: July 24, 2017

Here are 12 Walk-Off Thoughts after the Indians’ 6-2 win against the Cincinnati Reds Monday night.

1. Following his outing on July 1 in Detroit, another rough day, Josh Tomlin sat down with pitching coach Mickey Callaway to go over film. That video revealed that Tomlin was lifting his leg a bit too far toward second base, and it was throwing off his command. Specifically, he had lost a feel for his curveball, a pitch he needs to command to give hitters something off-pace from his fastball, cutter and changeup.

2. In the three starts since that adjustment? Tomlin has posted a 3.10 ERA and struck out 17 batters in 20 1/3 innings. Tomlin had a pretty rough start to the season and a very rocky June. But in his last three outings, he’s been the best version of himself.

3. Terry Francona: “When he’s going good, that’s what he can do. One walk, had a little run there where he got a little strikeout happy, six in a row. But he works ahead, we give up the solo, as we saw. Those were six really good innings. Doesn’t let things rattle him. In the first inning it looked like, and he gets double play and bam, here we go. Let our offense have a chance to get going a little bit and score some runs.”

4. Tomlin, along with Mike Clevinger, might be making an upcoming decision easier for the Indians. They currently have six starting pitchers in the rotation, and Francona has twice said that they won’t be able to do that forever. And knowing how Francona manages his bullpens, it likely won’t last much longer at all. Francona mentioned they’d like to get through one more turn in the rotation, but it might not even last that long.

5. Somebody is likely headed to the bullpen, barring a bigger acquisition prior to the trade deadline. Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and the newly returned Danny Salazar, who was just stretched out during his rehab assignments, aren’t going to the bullpen. Clevinger in his last six starts has a 1.36 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 33 innings. It’d be very difficult to oust him from the rotation right now. And Tomlin, with his strong outing on Monday, appears to now be on the right track after his film sessions a couple weeks ago. That would leave Trevor Bauer as the likely odd man out of the starting rotation, which does make some sense, as his stuff would likely play up a bit better than Tomlin in the bullpen when he only needs to worry about an inning or two.

6. The Indians possibly went to a six-man rotation, in part, because there wasn’t yet a clear choice as to who to send to the bullpen. Clevinger and Tomlin seem to be making that decision for them.

7. Carlos Santana belted two home runs, the eighth time in his career he’s hit multiple homers in a game and the fourth time he’s gone yard from both sides of the plate in the same night. He’s had a fairly slow season thus far, now hitting .241 with a .340 on-base percentage, 12 home runs and 55 RBI.

8. Santana said on Monday that earlier this year, he talked on the phone with familiar face to Indians fans: Manny Ramirez. Santana said that they like each other and Ramirez, who is in Korea right now, had a positive message for him.

9. Santana: “Months ago, I talked to Manny Ramirez about the hitting. Me and him, we have a good relationship. He’s in Korea now. He told me, ‘Be patient. It’s a long season.’ We called both [ways]. And he told me something positive. He told me to not worry about the past, worry about the present, [take it] one day at a time. Manny Ramirez is a great hitter, great player. I’ll listen a lot.”
10. Santana also mentioned Monday night that he might have been pressing earlier in the season due to his upcoming free agency. Santana had a $12 million club option picked up for the 2017 season, but he’s currently set to hit the open market this winter. Lately, he said he’s relaxed.

11. Santana: “Right now, I feel much better. Before, I tried too much, I was worried about, ‘I’m a free agent,’ and I tried too much. So a couple days ago, I thought about it like, try to enjoy [it]. My team, they need me. This is what I’m doing, trying to enjoy it and trying to work hard. I’m working hard every day, but not trying to try too much, put too much pressure on myself. That’s why I have felt much better the last five days.”

12. The Indians will have a decision to make on Santana, as well, at some point between today and when the offseason begins. Last year, he made it a slam dunk to pick up his club option (3.6 WAR, 132 wRC+). This season, and this situation, have been different. Perhaps Ramirez can help get Santana on a roll.

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Carlos Santana belts two home runs, Indians top Cincinnati Reds 6-2 to extend win streak to 4 games

By Ryan Lewis Published: July 24, 2017

CLEVELAND: The 1-5 road trip all of a sudden seems like it took place much longer than only a week ago.

The Indians topped the Cincinnati Reds 6-2 on Monday night at Progressive Field, extending their current winning streak to four games. That streak has helped to right the ship after a rough stretch following the All-Star break. It has also kept the Indians in first place in the American League Central division after their lead at one point was trimmed to a half-game.

The Indians (52-45) took an early lead and narrowly held it all night save for one half inning. Bradley Zimmer led off the bottom of the first with a double off the wall in center field against Reds starting pitcher Tim Adleman. After Francisco Lindor bunted for a single, Michael Brantley lined a ball to center field. Lindor had taken off for second base on the pitch and was doubled up by Reds center fielder Billy Hamitlon, but it was enough to score Zimmer from third and give the Indians an early 1-0 lead.

The Reds (41-58) finally got to Indians starting pitcher Josh Tomlin, momentarily tying it on Scooter Gennett’s solo home run in the top of the fifth. The deadlocked score didn’t last long.

In the bottom half of the inning, Roberto Perez with two runners on doubled off the center-field wall, scoring Carlos Santana, who led off the inning with a walk. Bradley Zimmer then scored Abraham Almonte, who had also walked, with a sacrifice fly to left field to put the Indians on top 3-1.

The Reds cut that lead in half in the sixth on Zack Cozart’s solo home run to the Home Run Porch that nearly hit the Pierre’s Ice Cream stand on the fly. Tomlin finished the sixth holding a 3-2 lead before the Indians turned to Andrew Miller for the seventh and eighth innings. Cody Allen then notched his 18th save of the season in the ninth.

Tomlin (7-9) worked an efficient six innings, allowing two runs on four hits and one walk. He threw 72 pitches and struck out six batters, the two home runs being the only damage against him. It continued his solid stretch of pitching over his last three outings, which have come after he and pitching coach Mickey Callaway reviewed film of his delivery.

Carlos Santana belted a solo home run to lead off the seventh inning, extending the Indians’ lead to 4-2. Later in the inning, Zimmer ripped a single to center field to score Giovanny Urshela, who, following the theme, had walked.

An inning later, Santana added a second home run, giving him 12 for the season. It was the eighth career multi-home run game of his career. Santana was also named the Most Outstanding Player for the Ohio Cup after he hit three home runs and drove in six during the series.

Monday’s game was a makeup of a postponement from May 25. The Indians will next welcome the Los Angeles Angels for a three-game series.

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Indians ace Corey Kluber’s dominant season by the numbers; Kipnis runs; Jackson to return

By Ryan Lewis Published: July 24, 2017

CLEVELAND: The battle for the American League Cy Young is becoming a two-man race.

If the season ended today, there’s really no question that Boston’s Chris Sale would win it. He’s been the most dominating pitcher in the AL all season. Indians ace Corey Kluber, despite missing roughly a month with a strained lower back, is the lone pitcher still in the frame as August nears and two months of baseball remain.

Consider Kluber’s season by the numbers. In the American League, he’s second in fWAR (3.9), FIP (2.47), ERA (2.74) and K/9 (12.38). In all four categories, Kluber is second to Sale. Kluber is third in Wins Probability Added with 1.65—Sale is first. Perhaps most impressive, Kluber is third in total strikeouts with 149 despite missing several weeks. Guess who’s first? Sale.

Kluber seems to have separated himself from the rest of the pack, but he’s still chasing Sale. Since June 1, though—the day Kluber was activated off the disabled list and in reality the first outing he pitched free of a back issue or trouble with calluses—he’s been the best the AL has to offer. In that time, he’s posted a 1.52 ERA and 108 strikeouts in 71 innings. Sale has recorded a 2.13 ERA in that time to go with 90 strikeouts in 63 1/3 innings.

He’s also been taking down records from the 1940s seemingly every time he takes the mound. He added another on Sunday, notching his 10th consecutive start with at least eight strikeouts, which broke Bob Feller’s franchise-leading mark of nine in 1946.

Hit the ground running

Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis did some light running and hitting on the field prior to Monday’s game as he continues his rehab from a strained hamstring. Outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall, out with a calf injury, also did some on-field work.

“They are kind of graduating to like baseball [activities],” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “[Tuesday], Kip is going to take some ground balls. They are doing some things like left to right, maybe making some left turns. Just kind of graduate into the next set of volume, intensity. They're building into things before they actually do it on the field.”

Francona added that outfielder Austin Jackson will be activated off the 10-day disabled list on Tuesday. A corresponding move has yet to be announced. Jackson has been on the disabled list since June 27 with a left quad strain.

"When [Jackson] came back last time, he was hitting the ball to right-center with authority so it kind of gave us that bat, because he has never really been a huge split guy, versus left, versus right,” Francona said. “So you know, with Lonnie out, that can certainly help. We just have to get through the game tonight, and then figure out the best [route]. We already told him that he is going to be on, we just have to figure out the best way to get him on.”

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Indians 8, Blue Jays 1: 11 Walk-Off Thoughts on Corey Kluber’s records, Brandon Guyer coming through

By Ryan Lewis Published: July 23, 2017

Here are 11 Walk-Off Thoughts after the Indians’ 8-1 win against the Toronto Blue Jays.

1. It now feels like every time Corey Kluber takes the mound, he also takes down some additional record in the Indians’ books. On Sunday, he struck out a season-high 14 batters and allowed one run in 7 2/3 innings.

2. It was Kluber’s 10th consecutive start with at least eight strikeouts, which broke a franchise record previously held by Bob Feller, who accomplished that feat in nine consecutive outings in 1946. Every week or two, it seems as though Kluber has been taking down some franchise strikeout record from the 1940s.

3. And if you’re ready for an obscure Indians reference: Kluber has now notched five consecutive home starts in which he has allowed one or zero earned runs, the longest streak for an Indians pitcher since Aaron Laffey (!) recorded six consecutive such outings in 2008.

4. Since Kluber came back from the disabled list on June 1, he’s arguably been baseball’s best pitcher. Since that time, he’s posted a 1.52 ERA with 108 strikeouts in 71 innings. If only there could be some robotic-themed moniker to attach to his name.

5. Terry Francona: “Boy, we’ve seen him pretty good. He’s throwing the ball good, that’s for sure. He’s kind of set the bar pretty high. In this game, when you’re consistent, that’s a good thing. But once you set the bar and you’re consistent at that level, that’s a—he’s one of the best in the game. It’s nice when a guy reaches that point and continues to really get after it and work so he can even try to get better. We rely on him so much and he knows that. It’s nice to put his name in there every five days.”

6. Brandon Guyer came through with a bases-clearing double in the first inning that put the Indians up 4-0. And if any hitter needed that kind of a breakthrough, it was Guyer, who entered Sunday with his average below the Mendoza Line. Guyer was brought in at last year’s trade deadline as an outfielder who had a track record of crushing left-handed pitching. His 2017 season hasn’t gotten off the runway yet. It made that double a bit sweeter.

7. Guyer: “It’s amazing. It’s all I want to do, is try to help the team win. And I knew after that, putting up a four-spot in the first inning, with a guy like Kluber on the mound, odds are we’re probably going to have a pretty good chance to win the game. That felt good, felt good to come through and help the team win.”

8. Francona: “That was a big hit for us, really big. Because he was such a force for us the second half of last year. To get him, when he came back from being hurt, there hasn’t been a ton of at-bats. That’s why he left him in to face Smitty, just because we can get him going. He’s such a productive bat, especially against left-handers.”

9. Right field is an area in which the Indians could look to upgrade at the trade deadline. They were rumored to be connected with Detroit’s J.D. Martinez before he was dealt to Arizona instead. Though, the Indians could also already have the answer in-house, with Lonnie Chisenhall on the DL but having the best offensive season of his career and Guyer available against lefties. And if the latter find his swing, that platoon might be as productive as any hitter on the market, considering the cost of acquisition.

10. Michael Brantley hit his sixth home run of the season. It was also his first since April 30, a span of 54 games in which he continued to hit at a high level, but just not for as much power. Francona didn’t seem to be concerned.

11. Francona: “Yeah. I don’t get very shook up about however, when they come or things like that. I know that, kind of like Kluber, putting him in that three-hole. The way he plays the outfield, his at-bats, the quality of at-bats. Those types of—the home runs will come. But the gap power is probably more important than anything else.”

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Ace Corey Kluber dominant again, strikes out 14 as Indians down Blue Jays 8-1 to complete sweep

By Ryan Lewis Published: July 23, 2017

CLEVELAND: Another start, another franchise record broken by Corey Kluber.

Kluber turned in yet another dominant performance, and the Indians easily took care of the Toronto Blue Jays 8-1 on Sunday to complete the three-game sweep at Progressive Field.

Kluber, cruised all day, allowing just one run on five hits and two walks and striking out a season-high 14 batters in 7 2/3 innings. In doing so, Kluber notched his 10th consecutive start with at least eight strikeouts, setting a franchise record previously held by Bob Feller, when he struck out that many in nine consecutive starts in 1946.

Kluber rewriting the Indians’ record books, and thus moving Feller’s name down a spot, has become the norm recently, as he’s bested multiple streaks that had lasted since World War II or just after. Since he was activated off the disabled list on June 1, he’s been arguably the best pitcher in baseball.

“He’s one of the best in the game,” manager Terry Francona said. “It’s nice when a guy reaches that point and continues to really get after it and work so he can even try to get better. We rely on him so much and he knows that. It’s nice to put his name in there every five days.”

Kluber (8-3) had all the offensive support he’d need only six batters into the bottom of the first inning, as the Indians (51-45) put together a four-run first against Blue Jays starting pitcher J.A. Happ (3-7). Carlos Santana, Francisco Lindor and Michael Brantley all singled on four pitches combined to bring home a run. After Jose Ramirez walked to load the bases, Brandon Guyer cleared them with a double, putting the Indians up 4-0.

