Here are 13 Walk-Off Thoughts after the Indians' 5-3 win against the Chicago White Sox on Monday.
1. This might be a recurring opening sentence to Walk-Off Thoughts posts for a while — especially through the month of April until Francisco Lindor and Jason Kipnis both return — but this lineup might be difficult for Indians fans to watch for a bit. But, with this starting rotation, they also might be able to survive with it.
2. And cashing in a come-from-behind victory in which Jose Ramirez wasn't a part of the key sequence, but rather the Indians were able to rely more-so on Max Moroff and Roberto Perez? That's all a bonus.
3. Four games is hardly a solid sample size, but it's pretty clear the Indians are likely going to need to lean into this starting rotation on a near-daily basis. Through the first seven innings on Monday, this lineup looked roughly the same as it did in Minnesota, in which it trudged through a miserable series offensively but managed to win a game largely on the back of Trevor Bauer. One run generated via a Ramirez double and a Carlos Santana single.
4. It sure felt like that was going to have to hold up. And wasting such a superb outing from Mike Clevinger — possibly the best of his career — would have felt like a back-breaker, or at least as much as an April 1 game can feel like one. Seven innings, 12 strikeouts, only one hit. Clevinger was lights out, and through four games owns the best gem of the starting rotation over the outings put forth by Bauer and Corey Kluber.
5. "I thought he was terrific," Francona said. "I mean he was raring back. He was letting it eat. He was just missing on so many pitches. I was kind of worried his pitch count was going to get up there pretty quick. Then he had a couple short innings so he could get us to the seventh. I thought he was really good. It's not easy to do anything in that weather. But he was out there just letting it eat, man. He just looked really strong the entire game."
6. Clevinger on Monday had an average fastball velocity of 94.8 mph, according to Baseball Savant. It topped out at 97.2, about as hard as he's ever thrown. Last year, his average fastball velocity sat at 94.35. He was averaging around 95 in the spring, so Monday actually represented a tick down from that — it was 37 degrees, remember. But Clevinger this season is bringing an uptick in his velocity in the hope of it opening up everything else. As the fourth starter in the Indians' rotation, this was an encouraging first outing.
7. “The velo is a little ... not lower, it was a tick down today from what it has been through spring," Clevinger said. "It’s something we’ve been working on this whole time and I think even in my last outing of spring I was averaging 96 something and today it was just under 95 something, so cold weather did play a little bit of a factor but not much.”
8. And for Perez calling his games, the intent is that it plays better up in the zone than what he's been able to do with his fastball in the past.
9. "He's rising that fastball," Perez said. "Previous years, he'd try to stay down in the zone. I think that fastball is playing real well up in the zone. I think for him, when he gets ahead of guys, that's when he's at his best. But when he falls behind 2-0 or 3-1, that's when they do damage, and I think he knows that. For him, I'm trying to stay middle, let him get ahead and then we expand. He worked on that over the offseason a lot with Trevor I Think. He had a great game today. Wow, he was impressive to watch."
10. A few people on Twitter were commenting on how much they'd love an 8-1 win every now and then. With this offense, those games might be few and far between. The Indians know they're going to have to grind out some close wins in which the offense does just enough and the bullpen supports the rotation. For the near future, and potentially longer, that's the blueprint.
11. “That was the first thing I said when we were sitting there just watching it with some of the clubhouse guys, like, ‘Man, this is Tribe baseball right here,'" Clevinger said. "If there’s anything, this reminds me of my back-and-forth and getting up to stay with the 2016 team. It was like, it wasn’t all these flashy wins all the time. It was grinding out to the 8th, 9th inning, losing a lead, coming back. And that’s Tribe baseball. That’s how we’re going to win and I like it.”
12. Prior to the game, Leonys Martin was at his locker, going through his stuff. He came across a larger posterboard that was from last season, but one that he hadn't yet seen. It was filled with signatures and get-well messages that fans had sent him while he battled for his life last season. He had an ear-to-ear grin after seeing it, and said, "It's amazing. It's so amazing."
13. "I just saw it today in my locker," Martin said. "I think I’m here today because of all the prayers of the fans. Whatever I do is not enough to be thankful to them. ... I’m going to take it home with me. I’m going to keep it in my room. It’s something I will never forget in my life."
Ryan Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at @ByRyanLewis.