“That’s always nice,” Kluber said. “To score early is a big boost, let alone to put up four in the first. Kind of spreads things out early. It gives the pitcher a lot of room for error, but it also puts the other guy on the ropes.”

Guyer hasn’t been able to get going this season, hitting below .200 entering Sunday. It made his three-run double a bit sweeter.

“It’s amazing. It’s all I want to do, is try to help the team win,” Guyer said. “And I knew after that, putting up a four-spot in the first inning, with a guy like Kluber on the mound, odds are we’re probably going to have a pretty good chance to win the game. That felt good, felt good to come through and help the team win.”s

In the sixth, Brantley belted a a two-run home run, extending the Indians’ lead to 7-1. It was his sixth home run of the season and first since April 30, a span of 54 games. Lindor, in the fourth, and Yan Gomes, in the seventh, each added RBI singles.

The three-game sweep comes after a rough 1-5 road trip in which the Indians averaged just 2.7 runs per game.

“It was a good three games,” Guyer said. “We just gotta keep clicking on all cylinders. That’s what we did these three games. It’s good to see and that’s the team we think we can be.”

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Bradley Zimmer’s impact with his speed, arm have center field covered for the Indians

By Ryan Lewis Published: July 23, 2017

CLEVELAND: The Indians’ outlook for the future in center field looks much brighter than it did a few months ago thanks in part to rookie Bradley Zimmer’s defensive play. And thus far, it’s been his foot speed and arm strength that have him ranked among baseball’s best. 

Zimmer has mostly held his own at the plate, hitting .257 with a .320 on-base percentage, five home runs, eight doubles, 27 RBI and 10 stolen bases in 57 games. But it’s his defense that has kept him in games, even when the Indians have a lead and are facing a left-handed pitcher.

As the numbers show, Zimmer has ranked near the top of the league in two categories. The first is his speed. According to Statcast, Zimmer has the second-fastest sprint speed in baseball at 30.0 feet per second. Only Cincinnati’s Billy Hamilton, at 30.1, bests him. At 6-5, 220 pounds, it’s a big frame to move that fast, but it’s suited him well while roaming center field.

“It’s his speed that has done everything,” bench coach Brad Mills said. “And he’s still learning hitters. But he’s been able to pick up on that fairly quickly. His ability to make adjustments [has been impressive], and then you add his speed and his arm strength, and he’s been able to take off.”

The second category is his arm effectiveness. Zimmer had the hardest-thrown assist in baseball this season when he fired a 101.5 mph missile on June 18. And, according to FanGraphs’ Outfield Arm Runs metric, which measures “the amount of runs above average an outfielder saves with their arm by preventing runners from advancing,” Zimmer ranks second in baseball with 7.1 this season, trailing only Boston’s Mookie Betts (8.1) among all outfielders.

It is worth noting that for a defensive metric, 408 2/3 innings entering Sunday makes for a very small sample size. Defensive metrics can be rife with “noise,” or statical variance, and sometimes demand a season or two of data. But it is worth noting that in the early going, Zimmer has made an impact with his arm strength, not just his foot speed, in center field, something that has been evident in a couple of different ways. And what has impressed Mills isn’t just his arm strength, but how quickly he’s able to get rid of the ball for having such a lanky frame.

“That’s what makes it over the top,” Mills said. “When you have an arm but you take a long time to wind up and get rid of it, the baserunner is eating up distance during that time. He still has to be able to get rid of the ball.”

Brandon Guyer played alongside Kevin Kiermaier in Tampa Bay, often considered one of the elite defensive outfielders in the game. He’s alerady seen some of Kiermaier in Zimmer.

“I had the pleasure of playing with Kiermaier, and he’s right up there with him,” Guyer said. “The arm strength definitely comes to mind. Overall speed. Jumps. Route taking. All of it. I think they’re both among the best center fielders.”

Zimmer has made his fair share of diving, highlight-reel catches, which don’t include the number of plays he makes look easy because he can get to balls many outfielders can’t. Mills thinks the best is yet to come.

“In Oakland, [Zimmer] goes, ‘I feel like I’m out in the middle of nowhere, this field is huge,’” Mills said. “That’s just the way he felt with all that space. He’ll get more comfortable with the outfielders he’s playing with and the fields he’s playing on. So, with more adjustments and the more experience he gets, I think we’re going to see better plays than he’s made already.”

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Indians 2, Blue Jays 1: 13 Walk-Off Thoughts on Danny Salazar’s return, Francisco Lindor’s atonement

By Ryan Lewis Published: July 22, 2017

Here are 13 Walk-Off Thoughts on the Indians’ 2-1, walk-off win against the Toronto Blue Jays Saturday night.

1. Saturday marked the return of Danny Salazar from the disabled list. It also might have marked the addition to the starting rotation the Indians have needed and might be searching for on the open market.

2. The Indians’ rotation this season has been top heavy. Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco have been a strong 1-2 punch, but after them, the rotation has been laced with question marks. The Indians could look to add a top-tier starting pitcher at the trade deadline. Though, they also might be able to add one in-house in Salazar, who hadn’t looked like himself until tonight.

3. Salazar tossed seven scoreless innings, allowed one hit, faced the minimum and struck out eight. He was electric, hitting 98 on the gun in the first inning. His 86th pitch of the night clocked in at 97 mph and froze Josh Donaldson.

4. Indians manager Terry Francona: “Boy, that was pretty impressive. We talked about it before the game, best-case scenario, that was it. He came out throwing strikes. He had velocity. He attacked. That was really impressive. That was really impressive.”

5. Francona added, on his velocity: “I don’t think it was just the time off. I think it was hard work. He did so many drills. Even things like trying to get him strong on that back side, almost doing some infield drills. Like a backhand, setting your feet just to kind of get him to drive the ball home where he’s not just using his arm. You could tell by the way he threw, that he was using his legs tonight which was really good.”

6. Salazar mentioned before he went to the minors and on the DL that his confidence might not have quite been where he needed it to be. Francona had said Salazar had lacked the aggressiveness the Indians were used to seeing.

7. Salazar: “That was great, especially my last two games in the minor leagues in my rehab process, they were amazing. Attacking the zone, feeling good, not feeling soreness or anything. As soon as I walked out there, I just tried to be aggressive and attack the zone and use my fastball. That was really big for me tonight.”

8. That Salazar showed up, and he could be the Indians’ answer to the starting rotation, filling one of the major needs on the roster (and without giving up a couple of prospects). If Salazar can return to where he was in the first half of last season, he’s about as valuable as any starter the Indians could acquire. It was only one start, but it was about as good as it possibly could have been.

9. And, some added context: Salazar’s 98.7 mph pitch to Donaldson in the first inning was the hardest pitch he’s thrown this season. Considering it took some time for his velocity to return, this was a pretty good sign. His outing on Saturday also marked just the sixth time since 1913 that an Indians pitcher threw at least seven scoreless innings with one or fewer hits, no walks and at least eight strikeouts. The Indians, possibly in the market for a starting pitcher, might have been holding their collective breaths to see what version of Salazar showed up. He’ll have to show it again, but they’re likely breathing a bit easier tonight.

10. And as it turns out, Francisco Lindor might be at his most dangerous at the plate after an error. A couple of times this season, he’s followed up a defensive miscue with a big hit—In Texas, to open the season, he followed up an error with two home runs, including a grand slam. On Saturday, his error could have been costly, though Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw managed to escape the inning unharmed. But it still obviously irked him on the field, and a few minutes later, he crushed the walk-off homer.

11. Francona: “He doesn’t make a lot of errors, but when he does, he kind of digs deep. He doesn’t run and hide. Run up to the mound to make that pitching change, he said something to Cody and then he came up and changed the game. That’s a good quality.”

12. It’s obvious that Lindor has often taken an error or miscue personally. Baseball isn’t like football, where if you get angry you can run through somebody. It isn’t easy to become upset and go outside of what you normally do and be successful. But he’s certainly shown some muscle when he’s been upset with himself—and, after a loss in which that has happened, he’s taken full responsibility for it.

13. Lindor: “I was on a mission, but I wasn’t trying to hit a home run. I was just trying to get on base and let Brantley, Encarnacion, and Ramirez finish the game. That was a hell of a job by Cody and Shaw picking me up. I felt so bad the whole entire inning. I was like ‘God don’t let us lose like that.’ We might lose, but I’m trying to lose the right way, not by making errors, whether it’s me or one of my teammates. The first thing I did when I got to the dugout was thank Cody and thank Shaw for picking me up.”

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Francisco Lindor hits walk-off home run, Indians top Blue Jays 2-1 in 10 innings

By Ryan Lewis Published: July 22, 2017

CLEVELAND: The storybooks would barely believe it.

Francisco Lindor committed an error in the top of the 10th inning that nearly cost the Indians dearly. A few minutes later, he crushed the walk-off home run in the bottom of the 10th, lifting the Indians to a 2-1 win against the Toronto Blue Jays.

And he did it just seconds before heavy rains hit Progressive Field that likely would have sent the game into a delay. Instead, a sellout crowd at Progressive Field celebrated in the rain, and Lindor was mobbed on the field.

It took some work for the Indians to get to the 10th inning.

Tied 1-1 in the ninth, the Indians turned to Cody Allen. Allen walked Darwin Barney to open the inning but received some defensive assistance from Michael Brantley. Jose Bautista hit a high fly ball to just short of the warning track in left field. Barney tried to tag and advance to second base, but was thrown out via a near-perfect throw from Brantley to record the second out of the inning. Allen then induced Russell Martin to ground out to send it to the bottom of the ninth still deadlocked.

The Indias’ defense didn’t help Allen in the 10th. Lindor bobbled a routine grounder, allowing Donaldson to reach on an error, and Allen walked Justin Smoak to put two runners on with no outs. Allen struck out Kendrys Morales and induced Steve Pearce to ground a ball to third. Giovanny Urshela stepped on third and threw to first, but Santana couldn’t make the pick at first base. That led to Bryan Shaw entering, who managed to escape the inning by getting Kevin Pillar to ground out.

A few pitches later, Lindor crushed an offering from Blue Jays reliever Danny Barnes an estimated 438 feet, creating his own from of rain just before the clouds opened up as he rounded the bases.

Danny Salazar returned to the mound on Saturday after being activated from the 10-day disabled list prior to the game. With his return came the hope that Salazar could again return to his 2016 form, in which he was pitching at a Cy Young level before succumbing to injuries. The Indians’ rotation had been lacking consistency, and Salazar’s return would bring hope that he could fortify it and add a third dynamic arm behind Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco.

Saturday night’s start was about as optimistic as it could have possibly been. Salazar delivered not only the best start of his season but one of the better outings of his career, tossing seven scoreless innings and facing the minimum. He allowed only one hit, a single to Kevin Pillar in the third inning, and struck out eight.

The Indians are hopeful that Salazar can again find the dominance he enjoyed through half of 2016. His return was a productive first step.

One aspect Salazar was lacking early in his rehab was his velocity. That wasn’t an issue Saturday night. Salazar fired 12 fastballs in the first inning, including one that clocked in at 98.7 mph, according to Statcast. It was the fastest pitch Salazar had thrown all season. His 86th pitch of the night, in the seventh inning, was delivered at 97 mph and froze Josh Donaldson.

Though, one pitch after the conclusion of Salazar’s dominating outing, the Blue Jays tied it. Andrew Miller entered in the top of the eighth and had his first pitch of the game pulled down the right-field line for a solo home run by All-Star Smoak. Just like that, the lead was gone.

One night after a 13-run game that included an eight-run explosion in one inning, the Indians’ offense was again relegated to a whisper for most of the night. Facing Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman, they broke through in the fourth. Lindor walked and advanced to third on Brantley’s single to right field. With runners on the corners, Edwin Encarnacion grounded out to third, allowing Lindor to score and the Indians to take a 1-0 lead.

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With Danny Salazar’s return, Indians to go with six man rotation—for now

By Ryan Lewis Published: July 22, 2017

CLEVELAND: The Indians have one too many starting pitchers on the major-league roster, but for at least a short stretch, will be sticking with a six-man rotation.

Danny Salazar was officially activated from the 10-day disabled list on Saturday. Lefty Ryan Merritt, who was in the bullpen as insurance, was optioned down to Triple-A Columbus. Still, it leaves the Indians with six starting pitchers and, most likely in the not-so-distant future, will warrant a decision as to who is the odd man out.

The rotation now includes Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Josh Tomlin, Trevor Bauer, Mike Clevinger and Salazar. According to manager Terry Francona, the Indians will see how it goes one time through the rotation with all six starting pitchers getting an outing. But, eventually, someone is likely destined to lose their spot due to the logistics of managing the bullpen through a long season.

“I can’t see us staying like that forever,” Francona said. “We may do it for the time being. My guess is that there will be a need arise that we have to get back to five just because if you’re going six, there’s no room for someone to have a hiccup, or you kind of get into your bullpen too much.”

The Indians could be giving a six-man rotation a try in part because there isn’t a clear course of action. Clevinger is the only one who could be optioned down to Triple-A, but he’s been fantastic since joining the rotation in Salazar’s absence, owning a 1.36 ERA in six starts. It’d be difficult to alter his place on the club now.

That then leaves Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer. Tomlin has been better recently, in part thanks to his reviewing film with pitching coach Mickey Callaway, which revealed that he was overturning his leg toward second base in his delivery. Tomlin and Bauer—along with Clevinger—have each pitched in the bullpen preciously in their careers, though Bauer would likely benefit to a greater degree of being able to just pitch and not worry about getting through 5-6 innings. Bauer’s stuff could play up more in the bullpen.

It won’t necessarily only be the top five starting pitchers who keep their spots. How one might do in the bullpen, only focused on an inning or two at a time, is another variable.

“You can’t just take the five that are maybe doing the best at the moment and shoveling one guy to the bullpen,” Francona said. “That may not help over the course of the next month. Those are all things that we would certainly think about.”

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Indians 13, Blue Jays 3: 11 Walk-Off Thoughts Edwin Encarnacion’s night, Trevor Bauer’s situation

By Ryan Lewis Published: July 22, 2017

Here are 11 Walk-Off Thoughts after the Indians routed the Toronto Blue Jays 13-3 Friday night.

1. The fireworks are still going off as this is being typed, which isn’t the worst metaphor to what we just watched. After a frustrating 1-5 road trip that included 16 runs total, the Indians—of course, because it’s baseball—exploded for 13 runs Friday night, which included an eight-run seventh inning.

2. That’s sort of been the story of this offense all season. Everyone knows a night like this is in there. On paper, it’s a strong lineup, even with Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall on the DL. That also has played a part in fueling the frustrating for fans to endure a road trip like this past week’s. And, all season, it’s been written that eventually, they should hit their stride. It was only one night, but they certainly found it for a couple hours. And, they need it more often. They have time, but that is not an endless well.

3. Indians manager Terry Francona: “He picked us up tonight. Once he did, sometimes the hitting can get contagious and tonight was one of those nights. It was good. We’re playing from a deficit and so many times that’s been really difficult for us. Tonight, not only did we come back, but then we spread it out. That’s a good way to play.”

4. Edwin Encarnacion had a terrific night, driving in four runs and hitting his 20th home run of the season. He’s now slugged at least 20 home runs in six consecutive seasons. He’s also now homered against all 30 MLB teams. In April, Twitter was ablaze with many upset the Indians spent so much money on him. It was pointed out ad nauseam that this was his regular season arc. And, here he is with more than two months to go, hitting .261 with 20 HRs, 59 RBI and a 129 wRC+.

5. Trevor Bauer labored through five innings, allowing three runs on six hits and four walks while striking out six. After the game, he was again frustrated by saying his opponent hit good pitches, a common theme this season.

6. When asked if he was fighting something, Bauer shrugged and said, “I don’t know.” He added: “Gave up a leadoff double, worked my way around it. Got exactly… I walked Smoak on purpose. Faced Morales, got exactly what I wanted, a weak ground ball and it find the hole. Next inning, I got a bad swing on a changeup that finds a hole for a double. Get the next three guys out. They made productive outs and scored a run. I don’t know. Executed a good pitch (to) Tulowitzki, he hits a leadoff double. I was able to get around that one. Just one of those days.”

7. Bauer then rejected a reporter’s notion that tonight’s win might have been soothing to see the offense come together for a night. It had to have been a relief to see so many runs put up on the board. Later, when asked about his last outing and if it can be difficult to put it in the rear-view mirror prior to the next start, essentially asking if tonight was sweeter because of it, Bauer said, “I’d be happy to talk about tonight’s outing.” It doesn’t always seem like it.

8. On Saturday, the Indians will have some decisions to make when Danny Salazar is activated off the 10-day disabled list. It’s probably the most  likely scenario that Ryan Merritt heads back down I-71 to Columbus. The next question is how the Indians handle their rotation.

9. They could use a six-man rotation for a while, but eventually, Mike Clevinger, Josh Tomlin or Bauer could be headed to the bullpen. Clevinger could be optioned down, but for the most part he’s been lights out in Salazar’s absence. It’d be difficult, right now, to oust him from the rotation. Tomlin, meanwhile, has had some rough stretches but has shown improvement over his last few starts, which have come after he met with pitching coach Mickey Callaway and reviewed some film, which revealed he was over-rotating his leg lift toward second base. That leaves Bauer, who has admitted to “searching for answers” all season. He hasn’t quite put things together and probably makes the most sense to be the odd man out once the Indians resume a five-man rotation. And, compared to Tomlin, his stuff could play up a bit more in the bullpen, where he can really let it go.

10. Abraham Almonte slugged a three-run home run in the seventh and also had a triple Friday night. It wasn’t a 505-foot bomb like he hit in Oakland, but Almonte has picked up the pace. The Indians have had a turntable in the outfield this year—currently, Lonnie Chisenhall and Austin Jackson remain on the DL. They’re currently carrying a four-man outfield, so Almonte stands to receive some increased playing time. He’s beginning to gain some traction with it, though it likely will last only as long as the DL remains stacked.

11. Erik Gonzalez has quietly been hitting .296. He has two home runs, four doubles and four RBI in 15 starts, and that’s while playing above-average defense at shortstop, second base or third base. He’s a slick-fielding defender and if he’s hitting, is an especially quality player. He’s also in an interesting spot, with rumors swirling that the Indians could add a utility player at the deadline. They might want Gonzalez to receive regular playing time in the minors, but in a vacuum, they have a pretty good one already.

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Indians pour it on in 13-3 rout of Toronto Blue Jays

By Ryan Lewis Published: July 21, 2017

CLEVELAND: Like a cup of ice that holds its position for far too long before every piece charges all at once, the Indians’ offense finally flowed on Friday night.

Following a frustrating week along the West Coast of not being able to come through in the key moment, the Indians’ offense found what it was looking for in Cleveland—and then some. The Indians trailed for much of the night, though that was all forgotten after a four-run fifth and an eight-run seventh propelled them to a 13-3 win against the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday night at Progressive Field.

The Indians went 1-5 during their recent road trip, averaging just 2.7 runs per game. They hit .203 (41-202), which dropped to .148 (8-54) with runners in scoring position.

Upon returning home Friday night, the key hit they had lacked so many times on the road finally arrived. And once it did, the Indians poured it on, scoring 12 unanswered runs, racking up a total of 15 hits and finishing 8-for-13 with runners in scoring position.

The Indians entered the fifth trailing 3-1 against Blue Jays starter Marco Estrada (4-7). Abraham Almonte led off the inning with a triple, and Roberto Perez followed with a walk. Erik Gonzalez cut the lead in half with an RBI single to right field and was later followed by Michael Brantley, who tied it with a fielder’s choice.

With two outs and two runners in scoring position, Edwin Encarnacion gave the Indians their first lead of the night, ripping a double into the gap in left-center field to put the Indians up 5-3. Earlier, Encarnacion belted a solo home run, his 20th of the season, to center field. That home run marked the sixth straight season in which he has hit at least 20 home runs. He also has now homered against all 30 teams.

Encarnacion wasn’t done, adding an RBI single to right field off Blue Jays reliever Jeff Beliveau in the seventh. He finished 3-for-4 with four RBI and a walk and was a triple short of the cycle.

The Indians (49-45) weren’t done, either. Jose Ramirez added an RBI double to left-center, Santana singled home a run and Almonte highlighted the inning with a three-run home run to right, pushing their lead to 11-3. Bradley Zimmer finally joined the fun, ripping a two-run single to right to cap the night.

Indians starting pitcher Trevor Bauer (8-8) labored early on but lasted five innings, allowing three runs on six hits and four walks and striking out six. Bauer allowed leadoff doubles in each of the first two innings, eventually leading to an early 2-0 deficit. He settled down from there, holding the Blue Jays at a 3-1 advantage prior to the Indians’ breakthrough fifth, when they took the lead, and their explosive seventh, when the game was put out of reach.

Friday night’s game drew 34,284 fans and marked the fourth sellout of the season for the Indians, who have also sold out Saturday’s game against the Blue Jays (44-52). Friday night also marked manager Terry Francona’s first game back in Cleveland since June 29 after he underwent tests and then a procedure to correct an irregular heartbeat.

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Salazar, Kluber expected to start in weekend series; Logan to miss “significant time"

By Ryan Lewis Published: July 21, 2017

CLEVELAND:     One starting pitcher who hasn’t yet looked like himself this season will get another look on Saturday at the major-league level, and the Indians are on pace to get their ace back on Sunday.

Danny Salazar has been on the 10-day disabled list, retroactive to June 4, with right shoulder soreness. Slowly, Salazar has built up his velocity and been lengthened out to a starter’s workload. He’s slated to throw Saturday’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays, a game the Indians have sold out.

Salazar, in reality, hasn’t been at the top of his game for more than a calendar year. He was in the thick of the Cy Young Race through the midway point last year before a series of arm injuries kept him sidelined until the World Series. This season, he came out looking healthy in April but has struggled to a 3-5 record and 5.40 ERA, though he also owns a terrific 12.55 K/9 rate.

"[It's] been a while. Been a while,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “And by all accounts, he's done a really good job on his work in his rehab. If we get him back and get him back like he can pitch, that's when it can get exciting.”

Kluber, meanwhile, was scratched this week from his scheduled start Friday night as he dealt with a neck issue. Barring a setback, he’s on pace to start Sunday’s game. Trevor Bauer started in his place on Friday, and Salazar’s return gives Kluber an extra day.

“He’s doing OK. I think he’s on pace to pitch Sunday,” Francona said. “I think we just want to make sure after he throws his side that doesn’t have a re-occurrence or things like that. [Josh] Tomlin’s ready in case. I think all things are pointing to Kluber pitching on Sunday.”

Exit stage left

The Indians on Friday placed left-handed reliever Boone Logan on the disabled list with a left lat strain. In his place, the club promoted lefty Tyler Olson.

According to Francona, it could be a lengthy absence for Logan, one of the Indians’ free-agent additions this offseason who has posted a 4.71 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 21 innings this season. He left Wednesday’s game with the injury, and isn’t expected back any time soon.

“[Logan is] going to also go get another opinion, which can’t ever hurt,” Francona said. “But I think, at the minimum, he’s going to miss significant time. There’s not really anything other than that right now. He tore that muscle. He’s going to be down for a while.”

Olson has spent this season with Triple-A Columbus, owning a 3.32 ERA and 52 strikeouts in 33 appearances. He’s held lefties to a .132 average and fits into the left-handed matchup role.

“He's a guy that we were talking about for a long time, but there just wasn't a place for him,” Francona said. “You never want it to happen like this, but we are excited to see him pitch."

Salazar’s addition to the active roster on Saturday will warrant a corresponding move. Mike Clevinger has been strong in Salazar’s absence. Ryan Merritt is also in Cleveland as insurance for the bullpen. With Merritt there as another lefty, Olson could potentially have a short stay in the majors, though he nicely fits a role now vacated by Logan. The Indians could go with a six-man rotation for a while, but a decision looms on whose place Salazar takes.

Just getting started

Second baseman Jason Kipnis (hamstring) and outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall (calf) have resumed baseball activities but according to Francona, are only at the very beginning of their rehab. Erik Gonzalez has been receiving additional time at second base and the club called up Giovanny Urshela to add depth to the infield. Meanwhile, the Indians are playing with four outfielders on the roster, including Michael Brantley, Bradley Zimmer, Brandon Guyer and Abraham Almonte.

"You know, both he and Lonnie have kind of just started, initially, baseball activities, just kind of easing into it,” Francona said. “But they're still weeks away, not days. But at least they have initiated some of the baseball activities which is good."

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Tigers 5, Indians 3: 16 Walk-Off Thoughts on Corey Kluber’s laboring, Jose Ramirez’s torrid streak

By Ryan Lewis Published: July 10, 2017

Here are 16 Walk-Off Thoughts on the Indians’ 5-3 loss to the Detroit Tigers on Sunday night.

And, here's a look at what went right and what didn't in the first half.

1. Corey Kluber won the battle in the fifth, but the Tigers had already won the war. Kluber, with the bases loaded in a tied 1-1 game, struck out Justin Upton. But, it took him 101 pitches to get to that point. The Indians chose not to send him out again for the sixth, instead going to Nick Goody, which is about when the late night turned sour for the home crowd.

2. Kluber was still terrific—five innings, one run, eight K’s—even if he never had his normal command. His effectiveness was there, but it cost him in his pitch count. He had gone at least seven innings while allowing no more than one run and striking out 10 in four consecutive starts, but couldn’t last long enough to make it a fifth.

3. Bench coach Brad Mills: “Yeah, he did and then he had to work so hard there in the top of the fifth. It was 30 pitches, had traffic all over the place. I haven’t talked to him, but he just didn’t get settled in. It was like I said, there was traffic and he had to work to get out of those innings there.”

4. Kluber: “Yeah they put together some good at-bats. I didn't’ have, I’d say, my best command tonight. But they put together a lot of tough at-bats and they did a good job of extending some counts and had a lot of base runners in a couple innings. I was able to keep it to just one run but they were able to get the pitch count up pretty good.  … Yeah, you’d like to be on perfectly every time out there. That’s not realistically the case. Sometimes you gotta find a way to battle through it and try to keep things to a minimum and keep the team in the game. We were able to get a run there to tie it up and then almost come back later on in the game.”

5. Kluber, along with Jose Ramirez, have pretty much carried the Indians for the last six weeks or so. Kluber enters the All-Star break fifth in the AL strikeouts, and he essentially missed the month of May. He also owns a nice 0.73 ERA in his last five starts. Kluber dealt with calluses in his first start and then for roughly a month pitched through back stiffness. Since he’s returned from the DL sans injuries, he’s been nearly untouchable. Kluber is still maintaining his back with some extra between-start exercises. As long as he remains healthy, he’ll remain in the Cy Young conversation.

Notebook on Jason Kipnis heading to the DL

6. Ramirez, meanwhile, is arguably the hottest hitter in baseball entering the break. And, statistically, he’s been one the game’s top-10 hitters this season thus far. The fans voted him in, but Ramirez deserved to start for the American League regardless. Since June 1, he’s hit .382.

7. Kluber: “It seems like he gets better and better every day, whether it be at the plate, in the field. I think he constantly is finding ways to help us win, which is to me I think that’s the ultimate compliment.”
 
8. For the season, Ramirez ranks in the top-7 in all of baseball in batting average (3rd, .332), slugging percentage (5th, .601), OPS (6th, .988), wRC+ (7th, 157) and fWAR (6th, 4.0).

9. He is on an absolute tear, and to this point, looking at this season, he’s been the game’s best third basemen. Need more? Here’s a complete list of hitters with a better slugging percentage than Ramirez:

Aaron Judge
Joey Votto
Cody Bellinger
George Springer

10. That’s quite the list of power, and Ramirez is next on it. The fans voted him in, but Ramirez has earned every cent of that plane ticket to Miami.

11. Mills, on Ramirez: “I think when, and again with this ballclub, you see how the players love him and they respect him for what he is meant to them and this club. I’ve talked about how they talked about when he was announced the starting third baseman… But you get in a situation where here’s a guy, like I said last time, never gives up on an at-bat and he’s there battling every once out of a ballgame. He’s going to give everything he can to the ballclub to help win games. He hit that home run tonight to really draw us close and he’s just been special the whole year.”

12. Lonnie Chisenhall left the game Sunday night with a right calf injury. Mills, after the game, called it a mild strain. Chisenhall first thought it was a cramp but had to exit.

13. Mills: “In the first inning, he broke on a ball to back up first base. He felt a little grab in his calf, his right calf. He thought it was just like a cramp. And then he came in, I think it was the next inning, he hit the groundball double-play and it got worse and he still thought it was a cramp. Now it seems like it’s going to be more like a mild type strain, type thing.”

14. So, the Indians enter the break 47-40 and in first place in the Central. It’s where teams want to be, even if it hasn’t lived up to the expectations in the clubhouse. The Indians are still searching for that consistency, though nothing that’s happened in the first half of the season dissuaded their standing as the clear favorite in the division.

15. Mills: “That’s the biggest thing. Just trying to get consistent and put things together. Last year, everybody talks about the 14-game streak. At the same time, if we could just play consistently and win the games we need to do, have good at-bats in big situations, kind of like we have, really the last three games coming into tonight. We’ve battled real well. That’s the big thing. Just getting a little bit more consistency and move on from there.”

16. Kluber: “I think it’s easy to say that consistency would be nice. I think throughout a 162-game season, things aren’t always going to be ideal. You have to find ways to grind through it and win games. We’ve won 47 and lost 40 at this point, so things could definitely be worse but I think we still feel like our best baseball is ahead of us.”

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Indians’ bullpen hit hard after Corey Kluber’s exit in 5-3 loss to Detroit Tigers

By Ryan Lewis Published: July 9, 2017

CLEVELAND: Corey Kluber delivered yet another strong outing, but the Detroit Tigers were able to outlast him and pounce on the bullpen in a 5-3 loss for the Indians on Sunday night at Progressive Field.

Kluber allowed only one run on three hits and three walks and struck out eight, but the Tigers were able to make him work for it, as he ended the fifth inning with over 100 pitches thrown.

Kluber was forced to bend but did not break in that fifth. With the score tied 1-1 and two runners on, Kluber walked Alex Avila to load the bases for Justin Upton. Kluber escaped, blowing his 101st pitch of the night past Upton to keep it tied.

Kluber won the battle, but the Tigers (39-48) might have won the war. The Indians chose not to send Kluber back out for the sixth, as he was already up over 100 pitches, and instead turned to Nick Goody (1-1). From that point, the Tigers finally broke through.

Two walks and a single loaded the bases with one out before the Indians handed the ball over to Dan Otero. Alex Presley lined a double that landed about a foot on the fair side of the left-field line, scoring two and giving the Tigers a 3-1 lead. Jose Iglesias followed by chopping a ball off the ground and high enough in the air to secure an infield single, scoring another run.

The Tigers added on in the seventh. J.D. Martinez singled, advanced from first-to-third on a stolen base and a throwing error on Yan Gomes and scored on Nick Castellanos’ single to left field.

The Indians punched back in the bottom of the seventh against Tigers starting pitcher Michael Fulmer (9-6). Edwin Encarnacion, who earlier registered an RBI-double, singled before Jose Ramirez crushed a two-run home run to right, continuing his scorching hot season in which, statistically, he has arguably been one of baseball’s 10 best hitters. As Ramirez rounded the bases for his 17th home run of the season, echoes of “Jose, Jose, Jose, Jose” rang out at an October-level fever pitch.

Two singles forced Fulmer’s exit and brought the go-ahead run to the plate, but Tigers reliever Shane Greene quickly recorded three consecutive outs, which ended with Bradley Zimmer being frozen for strike three with runners on the corners.

The Indians (47-40) threatened in the eighth but came up empty. Three walks intertwined with a fly-out and a fielder’s choice loaded the bases with two outs, setting up a matchup between Carlos Santana and Tigers closer Justin Wilson. It was Wilson who came out on top, inducing a weak groundout to third base to end the inning with the Tigers still leading 5-3.
In the ninth, Zimmer singled with two outs to give Francisco Lindor a chance as the tying run, but Wilson (10 saves) struck him out to end it.

Lonnie Chisenhall left the game midway through the game with a right calf injury and was replaced in right field by Brandon Guyer. No further details were available during the game.

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Indians place 2B Jason Kipnis on 10-day DL with a strained hamstring, recall 3B Giovanny Urshela

By Ryan Lewis Published: July 9, 2017

CLEVELAND: The Indians on Sunday placed second baseman Jason Kipnis on the 10-day disabled list with a strained right hamstring and recalled third baseman Giovanny Urshela from Triple-A Columbus.

Kipnis came up hobbling while trying to beat out a ground ball in Saturday’s 4-0 win against the Detroit Tigers. He immediately reached for his right hamstring and walked off the field slowly before being taken out of the game. Afterward, bench coach Brad Mills described it as a “mild” strain.

The Indians at this point don’t have much of a clear timeline for his return beyond 10 days.

“How long is it going to be? Well, at least 10 days,” Mills said on Sunday. “And we’ll see. It’ll probably, maybe be a little worse than a mild hamstring, but sometimes those take a little time, longer than the 10 days if necessary. We’ll see how it progresses and so forth as we move forward.”

Kipnis has had a rough season, one that started with him on the disabled list while he rehabbed from right shoulder inflammation. Kipnis this season is hitting .232 with a .693 OPS, eight home runs, 26 RBI and five stolen bases.

No timetable for his return has been given.

The Indians will be able to play Urshela at third base, which would move Jose Ramirez to second base, or have Erik Gonzalez receive more playing time as a starting second baseman. On Sunday night, it was the latter option. Gonzalez, known first for his defense and his ability to play multiple positions, is also hitting .313 in 50 plate appearances this season.

“Well I think we see the progression he’s making all the way through,” Mills said of Gonzalez. “We’ve seen when he’s been up here before and each time he comes up, it seems like there’s a little bit more growth in the way he plays the game on both sides of the ball, defensively and offensively. And he’s starting to gather that experience and that growth as he gets older. And it’s showing.”

Urshela this season at Triple-A has hit .266 with six home runs, 12 doubles and 34 RBI in 76 games. His addition affords the Indians some flexibility with the lineup until Kipnis returns.

“Gio had played not just third base. He’s played some short as well,” Mills said. “We also have Jose Ramirez, who can play second base and has played short as well. Gonzy has played short and all over the infield. Well, this adds another piece so we can move around that infield a little bit more.”

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Mike Clevinger wins duel, Indians top Tigers 4-0

By Ryan Lewis Published: July 8, 2017

CLEVELAND: Mike Clevinger and the Indians went toe-to-toe with Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers Saturday night. The pitcher with less name recognition, but much more hair, won the duel, as the Indians topped the Tigers 4-0 on Saturday night before a sellout crowd at Progressive Field.

Clevinger (5-3) delivered one of the best outings of his young career, allowing only three hits and walking two in six shutout innings. He also struck out. Only one runner reached second base with him on the mound, that being J.D. Martinez, who opened the second inning with a double but advanced no further as Clevinger quickly recorded the first two outs and then struck out Mikie Mahtook to end the threat.

Clevinger’s night continued a strong last month, in which he’s allowed no more than two earned runs in any start. On June 6, his season ERA stood at 4.09. As he walked off the field on Saturday night, it had dripped to an even 3.0.

The last out—which might have been his biggest of the night—came with a price. With two outs in the sixth, Miguel Cabrera came up to the plate with Alex Avila as the tying run on first base. With Andrew Miller warming in the bullpen, the Indians chose to stick with Clevinger, who was facing Cabrera for the third time. Cabrera made solid contact, hitting a ball back up the middle that struck Clevinger and dribbled away. Clevinger corralled it, threw Cabrera out at first base and walked to the dugout to a large ovation from the home crowd.

The Indians (47-39) brought home their first run of the night with a quick, two-out rally in the fifth. Francisco Lindor extended the inning with a single to left field. He then took off for second base on a pitch to Michael Brantley, which Brantley drilled into the right-center field gap to easily allow Lindor to score from first.

In the eighth, facing Tigers reliever Bruce Rondon, the Indians added some insurance. Carlos Santana doubled to right-center, scoring Lonnie Chisenhall, who drew a walk in an 11-pitch at-bat, from first. Bradley Zimmer followed with an RBI-triple to the right-center field gap a few pitches later. Yan Gomes then scored Zimmer via a sacrifice fly to center field, putting the Indians on top 4-0.

The Indians’ bullpen put forth another shutdown performance. Andrew Miller pitched two scoreless innings in the seventh and eighth, and Cody Allen worked the ninth, which became a non-save situation thanks to the three-run eighth.

The Indians might have received some bad news, though, in the third inning. Jason Kipnis tapped a ball back to Verlander (5-6) on the mound. While running out the play, Kipnis came up hobbling just before he reached first base and then walked off the field slowly.

Kipnis exited the game with a right hamstring injury and was replaced by Erik Gonzalez. There were no further updates during the game.

With Saturday night’s sellout in their 44th home game of the season, the Indians topped 1,000,000 this year at Progressive Field. Last year, it took 52 home games to top 1,000,000 fans.

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Indians continue offensive surge, pound Detroit Tigers 11-2

By Ryan Lewis Published: July 7, 2017

CLEVELAND: The Indians’ offense hasn’t been able to find consistency for several weeks. The Detroit Tigers seem to trying to help out with the cause.

The Indians on Friday pummeled starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann and continued the beat down against the bullpen, easily taking down the Tigers 11-2 at Progressive Field on Friday night.

The Indians’ last game against the Tigers—Sunday in Detroit—ended in an 11-8 win in Detroit. The Indians (46-39) also put up 11 runs on Thursday night against the San Diego Padres.

Facing Zimmermann (5-7), the Indians up five runs in the third. After Jason Kipnis doubled and Francisco Lindor singled, Michael Brantley ripped a double down the right-field line to make it 2-0. Two batters later, and with two outs, Jose Ramirez beat out an infield single, scoring Brantley from third and extending the inning. That brought up Lonnie Chisenhall, who slugged a two-run home run to right field, capping the five-run third.

It gave Chisenhall 12 home runs and a team-leading 51 RBI this season.

The Tigers (38-47) chipped away against starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco, cutting the Indians’ lead to 5-2. But against the Tigers bullpen in the bottom of the sixth, though, the Indians put it away.

Bradley Zimmer, who notched his first career three-hit game Friday night, led off the inning with a solo home run, his fifth of the season. With two runners on, Lindor drove a two-run triple into the right-field corner and Brantley followed with an RBI-single.

Lindor added an RBI-single an inning later. With Jason Kipnis on third, Brantley lined out to right fielder J.D. Martinez, who nonchalantly threw the ball in to Ian Kinsler. Kipnis, meanwhile, went back to third, tagged up and sprinted for home, just beating Kinsler’s throw with a head-first slide, putting the Indians on top 11-2.

Carrasco (10-3) allowed just two runs on nine hits and struck out 11 in seven innings. It was his 12th career double-digit strikeout game and the second this season. In the fifth, he also registered an “immaculate inning,” striking out the side on nine pitches. It was only the second immaculate inning in franchise history, after Justin Masterson delivered the first in 2014. According to stats guru Ryan Spaeder, it was the 86th immaculate inning in baseball history.

Victor Martinez singled in the second inning, which marked his 2000th career hit. Martinez, who played with the Indians from 2002-2009, received a standing ovation from the Indians’ crowd.

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Indians ace Corey Kluber will not pitch in the All-Star Game; Danny Salazar making slow progress

By Ryan Lewis Published: July 7, 2017

CLEVELAND: Indians ace Corey Kluber will not pitch in this year’s All-Star Game.

Kluber, who earned his second All-Star selection via a vote from the commissioner’s office last week, is slated to pitch Sunday’s game against the Detroit Tigers. The 2017 All-Star Game, in Miami, is slated for two days later. That leaves a very short turnaround for a pitcher after making a start, particularly one who only about six weeks ago returned from a back injury.

The decision for pitchers who throw on Sunday to still pitch in the All-Star Game is now up to the player and team. But, in this case, it was an easy decision with Kluber’s health in mind. He and the club “were all on the same page.”

“There's a couple things that go into it,” Kluber said. “Number one, trying to be smart, just because of the fact that I missed so much time. Trying to be cognizant of that and also probably not ideal to pitch Sunday night and then all of a sudden try to turn around with a day of rest and try to get out the best hitters in the National League, even though the game doesn't count, so to speak.”

Due to Kluber’s recent stint on the disabled list, as well as his dominating stretch since June 1, the Indians haven’t yet determined the starting rotation after the All-Star break. With Kluber now getting a four days of rest during the break, it’s possible he could pitch on Friday, July 14 in Oakland. But, the club is waiting to see how he feels following Sunday night.

Another factor could be if the Indians want to push Kluber back a day, which means he wouldn’t have to bat when the Indians travel to San Francisco to play the Giants with National League rules.

“The good thing is we have [Carlos] Carrasco, [Trevor] Bauer and Kluber,” Callaway said. “I’m sure those three guys will pitch the first three games, we’re just not sure of the order yet. We’ll see how Kluber feels and if he feels like he needs an extra day, because we’ve been riding him hard since he came back.”

Slow progress

Danny Salazar was hit hard in his most recent rehab assignment. And although he isn’t where he needs to be, Callaway believes he’s taking steps toward returning to his normal self.

“It was really better than last time,” Callaway said. “Physically, he felt great. Still battling mechanics big time, throwing across his body at times too much because of the fluctuation in effort level and things like that. Really wasn’t getting his changeup and curveball where he wanted to. The things you’d see when a guy has been out for a while, especially Danny Salazar, who fights those things all the time.”

One positive sign, despite Salazar giving up three home runs in 3 1/3 innings, was his elevated velocity, which had dripped a bit in his previous rehab assignment.  

“I think he was up to 94-95 yesterday with a couple pitches,” Callaway said. “The last time, he wasn’t near that.”

Per Callaway, Salazar is slated to throw a bullpen session on Saturday before the club determines his next step.

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Indians manager Terry Francona undergoes procedure to correct heart arrhythmia, to return July 14

By Ryan Lewis Published: July 7, 2017

CLEVELAND: Indians manager Terry Francona underwent a cardiac ablation procedure on Thursday to correct an irregular heartbeat, the club announced.

The successful procedure was performed at the Cleveland Clinic. Per the Indians in a release, Francona is expected to make a full recovery and will be discharged within a day or two. He is expected to resume managing on Friday, July 14, when the Indians travel to Oakland following the All-Star break.

Thus far, Francona has missed four full games (the last three and June 27) and parts of two other games first due to symptoms that he reported as light headedness and an elevated heart rate and then to undergo further tests at the Cleveland Clinic to try to diagnose what was causing them.

After he had to exit the dugout on June 26, which then led to his missing the game on June 27 due to president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti’s orders, Francona was given a heart monitor. The arrhythmia was detected due to the monitoring of Francona’s heart over the last couple of weeks, according to the club.

The Indians have also informed Major League Baseball that he will not manage the All-Star Game in Miami on July 11.

His absence, of course, has been noticeable in the clubhouse.

“We think about him all the time,” said Josh Tomlin after Thursday’s game. “He’s probably still got a big part of what is going on in here on a daily basis. I think he’s probably not too happy in the hospital on a daily basis. We keep in contact. The guys on the team text him and we talk to him, just kind of keep him in the loop, talk to him. We need him at the helm here, there’s no doubt about it. He’s a huge part of our success, he knows the game, he knows the players really well, and his presence alone has that sense of calm in the dugout. We obviously want his health to be fine first before he comes back, but we’re itching at the bit to get him back, no doubt about it.”

Antonetti said earlier this week that no plans had been made at that time to add a member to the coaching staff. Bench coach Brad Mills has been acting as manager in Francona’s absence.

The Indians will have cards for fans to sign on the concourse for tonight’s game.

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Indians 11, Padres 2: 13 Walk-Off Thoughts on Jose Ramirez’s running, Josh Tomlin, Terry Francona

By Ryan Lewis Published: July 7, 2017

Here are 13 Walk-Off Thoughts after the Indians’ 11-2 win against the San Diego Padres.

1. Jose Ramirez can’t stop hitting. He went 3-for-5 on Thursday with a home run, his 16th of the season, and three RBI. He now has 14 three-hit games this season, more than any other hitter. His 48 extra-base hits now leads the majors and are the most by an Indians player prior to the All-Star Game since Jim Thome had 53 in 1998.

2. Some more of his stat line, along with his major-league ranks as of this typing: .330 BA (6th), .382 OBP (6th), .597 slugging (6th), .980 OPS (6th), 155 wRC+ (5th), 3.8 fWAR (6th). Bottom line, he’s without question been one of the 10 best hitters in baseball this season, at least statistically. Sitting behind Edwin Encarnacion, Ramirez has been the Indians’ MVP of the first half, along with ace Corey Kluber.

3. Lately, though, he also can’t seem to stop being thrown out on the bases. It’s been a weird pattern. He is on base all the time, but he’s been uber-aggressive trying to take the extra base and several times in the last week or so has been nailed at third or home plate.

4. Ramirez and bench coach Brad Mills came back with jokes after the game.

5. Ramirez, via translator Anna Bolton: “So what’s happening is I’m drinking a little bit too much coffee. I’m going to have to tell Miguel to stop making so much coffee because it’s making me a little crazy.”

6. Mills: “We had all kinds of guys wondering if he made the All-Invisible team or something. We were thinking about making sure the bases were 90 feet, not 95. You want a guy to be aggressive and take the extra base. When it starts adding up obviously and you’re not swinging the bat like he is, it becomes an issue. But at the same time, being thrown out on a consistent basis, that’s not exactly, we want to kind of be under control a little bit more.”

7. Aggressiveness on the base paths has often been something the Indians have liked. Perhaps Ramirez has taken it to the extreme. But if he keeps slugging like he is, maybe the Indians live with the it and take another three-hit day.

8. Josh Tomlin turned in gem of an outing, his first positive start since early May. He allowed two runs in seven innings and struck out six. And, he had his normal command, something he seemed to have temporarily lost.

9. Tomlin: “It’s huge for me being a guy who isn’t very powerful, so I have to control the count as much as I can. Obviously, there’s certain situations where you don’t want to control the count, you want to pitch around guys. But for me, controlling the count and following Gomer’s glove is huge. We were able to do that tonight, I was able to command the ball and fortunately enough I was able to go deep into the game and help us win the game.”

10. After his last start in Detroit, Tomlin said he’d get with pitching coach Mickey Callaway to go over some video. He had been struggling with his strike-to-ball ratios and was giving up some crooked-numbered innings. On Thursday, Tomlin ran into trouble in the fifth and was able to at least limit the damage to two runs, which with a five-run lead, is closer to what he’s been looking for.

11. Tomlin: “Mechanically, I was a bit off. Getting with Mickey and talking to all the starters, we all watch each other’s bullpens every time we go out there. Getting feedback from Jason Bere, Mickey, all the starters that watch our bullpen, Kluber, Carrasco, Bauer, Clev, they’re all out there when we’re throwing bullpens. If they see something that’s off and there was a lot that was off for me, they just talk to you about it. The time in between is when you try to work on that kind of stuff. Even the throwing program. I think the throwing program is probably the most important part of your day, especially if you’re not getting off the mound. That was a huge part of kind of understanding what I was doing, kind of flying open, front side was a little bit weak, wasn’t using my legs to drive off the mound. Hearing all these things, then trying to put into effect in the bullpen after you hear all that stuff, and then transitioning to the game whenever you’re trying to compete, trying to get outs, sometimes it can be a little bit difficult. That’s what we tried to work on in Detroit a little bit before that Detroit game, but it was still a little bit off. So that work in between is huge for me and for all of us starters, to try to get that feel, that sync, that connection with your body to try to make everything feel good. I think once you get that mindset of everything working right, it’s just the conviction comes back in your pitches. That’s huge for a starting pitcher or any pitcher for that matter.”

12. Indians manager Terry Francona was again away from the team. It’s the third consecutive game he has missed as he undergoes further testing at the Cleveland Clinic. For the most part, there hasn’t been much of an update since Tuesday afternoon, when president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti met with reporters. His expectation was that Francona would miss a couple games, but beyond that, there wasn’t a clear time table. It goes without saying the hope in the clubhouse is that he can return as soon as possible.

13. Tomlin: “We think about him all the time. He’s probably still got a big part of what is going on in here on a daily basis. I think he’s probably not too happy in the hospital on a daily basis. We keep in contact. The guys on the team text him and we talk to him, just kind of keep him in the loop, talk to him. We need him at the helm here, there’s no doubt about it. He’s a huge part of our success, he knows the game, he knows the players really well, and his presence alone has that sense of calm in the dugout. We obviously want his health to be fine first before he comes back, but we’re itching at the bit to get him back, no doubt about it.”

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Indians break out of offensive slump, Josh Tomlin delivers a gem in 11-2 win against SD Padres

By Ryan Lewis Published: July 6, 2017

CLEVELAND: If the Indians could have painted a picture of what they had been trying to accomplish this entire week, with the first two games of the series only leading to frustration,  Thursday night’s 11-2 win against the San Diego Padres probably wouldn’t be too far off from what would have ended up on the canvas.

Eleven runs, including three in the first that ended up being all they would need. Three home runs. A terrific outing from Josh Tomlin, who had also been struggling for a couple weeks. A well-rounded game to avoid the sweep.

The Indians (45-39) lost the first two games to the Padres (36-49) in this series, totaling just two runs and leaving a small army on the base paths. It led to bench coach Brad Mills admitting the offense might be pressing and trying to do too much. It also warranted Francisco Lindor saying he wasn’t pleased with his own performance, and that he and the lineup weren’t getting it done.

They loudly reversed that course on Thursday night. Facing Padres starter Dinelson Lamet (3-3) in the first inning, Lindor with one out singled up the middle. He then came around to score on Michael Brantley’s RBI-double to right field. With two outs, Jose Ramirez slammed a two-run home run to right-center field, giving Tomlin and the Indians an early 3-0 lead.

The Indians loaded the bases two innings later and pushed their lead to 5-0 via sacrifice flies off the bats of Lonnie Chisenhall and Bradley Zimmer.

The Indians then had a mini home run derby. Edwin Encarnacion in the fifth drilled a solo home run to center field. His 18th home run of the season traveled an estimated 423 feet, per Statcast. An inning later, Yan Gomes launched a home run to center field of his own, one that bested Encarnacion’s by 10 feet and reached the second row of trees.

Later in the inning, Encarnacion added an RBI-double and Ramirez capped a three-hit, three-RBI night with an RBI-single. Encarnacion finished 4-for-5 with two RBI. The four hits matched a career high.

In the eighth, the pile-on continued with a two-out, two-RBI double by Chisenhall, giving him 49 RBI this season.

Tomlin (5-9) allowed only two runs on four hits in seven innings to go with six strikeouts. It was his best outing since he allowed one run in eight innings on May 12 in a 1-0 loss to the Minnesota Twins. Tomlin had struggled through June, posting a 6.75 ERA in 25 1/3 innings.

Mills acted as manager on Thursday night as Francona remained at the Cleveland Clinic to undergo further tests. It was the third straight game Francona has missed. The exact timetable for his return remains unclear.

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Padres 6, Indians 2: 11 Walk-Off Thoughts on a Francisco Lindor, frustration, some slumps

By Ryan Lewis Published: July 6, 2017

Here are 11 Walk-Off Thoughts after the Indians’ 6-2 loss to the San Diego Padres.

1. With good reason, Frustration seems to be the Word of the Day with regard to the Indians’ lineup. On Tuesday, the Indians went 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position and left seven men on base. On Wednesday, it was 4-for-15 with RISP and nine left on base. Fourteen hits, only two runs.

2. In fact, in a way, the offensive frustration could be historic. Per the club, Wednesday night marked the first time the Indians had that many hits with fewer than three runs scored in a nine-inning game since August 7, 1949. That game was against the St. Louis Browns.

3. With the exception of a few double-digit explosions in a couple games over the last few weeks, the Indians’ offense has been stagnant to stay the least. An 11-run barrage surrounded by 11 runs combined in 5-6 games. The chances have often been there, but the timely hit has not arrived.

4. The thing that often comes up when a lineup that looks like this one on paper struggles is if hitters pressing, trying to do too much, expanding their strike zones, etc. Perhaps that’s the case now.

5. Bench coach Brad Mills: “There’s no doubt. Maybe some guys possibly could be putting a little pressure on themselves or they want to be the one to break out of it and start getting those hits with runners in scoring position. And so they kind of expand the zone, I think we saw that a little bit tonight, expanding the zone a little bit. When there weren’t runners in scoring position, the guys didn’t feel that necessarily. The at-bats showed it because there were some pretty good at-bats. Abe’s first day back, the way he swung the bat, that was pretty good to see that. [Gonzalez] had a couple hits. Josie, he just continues to swing the bat really well.”

6. Francisco Lindor had a nice night on Wednesday, going 3-for-5 with two doubles and two RBI. But he’s been struggling about as much as anyone since the beginning of June. He hit .214 with a .600 OPS in June and was 2-for-17 in July entering Wednesday night. He also made his sixth error of the season, which comes a night after an odd defensive mistake helped to lead to the Padres’ only run in their 1-0 win over the Indians.

7. For a star, as Lindor has become at such an early age, he’s now mired in the biggest slump of his major-league career, and it’s been at the plate and in the field. He earned an All-Star bid, but for his expected level of production, he’s continued to sink well below it.

8. Lindor: “It’s tough. It’s tough. I guarantee we’re trying. That might by why we’re not scoring. We might be trying a little too hard. It’s just our pitching staff is doing their job and all us hitters are not doing it. I’m not doing my job on the defensive side and I’m not doing it on the offensive side either. We’re going to try to turn it around. We’re still in first place, but we’re not satisfied with how we’re doing right now. We just gotta continue to compete, play the game hard and hope for the best.”

9. He went on to say the club just needs to get the ball rolling. They’ve had spurts of success—like drilling Justin Verlander and the Tigers for 11 runs on Sunday—but haven’t been able to sustain it. It’s amazing they’re still able to be in first place, but it doesn’t mean they are where they want to be record wise or performance wise.

10. Lindor: “All you gotta have is a little success. When you have a little bit of success, it gives you that confidence where you just trust yourself. Whether it’s a broken bat single or a rollover to second base and the guy scores, that makes you feel a little better. We’re just going through that point in the season where guys are struggling, I’m struggling. We’ve got to continue to compete, continue to work as hard as we can and back each other up no matter what. We’ll be fine, trust me on that. We’ll be fine. We’re going to score some runs and we’re going to be successful. It’s just a matter of, when are we going to start doing it?”

11. The story with the Indians has pretty much remained the same for the last month or so: they’re fine in terms of their standing in a weak division, but are playing under expectations. Lindor and others have been trying to turn it around for quite some time. The All-Star break is next week. Perhaps they can break through afterward.

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Indians’ lineup remains quiet in 6-2 loss to San Diego Padres

By Ryan Lewis Published: July 5, 2017

CLEVELAND: Major League Baseball’s All-Star break doesn’t begin until Monday. Though, it seems the Indians’ offense might have already packed their bags and gone on vacation.

A lineup that found its groove in Detroit on Sunday has been silent since returning home. After being shut out on Tuesday, the Indians fell to the San Diego Padres 6-2 on Wednesday night at Progressive Field.

The Indians (44-39) went 3-for-12 on Wednesday night with runners in scoring position and left seven men on base in the first six innings alone. On Tuesday night, they went 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position in a 1-0 loss.

As Indians starting pitcher Trevor Bauer (7-7) danced out of trouble early, the lineup twice squandered doubles in the first two innings, one by Francisco Lindor and another by Abraham Almonte, who was activated off the 10-day disabled list prior to the game to replace Carlos Santana on the active roster, who was placed on the paternity list.

With Erik Gonzalez on third, finally, the Indians broke through, as Lindor lined a single back up the middle to give them a 1-0 lead. That hit snapped an 0-for-18 skid with runners in scoring position dating back to Sunday’s 11-9 win in Detroit.

Trailing 4-1 in the fifth, Lindor also doubled home a run, lining a ball off of Padres starting pitcher Luis Perdomo (4-4) that ricocheted into right field.

But, the Indians otherwise came up empty, failing to convert scoring threats in the fourth and sixth innings as well. Trailing 4-2 in the sixth, the Indians had the tying run on first with one out, but Jason Kipnis, who didn’t start the game due to neck spasms, and Erik Gonzalez each struck out to end the inning.

Bauer was able to escape a bases-loaded situation with one out in the second inning, striking out Carlos Asuaje looking and getting Luis Torrens to ground out to end the threat, but went on to allow four runs—three earned—on eight hits and two walks to go with seven strikeouts in five innings.

In the seventh, the Padres (36-48) added a bit of breathing room. Zach McAllister entered and quickly allowed a two-run home run to Cory Spangenberg, giving the Padres a 6-2 lead.

Indians manager Terry Francona did not manage Wednesday night’s game, as he remained at the Cleveland Clinic to undergo further tests in an effort to diagnose what has been causing his symptoms of an elevated heart rate and light-headedness. Bench coach Brad Mills acted as manager.

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Indians manager Terry Francona expected to miss a couple more days; Brad Mills to act as manager

By Ryan Lewis Published: July 5, 2017

CLEVELAND: Indians manager Terry Francona was again away from the club on Wednesday, and his absence is expected to continue for at least a couple more days.

Francona has been at the Cleveland Clinic undergoing further tests and evaluations to try to diagnose what has been causing the symptoms that have twice forced him to leave the dugout during a game, first on June 13 and then again on June 26. Including Wednesday’s game, Francona has now missed parts two games and three full games dealing with these symptoms, which as he has reported have included an elevated heart-beat and light headedness.

Francona also missed Tuesday’s game to undergo tests at the Cleveland Clinic. And per president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti, it’s expected that he won’t be back in the dugout for a few more days at least.

“Hopefully we are in the process of narrowing down what has been causing his symptoms and then that way we have have it corrected, and I’m confident we’re on that path,” Antonetti said. “He will not be with the team [Wednesday night] and at this point I don’t have a clear time frame for when he will return, but I think it will be at least a couple of days.”

Bench coach Brad Mills will continue to act as manager in Francona’s absence, as he has when needed thus far. Per Antonetti, the club has no plans at this point to add anyone to the staff.

“We've talked about it, but for right now, we'll keep the status quo,” Antonetti said of the staff. “Millsy and our coaches do an extraordinary job. They're really well prepared. That's one of the benefits of the way Tito manages his staff is those guys are all involved in everything day to day. Given what's happened, it's about as seamless as you could hope for, as seamless as you could expect.”

The Indians are home through this Sunday before the All-Star Game on Tuesday, July 11, which Francona is expected to manage. As of now, on determinations have been made as to whether that will change.

After he left the dugout on June 26, Francona wanted to return the next day, but Antonetti instead sent him home to rest. Francona is again itching to get back.

“[General manager Mike Chernoff] and I were over there for a while this morning and we talked about a wide-variety of issues from different trade conversations we’re having and things going on with the team,” Antonetti said. “So he’s actively engaged and actively itching to get back, but as I’ve shared with him, the most important thing for all of us is his health, his long-term health and we want to make sure we get him back healthy and ready to lead us the rest of the way.”

Roster moves

The Indians on Wednesday also placed Carlos Santana on the paternity list and activated outfielder Abraham Almonte from the 10-day disabled list.

Almonte, out since May 16 with a right biceps strain, is hitting .221 this season with a .660 OPS in 33 games.

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Padres 1, Indians 0: 18 Walk-Off Thoughts on two botched plays, Kluber’s night, The Joe West Show

By Ryan Lewis Published: July 4, 2017

Here are 18 Walk-Off Thoughts after the Indians’ 1-0 loss to the San Diego Padres Tuesday night.

1. If you wanted to see the anatomy of how to blow a perfectly good start from your ace, the Indians presented a pretty good blueprint for how to do just that.

2. Wasted scoring opportunities in which the Indians had a runner on third in four consecutive innings—including having the bases loaded once. A run essentially generated by two botched plays defensively, one of them by the Indians’ Platinum Glove shortstop. A 1-0 loss, with the one earned run only being half-earned, at most, by the starting pitcher.

3. The Padres lone run: a single, a walk, a fielder’s choice that could have been a double play, a fielder’s choice that could have been another double play, and a strikeout. Kluber did get himself into some trouble, but he also induced two ground balls right to middle infielders and a K.

4. The first ground ball was fielded by Francisco Lindor, who could have flipped it to a waiting Jason Kipnis at the bag. Instead, he turned to take it himself. As he said after the game, he had lost exactly where he was.

5. Lindor: “I was playing closer to the bag, ground ball right at me, I thought I was still close to the bag. I lost perception of how close I was to the bag and it’s another error that shouldn’t be happening. That was the game right there.”

6. The next ball, a surefire double-play grounder, was bobbled by Kipnis. They got the out at second, but the run scored, and that was it, even with Kluber dominating yet again.

7. Kipnis: “It just caught me in the palm a little bit, top-spinned a little bit more and caught me in the bad part of the glove and popped out right in front of me. At that point, I just had to rush and get one. That needs to be turned, though.”

8. Kipnis took the responsibly for the earned run, clearly upset with that sequence.

9. Kipnis: “Yeah, it's frustrating, especially to be the one who more or less f***** it up and to have it be a one-run game, it comes to the forefront even more. It's not like we're not capable of hitting with guys on base. It's not like we don't have the offense to do it. Just some nights, we press or we swing at the wrong pitches and don't get it done. Tonight was one of those games. It was unfortunate, because Corey pitched great. … He didn't let up an earned run. That's not an earned run. That's on me. That's on the defense. It's tough. It's impressive that he only needs one or two to get it done, so you don't want him to change anything. We'll make the adjustment. He keeps doing what he's doing.”

10. Lindor and Kipnis were both frustrated, due to the missed chances defensively and the men left stranded offensively. Playing one of the weakest teams in baseball at home with Kluber on the mound and walking away with a loss is sure to leave a bad taste.

11. Lindor: “Yeah. Definitely. It’s frustrating regardless, whether I made an error or somebody else made an error. It’s frustrating because Kluber goes out and gives it his best and gives us a chance to win. They score because of that and we couldn’t come through to help him out. That’s unfortunately tough. It’s a very tough loss, but we’ve got to continue to play the game the right way, continue to compete day in and day out. We’ll see what happens.”

12. Kluber allowed one run on five hits and one walk and struck out 10 in eight innings. Since coming off the disabled list one June 1, he’s posted a 1.24 ERA in seven starts. He pitched the first month or so, for the most part, with a bad back. He’s still having to maintain it with additional exercises between starts, but since working out that issue, he’s arguably been the best pitcher in baseball.

13. Kluber on Tuesday night became the first pitcher in franchise history to strike out at least 10 hitters in five consecutive starts. He had been tied with Bob Feller, who punched out 10-plus in four consecutive outings between 1938-39. He also became only the seventh right-handed pitcher to accomplish that feat since 1913, joining Max Scherzer, Pedro Martinez, Nolan Ryan, Dwight Gooden, Curt Schilling and J.R. Richard.

14. (Not that this ever needs to be pointed out anymore, but Kluber—again, he went eight innings, gave up one run partly due to some poor defensive and struck out 10—took the loss in Tuesday’s game, his only loss since June 1. It’s fine to list that stat, because sure, it’s there, but in terms of valuing a pitcher’s value based on it? Those days probably need to finally end and be dealt with for good).

15. Now, for The Joe West Show. In the seventh inning, Carlos Santana hit a ball down the first-base line. It was fair. A fan touched it. Santana was awarded a ground-rule double.

16. Yeah, the fan shouldn’t have touched the ball. It’s a big no-no. If you sit along the lines, you probably should pay very close attention to that. But, it happens. It’s a quick reaction. Half the time, it would have been a double anyway. It wasn’t the biggest deal in the world. He touched the ball, the TV cameras show him, it’s embarrassing, OK. This happens all across baseball.

17. But then it became abnormal. Joe West, the host of the Joe West Show, stopped the game so he could call a cop onto the field, point out the fan and have him removed from his seat. The cop talked with Joe, walked over to the fan, talked with him, and then they left his seat. Not sure if the fan was actually thrown out of the stadium or if he was just removed from his front-row seat, but he was escorted out to heavy boos from the the fans around him.

18. Yeah, don’t touch the ball if you’re not sure. But it’s already embarrassing. Most know not to do it. He surely does now. Not sure the right move was to walk from second base, call a cop onto the field, talk with him, delay the game, then have the guy removed. We have enough ump shows already. I’ll be cancelling my cable package.

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Indians ace Corey Kluber makes history in 1-0 loss to San Diego Padres

By Ryan Lewis Published: July 4, 2017

CLEVELAND: Indians ace Corey Kluber elevated his recent stretch to a plateau no other pitcher in franchise history has reached, but a lineup that came up short multiple times and a run of poor defensive plays led to a 1-0 loss to the San Diego Padres Tuesday night in front of a sellout crowd at progressive Field.

Kluber, who was named to his second All-Star team on Sunday and then won the American League Pitcher of the Month award on Monday, turned in another dominating start, allowing one run on five hits and one walk and striking out 10 in eight innings.

With the 10th and final strikeout coming against Padres outfielder Manuel Margot in the eighth inning, Kluber became the first pitcher in Indians history to ever record double-digit strikeouts in five consecutive starts. He had been tied with Bob Feller, who punched out 10-plus in four consecutive outings between 1938-39. After the record-setting strikeout, Kluber received a standing ovation from the crowd.

Kluber (7-3) also became only the seventh right-handed starting pitcher in baseball to accomplish that feat since 1913, joining Max Scherzer, Pedro Martinez, Nolan Ryan, Dwight Gooden, Curt Schilling and J.R. Richard.

The Padres’ lone run in the fifth was an earned run, but the Indians’ infield defense might take half the credit it. With two runners on and nobody out, Erick Aybar grounded a ball to shortstop Francisco Lindor. Instead of flipping it to Jason Kipnis at second base, Lindor ran it himself and stepped on the bag. Cory Spangenberg followed with a ground ball to Kipnis, who bobbled it and could only get the out at second base, allowing Hector Sanchez, on third, to score. Instead of two chances at a double play, the Padres (35-48) took a 1-0 lead.

The Indians (44-38) had their scoring chances early on, putting a runner on third in four consecutive innings against Padres starting pitcher Trevor Cahill. All four times, they came up empty.

Jose Ramirez continued his torrid stretch at the plate, ripping a triple to center field with one out in the second inning. Lonnie Chisenhall grounded a ball back to Cahill, who threw to first for the easy second out. As he did, Ramirez took off and was nailed at the plate to end the inning.

Carlos Santana singled and was helped to third base via a wild pitch and an error but was stranded there on Kipnis’ groundout to first base to end the inning. The Indians had two runners in scoring position in the fourth after Edwin Encarnacion walked and Ramirez singled and then advanced on a wild pitch. That inning ended with Chisenhall grounding out.

In the fifth, the Indians took it a step further and loaded the bases against reliever Jose Torres (5-2) as Bradley Zimmer singled, Kipnis reached via a fielder’s choice and Lindor walked. With two outs, Michael Brantley grounded a ball to shortstop Aybar and was beaten with the throw to first base in a bang-bang play.

In all, the Indians went 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position and left seven men stranded on base.

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Indians manager Terry Francona to miss Tuesday’s game, undergo tests at Cleveland Clinic

By Ryan Lewis Published: July 4, 2017

CLEVELAND: Indians manager Terry Francona will not manage Tuesday night’s game against the San Diego Padres as he undergoes further tests at the Cleveland Clinic, per president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti.

Francona twice in June had to exit games due to symptoms related to an elevated heart rate, potential dehydration and light headedness. Tuesday night will mark the second full game he has missed this season, as he was also absent for the Indians’ game on June 27 when Antonetti told him to stay home and rest following his second episode the night prior.

According to Antonetti, Francona did not have an episode on Tuesday. Rather, he said, the doctors at the Cleveland Clinic are administering further tests to try to diagnose what has been causing Francona’s symptoms.

“Tito was actually at the ballpark [prior to the game] today,” Antonetti said. “He did his normal routine. He actually swam in the pool for a little while today. He felt fine, but he's now back at the Clinic to get some additional testing. There were no episodes today. It was just, again, in this effort of the doctors trying to narrow down exactly what's causing his symptoms, so he'll get some follow-up tests.”

There currently is no clarity as to whether Francona will miss any more games to undergo the needed tests, Antonetti said. Bench coach Brad Mills will act as manager whenever Francona is absent, as he has thus far when needed.

“We're concerned, obviously,” Antonetti said. “Anytime anyone has any sort of health issue, you're concerned. I don't think today changes that in any way. I'm actually hopeful and optimistic that we're beginning to learn what the root cause might be, and that once they can identify what the cause is, they can come up with a way to help Tito manage it moving forward.”

Antonetti added that there has been no indication as of yet that these symptoms will affect Francona’s ability to manage the American League in the All-Star Game in Miami the week of July 11.

“We'll continue to allow the great doctors that are caring for him to guide that process,” Antonetti said. “As I've continued to tell Tito, the most important thing is his health and that we focus mostly on that. If that means he has to spend a day or two away from the ballpark, then that's what he needs to do.”

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Indians ace Corey Kluber named AL Pitcher of the Month for June

By Ryan Lewis Published: July 3, 2017

Indians ace Corey Kluber on Sunday night earned his second American League All-Star selection. He added another accolade on Monday, garnering recognition for his dominating June by being named the AL’s Pitcher of the Month.

Kluber, who has now won this award three times in his career, dealt with a back issue for most of April and was then placed on the disabled list with a lower back strain. He was activated from the 10-day disabled list on June 1. Since that time, he’s arguably been the best pitcher in baseball.

Kluber in June went 4-0 with a 1.26 ERA and 64 strikeouts in 43 innings. Among qualified starting pitchers, per FanGraphs, he registered 2.4 WAR in June, leading baseball by a wide margin. Washington Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer, who was named the National League’s Pitcher of the Month, was second with 1.7 WAR.

Kluber in June led the American League in ERA, FIP (1.03), K/9 (13.4) and WHIP (0.67) en route to essentially forcing his way onto the All-Star team despite missing several weeks with his back injury.

“He literally pitched his way right—I mean, when you miss a month—I think his body of work over the years now and the way he’s been pitching lately, he’s an All-Star,” said Indians manager Terry Francona on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Kluber has continued to carve out his place in Indians history. After his 12-strikeout outing in the Indians’ 5-1 win against the Texas Rangers on June 29, it marked his fourth consecutive start with at least 10 strikeouts. That tied a franchise record, previously owned solely by Bob Feller since before World War II, when he accomplished that feat between the 1938-39 seasons.

Kluber now stands at 1,041 strikeouts, which has placed him in a tie for 10th place on the Indians’ all-time strikeouts list along with Luis Tiant. Per the Elias Sports Bureau, Kluber’s 64 strikeouts were the most in a single month by an Indians pitcher since Sam McDowell punched out 71 in May of 1970.

He also turned in one of best outings of his career on June 19, throwing a complete-game shutout in a 12-0 win against the Baltimore Orioles. He allowed only three hits, walked none and struck out 12. In the process, he became one of four pitchers in franchise history to allow three or fewer hits and no walks while striking out at least 11 in a complete-game shutout, joining Josh Tomlin in 2014, Len Barker in 1981 and Stan Williams in 1968.

Among qualified starters for the entire season to date, Kluber ranks in the top-4 in the AL in pitcher WAR (2.7), FIP (2.60), ERA (3.02), K/9 (11.76) and WHIP (1.00). Only Boston’s Chris Sale can say the same.

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Five Indians players selected to 2017 All-Star Game; Jose Ramirez to start at 3B

By Ryan Lewis Published: July 2, 2017

DETROIT: The Indians had five players selected to represent the American League in the 2017 All-Star Game, as announced Sunday night.

Third baseman Jose Ramirez, outfielder Michael Brantley, starting pitcher Corey Kluber, shortstop Francisco Lindor and relief pitcher Andrew Miller will all be making the trip to Miami for the All-Star Game, to be played July 11. That also includes manager Terry Francona and the entire Indians’ coaching staff.

Ramirez will be in the starting lineup for the American League at third base, having been voted in by the fans. Brantley, Lindor and Miller were all selected via the player’s vote. Kluber was added to the roster by the commissioner’s office.

The Indians’ five selections are the most for the club since they sent five to the 2004 All-Star Game.

“I sent [president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti] a message this morning and I just said, “I hope you’re proud,’” Francona said. “Because I think our organization has come a long way. And I’m going to be thrilled when you look around, and you see the five players, the coaches, I’m just happy for Cleveland. When people throw on the TV they’re going to see Indians stuff all over the place. I think the fans and the city and everybody should be really proud.”

Ramirez has built on his breakout 2016 season with a torrid 2017 season, emerging as one of the top third basemen in baseball. Ramirez’s 3.0 WAR entering Sunday, per FanGraphs, was first among third basemen and sixth among all position players in the AL, and that was before he hit two home runs and drove in four in the Indians’ 11-8 win. He’s now hitting .325 and leads the AL with 45 extra-base hits.

“He deserves it. If there’s one guy on the team that deserves it, he does,” Lindor said of Ramirez. “Every one of the guys that made it deserve it as well, but he’s been helping us win, day in and day out. I’m looking forward to seeing him opening the All-Star Game.”

Ramirez trailed Minnesota’s Miguel Sano in the fan vote, which determiners the starters in the All-Star Game, by more than 200,000 votes with only a few days left before Thursday’s deadline. Thanks to the fans, Ramirez charged back to win it. He will be the Indians’ first starting position player since Juan Gonzalez in 2001 and the club’s youngest since Sandy Alomar Jr. in 1990.

“It's something incredible. It's something incredible to have their support,” Ramirez said. “They supported me and supported me until the end, and I'm very, very thankful for that.”

Brantley is making his second All-Star appearance, this one with some extra meaning with it coming a year after he could only play in 11 games in 2016 due to multiple surgeries. Brantley essentially lost an entire year and had question marks surrounding his shoulder and future entering this season. He’s now headed to Miami, highlighting an emotional, lengthy road back to the lineup.

“It wasn't an easy road,” Brantley said. “Two shoulder surgeries. Not knowing whether you're going to be able to play again. To be able to represent the All-Star Game and represent the Cleveland Indians, it means a lot. A lot of hard work paid off.”

Brantley this season was hitting .304 with a .367 on-base percentage, five home runs, 15 doubles, 31 RBI and seven stolen bases entering Sunday. Francona tried not to be emotional while announcing Brantley’s selection to the team prior to Sunday’s game.

“It was probably the one guy where, I try not to get emotional out there because I don't want to embarrass myself, but because I know what he went through, and I don’t think he needs vindication or whatever, but boy what a nice honor,” Francona said. “All last year when we were in that playoff run, he was back in the training room doing his stuff. That’s not real glamorous to do. He stayed there during the winter. And now he gets to go represent the Indians as an All-Star. That’s incredible.”

Kluber is making his second consecutive All-Star team despite missing roughly a month of the season with a strained lower back. Kluber was the AL’s best pitcher in the month of June, posting a dominant 4-0 record and 1.26 ERA and striking out 64 hitters. Among qualified starters, Kluber ranks in the top-4 in the AL in pitcher WAR (2.7), FIP (2.60), ERA (3.02), K/9 (11.76) and WHIP (1.00). Only Boston’s Chris Sale can say the same.

“If you've watched the load he's carried for us and what he's done since he's come back from his back injury, it's kind of a no-brainer,” Miller said of Kluber. “He’s really, really good. He's as good as they get.”

Lindor has actually had a down year at the plate compared to 2016 but remains among the most valuable at his position, this season hitting .250 with 14 home runs, 23 doubles, 38 RBI and three stolen bases. But he’s also clearly established himself as one of the best all-around shortstops. He’s emerged as one of the faces of the game and a star in Cleveland. Thus, he was recognized by his peers, earning their vote for his second consecutive All-Star appearance.

“It’s extremely special. I really appreciate it,” Lindor said. “It means a lot to me. There’s not a day that doesn’t go by that I take that for granted. I respect everyone. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone in the All-Star Game over there, seeing the fans, seeing my teammates, it’s going to be a special moment.”

Miller has been, statistically, one of the top two relievers in the AL this season. Among qualified AL relievers, he ranks in the top-4 in pitcher WAR (1.8), FIP (1.60), ERA (1.49), K/9 (13.8) and WHIP (0.71). Only Boston’s Craig Kimbrel also ranks in the top-4 in each category. Like Kluber and Lindor, this will be Miller’s second consecutive appearance as an All-Star.

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Indians outlast Tigers 11-8; Jose Ramirez hits 2 home runs, drives in 4

By Ryan Lewis Published: July 2, 2017

DETROIT: The Indians’ offense unloaded on an opposing pitching staff for the second time in the last week. The latest victims? The Detroit Tigers and ace Justin Verlander.

Jose Ramirez hit two home runs, Lonnie Chisenhall added a round-tripper of his own and the Indians outlasted the Tigers 11-8 on Sunday at Comerica Park.

The Indians (44-37) tagged Verlander for seven earned runs, ending his day early. They proceeded to beat up on reliever Chad Bell, jumping out to an 8-1 lead by the end of the fourth and an 11-1 lead by the sixth.

Jose Ramirez had one of the best games of his still-young career, going 3-for-4 with two home runs, four RBI, four runs scored and a walk. It pushed his season totals to 15 home runs and 42 RBI. Ramirez slugged a solo home run off Verlander in the third and then took Bell deep for a three-run shot an inning later.

“It’s been fun to watch,” Indians manager Terry Francona said of Ramirez’s season. “It’s both sides of the plate. He gets so dangerous when he’s in one of these [runs]. It’s not just getting singles. He’s hitting the ball a long way. There’s a reason he’s sitting behind Edwin [Encarnacion], because that’s how dangerous he is.”

Lonnie Chisenhall put the Indians on top in the second inning, slugging a two-run home run to right field in a nine-pitch at-bat against Verlander. Carlos Santana drove in three runs on two doubles and Encarnacion added two RBI via a single and a rare triple.

Verlander (5-5) failed to record a strikeout, the first time in a start he’s done that since May 4, 2007, snapping a streak of 331 games. That was the longest active streak in the majors and was tied with Curt Schilling for the longest streak since 1913.

“You go into it trying to fight for everything and make him fight for everything, and we did a really good job of that,” Francona said. “He’s one of the most competitive pitchers you’re ever going to see. And we made him work for everything.”

The Indians also put up a double-digit offensive day last Monday against the Texas Rangers in their 15-9 come-from-behind win.

Working with a sizable lead for most of the day, Indians starting pitcher Mike Clevinger (4-3) cruised, allowing just one run on two hits and five walks in six innings. He also struck out seven.

Somehow, though, the Tigers came back to make it interesting in the ninth inning. Down 11-2 to start the inning, the Tigers hammered Boone Logan (5 ER) and Shawn Armstrong for six runs, highlighted by home runs from James McCann and then Nick Castellanos, the latter bringing the Tigers to within three runs.

With a runner on first, the tying run on deck and, somehow, it now being a ballgame, Cody Allen came on to record the final out, inducing Andrew Romine to ground out back to the mound to end the game.

“How many times do you give up six in the ninth inning and win?” Francona said. “It’s not going to put a damper on the day because we came out with good energy and played a good game.”

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Indians-Tigers doubleheader: 22 Walk-Off Thoughts on Bradley Zimmer’s highlights, Bryan Shaw, more

By Ryan Lewis Published: July 2, 2017

Here are 22 Walk-Off Thoughts after the Indians split their doubleheader with the Detroit Tigers on Saturday.

1. So, Bradley Zimmer is pretty ridiculous in center field. The Indians had always said they felt he had the skills to stay in center field. And he was always viewed as more of a center fielder than Clint Frazier. But, Saturday was a showcase of highlight-reel catches.

2. Zimmer made two Web Gem-level catches, one in each game. Both robbed Mikie Mahtook, who otherwise had a productive offensive day, even if Zimmer ruined it a bit. The first catch was great. The second was just about jaw-dropping, a fully-extended diving catch going to his left in the ninth.

 

The leap. The extension. The catch.

Braddy Long Legs can do it all. #RallyTogether pic.twitter.com/59kabp8pSk

3. Manager Terry Francona: “The good part of it is, whether a guy gets a double or a triple there, I mean [we have a three-run lead], but that’s one of the best plays I’ve seen all year. He got fully extended. He’s 6-5. If he’s 6-4, he probably doesn’t make it. The athleticism, that was [impressive]. After a long day at the ballpark, that was really fun to watch.”

4. Andrew Miller, who Zimmer saved with the second catch: “That's impressive. Off the bat, I was kind of hoping he'd have a chance to run under it, and then I saw where the ball was going and where he was and kind of chalked it to, 'All right, I need to make a pitch here.' He's an incredible athlete. It's been a lot of fun to watch. He's got a bright future ahead of him. His pure athletic ability right now is as good as it gets. It's a lot of fun. The catches he made today, he had some other ones as well. In the first game, he made the one where he layed out.”

5. It was known Zimmer had some good speed. But in the last week, it’s felt like he’s been able to really impact every game with his legs. He’s beaten out infield singles. He’s scored on wild pitches. He’s made several diving catches in center field—it wasn’t just Saturday, though this was the showcase. Zimmer is having a very strong rookie campaign, even if all AL rookies will be vastly overshadowed by what Aaron Judge is doing in New York.

6. Tyler Naquin had a strong rookie campaign, and he delivered arguably the most memorable moment of the 2016 season prior to November 2. But Zimmer is showing he has some serious staying power as the Indians’ long-term center fielder. He’s been the club’s top prospect for a couple years and with good reason. But he’s hit the ground running (and diving) thus far.

7. The other aspect of it—which has been covered before but after that display, bears mentioning again—is that Zimmer has been so good defensively that, while he is a lefty who in the minors struggled to hit lefties, that defensive ability will garner him more at-bats than he might have had otherwise. Especially when the Indians hold a lead, keeping Zimmer in center field for the final few innings will often outweigh the platoon advantage the Indians might gain with one at-bat.

8. Francona: “That’s why he was in there. They kept bringing lefties in but in that outfield, he’s too valuable out there.”

9. And, this hasn’t taken into account Zimmer’s arm, which strength-wise is above-average for a center fielder. He has room to grow in terms of accuracy, but he can get a lot behind the ball (he had the hardest-thrown outfield assist in 2017 a few weeks ago).

10. Now on to the other thing that dominated Indians twitter on Saturday: Bryan Shaw. Shaw blew up in the first game on Saturday, giving up three runs a half-inning after the Indians scored three runs to tie it. It was a really bad outing. It was the biggest reason the Indians lost that game.

11. But, Bryan Shaw, statistically, has been a very good relief pitcher this season. He’s been a very good relief pitcher for the past 4.5 seasons. The perception of Shaw being awful or needing to be cut really seems to be out of control. Perhaps it’s because yeah, when Shaw has a bad outing, it tends to be really bad. He had stretches last year where there was no in-between. It was six weeks of scoreless outings and then a 4-run debacle. That sticks in fans minds for sure.

12. But, Shaw for four straight years has appeared in 70+ games with an ERA of 3.24 or lower. That’s a valuable asset. Even after Saturday’s blow-up, Shaw this year has an ERA of 2.95, a WHIP of 1.29 and a FIP of 3.06. Very few teams, if any, have a third option in the bullpen with those numbers. It isn’t a preference toward Shaw or anything. It’s just that, statistically, he’s been one of the more reliable relievers in baseball for more than four years now. When it goes bad, it goes really bad. And that does stand out. But by ERA and FIP this year, Shaw has been a top-40 reliever among baseball’s 30 teams.

13. Carlos Carrasco followed up his clunker of an outing against the Rangers with a very strong performance on Saturday, allowing one run in seven innings and K’ing seven. Carrasco, looking at the entire season, has been the Indians’ most consistent starter. Saturday was closer to where he’s been all year.

14. Carrasco: “Sometimes we’re going to have some up and downs. We’ve been pitching good. Some days we have a bad day like my last start. But you get five days to the next start, just try to get them the best you can that day. Right now my teammates are starting to heat up a little more. I think everything’s coming together. I think we’re good for right now, just finish strong from the first half.”

15. Meanwhile, the Indians are trying to figure out what is ailing Josh Tomlin. Tomlin has struggle mightily as of late, and oddly enough it’s been his command which has been the issue. Tomlin has had some rough stretches in the past, but throwing as many balls as strikes for a couple innings hasn’t really been his issue. As a pitcher who relies on that command more-so than raw stuff, that presents an obvious problem.

16. Tomlin: “A tad bit off mechanically. I can tell that just by the way the ball is coming out of my hand. It doesn't really feel good coming out of my hand. It's not very crisp around the plate. That's something I have to figure out, work through and try to be better at it.”

17. Francona: “We’re always concerned about everybody. The best thing, the good side is we know he’s going to do everything in his power—work, and he was down there rooting for the guys after he came out. We’ve got to get him back to finding that comfort zone with his breaking ball. It’s like he was almost throwing through it. Some of them were backing up, he wasn’t commanding it. He and Mick will go have a side day in a couple days and keep battling. That’s the one thing, he’ll never stop.”

18. And finally, it wouldn’t be an Indians-Tigers series without some tension. James McCann was twice hit in the first game. Then, Carrasco hit Jose Iglesias in the second game. That led to Jordan Zimmermann throwing behind Carlos Santana in the first inning of the night game, which nearly caused a benches-clearing incident. Santana was upset, and they traded words.

19. Up to that point, Zimmermann had been cruising. The Indians had one hit through the first five innings. Then he threw behind Santana and one inning later, the Indians rattled off a four-run rally capped by Jose Ramirez’s two-run home run.

20. Francona: “A couple of their guys got hit. I just I don’t think you ever throw behind somebody. Looking back though, it might have been the best thing that happened to us. It woke us up and our guys really got after it from there. … “We played with a lot more energy. That’s a long day. We really picked it up. We talk so much about not backing down from a challenge. It’s easier to say it than to do it. I was really proud of our guys.”

21. Zimmermann said he wasn’t throwing at Santana, though, that’s often the pitch for pitchers who don’t want to be suspended or fined. Carrasco also said he wasn’t throwing at Iglesias, who was hit with a runner on second and two outs—and he's the No. 9 hitter, which gave Ian Kinsler a chance to bat.

22. Carrasco: “To be clear a little bit, I don’t want to hit anyone. I just want to get a ground ball to get an out. The game is 1-0, man on first, I don’t want to hit anyone. I was just trying to throw it inside to get a ground ball and I hit him. It’s part of the game. After that, I just started pitching a little more aggressive to get some people out.”

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Indians split double header with Tigers; Bullpen falters in first game, Carrasco dominates later

By Ryan Lewis Published: July 1, 2017

DETROIT: The bullpen faltered during the day before Carlos Carrasco dominated at night, as the Indians split their doubleheader with the Detroit Tigers on Saturday at Comerica Park.

After falling 7-4 in the first game, which was a makeup of their postponement on May 4, the Indians won the equalizer 4-1 under the lights.

Carlos Carrasco rebounded from a poor outing his last time out, allowing just one run on four hits and striking out seven in seven innings. Carrasco was hit hard by the Texas Rangers earlier this week for eight earned runs in 3 1/3 innings, though the Indians came back to win that game 15-9.

Tigers starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann cruised through the first five innings, though in the fifth, he threw behind Carlos Santana, which led to some angry words and nearly a benches-clearing incident. The Indians on Saturday hit three Tigers batters (James McCann twice, Jose Iglesias), potentially sparking the heated moment.

After Zimmermann and Santana traded words in the fifth, the Indians’ offense finally got him to in the sixth. Roberto Perez and Jason Kipnis opened the inning with a single and a double, respectively. Perez scored on a groundout via Michael Brantley to tie it 1-1. Edwin Encarnacion then gave the Indians a 2-1 lead with a single.

That led to the major blow, delivered by Jose Ramirez, a two-run home run that cleared the bullpen in right field. It was Ramirez’s 13th home run this season, as he builds his case to be included onto the American League All-Star team.

Cody Allen pitched a scoreless eighth before Andrew Miller earned his second save of the season in the ninth. The ninth inning also included a diving catch by Bradley Zimmer to rob Mikie Mahtook of extra bases. It was Zimmer’s second highlight-reel catch of the day, both coming against Mahtook.

Tigers 7, Indians 4

The Indians’ lineup battled to erase a late deficit but the bullpen couldn’t hold the Tigers’ offense at bay in a 7-4 loss.

The Indians entered the seventh inning trailing 4-1 but against the Tigers’ bullpen, which has been the club’s Achilles Heel for several seasons now, almost immediately erased that deficit.

Ramirez doubled and scored on Lonnie Chisenhall’s single to make it 4-2, ending Tigers starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez’s day. Seven pitches into Tigers reliever Daniel Stumpf’s outing, Santana tied it 4-4 by drilling a two-run home run the opposite way to right field.

But, that deadlock was short lived, as Bryan Shaw returned the favor in the bottom of the seventh. Shaw had been putting up solid numbers this season entering Saturday (2.31 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 2.91 FIP) but put forth one of his worst outings of the year, getting tagged for three earned runs on three hits and two walks. The go-ahead hit came via Nick Castellanos’ RBI-triple that scored J.D. Martinez, who walked to lead off the inning. Mahtook and James McCann later added RBI singles to answer the Indians’ three-run inning with one of their own.

“Yeah, up and not locating,” Indians manager Terry Francona said of Shaw. “Ball’s were out over and up. Castellanos swung the bat good all day. That’s a nice swing. When he hit the carom out there and went away for the triple, but it was going to be second and third anyway. Just had a hard time stopping the bleeding.”

Indians starting pitcher Josh Tomlin struggled with his command early, giving up four earned runs on eight hits and two walks. After barely escaping the first two innings unscathed, Martinez and Miguel Cabrera hit back-to-back home runs in the third to give the Tigers a 2-1 lead.

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Indians’ bullpen falters in 7-4 loss to Detroit Tigers

By Ryan Lewis Published: July 1, 2017

DETROIT: The Indians’ lineup battled to erase a late deficit but the bullpen couldn’t hold the Detroit Tigers’ offense at bay in a 7-4 loss Saturday afternoon at Comerica Park.

The Indians entered the seventh inning trailing 4-1 but against the Tigers’ bullpen, which has been the club’s Achilles Heel for several seasons now, almost immediately erased that deficit.

Jose Ramirez doubled and scored on Lonnie Chisenhall’s single to make it 4-2, ending Tigers starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez’s day. Seven pitches into Tigers reliever Daniel Stumpf’s outing, Carlos Santana tied it 4-4 by drilling a two-run home run the opposite way to right field.

But, that deadlock was short lived, as Bryan Shaw returned the favor in the bottom of the seventh. Shaw had been putting up solid numbers this season entering Saturday (2.31 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 2.91 FIP) but put forth one of his worst outings of the year, getting tagged for three earned runs on three hits and two walks. The decisive blow came via Nick Castellanos’ RBI-triple that scored J.D. Martinez, who walked to lead off the inning. Mikie Mahtook and James McCann later added RBI singles to answer the Indians’ three-run inning with one of their own.

“Yeah, up and not locating,” Indians manager Terry Francona said of Shaw. “Ball’s were out over and up. Castellanos swung the bat good all day. That’s a nice swing. When he hit the carom out there and went away for the triple, but it was going to be second and third anyway. Just had a hard time stopping the bleeding.”

Indians starting pitcher Josh Tomlin struggled with his command early, giving up four earned runs on eight hits and two walks. After barely escaping the first two innings unscathed, Martinez and Miguel Cabrera hit back-to-back home runs in the third to give the Tigers a 2-1 lead.

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Indians’ OF Michael Brantley working to maintain shoulder wellness, appreciates All-Star support

By Ryan Lewis Published: July 1, 2017

DETROIT: Indians outfielder Michael Brantley has turned in a strong first half to the 2017 season, helping to squash many concerns from this spring about how his shoulder might hold up with prolonged exposure to game speed.

Brantley entered Saturday’s doubleheader with the Detroit Tigers hitting .306 with a .371 on-base percentage, five home runs, 15 doubles, 30 RBI and seven stolen bases. After essentially missing the entire 2016 season dealing with shoulder and bicep issues, it has been about as good as the Indians could have realistically hoped for as he’s again remained a staple in the middle of the lineup.

Part of this positive stretch has come on the basis of some additional shoulder maintenance. Nearly every day, Brantley has incorporated some extra shoulder work into his pregame routines.

“One thing I'm learning really quick is it's not easy to miss an entire season and come back and play a full season again,” Brantley said. “You've got to do little stuff here and there to make sure you stay healthy. … It’s more stuff that you put into pregame, making sure you're ready to go, but at the same time, I'll do whatever it takes to stay on the field.”

Brantley does some form of rehab three days a week. On many other days, it’s a variance no how he stretches and “gets hot” for the game.

“It doesn’t take that long, but I have to make sure I do it every day,” he said.

Indians manager Terry Francona has often spoken to the trust that he has with Brantley and the communication with the medical staff. The club had to be careful with how hard they pushed him. Brantley doesn’t enjoy being taken out of the lineup, so the trust that he’ll let the club know when he needs one has been crucial.

“He's been really good and really honest, so when he tells me that he doesn't need it, I believe him,” Francona said. “I think maybe a couple years ago, that might have gotten him into a problem. I think he's enjoying playing so much that he wants to make sure he continues, but he's also worked hard enough to where he can do it. All I have to do is ask him. I really appreciate that. It's not always like that.”

Brantley could also potentially be named to the American League All-Star team on Sunday. As of the last voting update, Brantley was in fourth place among AL outfielders with 1,325,473 votes. That’s one slot outside of earning a starting spot as per the fan vote, even with Los Angeles Angels’ superstar Mike Trout (second place) likely out for the All-Star Game as he rehabs from thumb surgery. He’ll need to be selected but is among the potential contenders for one of the final spots on the roster.

Brantley said he doesn’t really pay attention to the All-Star voting updates. But he is thankful for the support.

“It's very much appreciated,” he said. “Hopefully, they know all the hard work it took to come back. I know they heard about it, but I'm just thankful, blessed and appreciative that I'm playing baseball again.”

All-Star coaches

With Terry Francona managing the AL All-Stars this year, it also means the coaching staff will be coming with him. He’s pleased that coaches not often as much in the spotlight will have a chance for some extra recognition.

I’m glad that our staff is going to be able to be recognized,” Francona said. “That doesn’t happen enough. They work so hard, and it always seems like it’s mostly behind the scenes. I’ll be happy for them that they get recognized.”

That will also include Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash, who has history with Francona.

“I don’t know what happened but Joe Torre called me a couple days ago and he asked me, he goes, ‘Hey, would you want to invite Kevin Cash?’ I was like, ‘Hell yeah,’” Francona said. “So he’s going to be on the staff, too. So that probably makes it even more special because Cashy knows all these guys.”

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