Indians playoff hopes stay alive; Tribe takes down Royals, 6-4
Early run support helps Cleveland avoid the series sweep
CLEVELAND—One win down…three to go.
And then maybe, just maybe by some baseball miracle, the Indians will sniff the cool air of October.
But that’s for Oakland and Kansas City to decide. At least for now, the Tribe is still in the hunt for the postseason after a huge 6-4 win over the Royals Wednesday night.
For the first time in a long time, it was the Cleveland offense that bailed out right-hander starter Trevor Bauer who lasted just 4 1/3 innings in the contest.
“He was so efficient the first inning and then had a longer second inning, but then back to another good third,” manager Terry Francona said. “He threw some good off-speed pitches in fastball counts, but then he started behind and left pitches up.”
With one swing of the bat, catcher Yan Gomes helped Bauer with run support early in the first inning. The right-handed slugger belted a three-run homer over the wall in center to give his club a quick 3-0 lead against Royals starter Jason Vargas.
Despite allowing just one hit through three innings, designated hitter Billy Butler would get to Bauer over the next two frames. Giving Kansas City their first run of the ballgame on a RBI bloop base-hit in the fourth, Butler also highlighted a big three-run inning for the Royals by smacking a two-run double off the wall in left in the fifth.
One batter later, Bauer’s night was over surrendering four earned runs on eight hits for his shortest home start of his career.
“Some of them were well hit and some of them weren’t,” he said. “I felt good. It’s just one of those nights.”
Luckily for Cleveland, it was one of those nights for Vargas too.
Down by one, the Royals southpaw hit Michael Bourn to start the home half of the fifth before rookie Jose Ramirez stepped up and delivered. K.C. manager Ned Yost went to his bullpen for Brandon Finnegan (0-1, 1.42 ERA) but to no avail, as the 22 year old switch-hitter connected on a RBI double to knot the game at 4-4.
“When you see a guy dive into home like that, you realize nobody is playing out the string,” Francona said on Bourn scoring from first on the play. “He was pretty fired up.”
Carlos Santana gave the Wahoos the lead for good shortly after, adding an RBI fielder’s choice for his 83rd RBI of the season.
After Bauer exited, former starter Zach McAllister (4-7, 5.36 ERA) came into secure the game with a solid 2 1/3 innings of scoreless baseball.
“He did a really good job,” Francona said. “He came in and got outs and went back out and got outs. He’s done a nice job over the last 10 days in that bullpen role, throwing in games with some leverage.”
Losing his spot in the rotation due to both injury and inconsistency, McAllister picks up his first win since April 21.
Offensively, the Tribe scored six runs on seven hits on the night where three of the knocks came from MVP candidate Michael Brantley. The smooth hitting left fielder is now one hit shy of collecting 200 hits on the year.
“It’s a pleasure to watch him every day,” Francona said. “He may not be 100 percent every day, but he’ll give you everything he has and he tries to play the game right. He’s always trying to do the right thing. With that kind of talent when you have a kid playing like that, it’s a pleasure.”
Making his 79th appearance on the season, Bryan Shaw hurled a scoreless eighth before Cody Allen notched his 23rd save with an easy ninth. For Shaw, his 79 appearances tie Bob Howry for the most relief outings in a single season in franchise history.
Avoiding the sweep, Cleveland (83-76) needs to win out to force any potential tie-breaker game with either the Athletics or Royals. For that to happen, one of the two clubs would also have to lose out.
“I said it all year long, as long as we have life, we’re going to keep battling and that’s exactly what we did tonight,” David Murphy said.
The right fielder gave the Indians a big insurance run on a sacrifice fly in the sixth.
“We’ve had some good moments and we’ve had some bad moments this season,” Murphy said. “Hopefully we’re going to be going into the last series of the season still alive. You don’t like it to be in a situation where there are things out of your control, but we did what we could tonight. Hopefully we’re going to be playing for something.”
Playing 30 games over the last 30 days, the Tribe finally gets an off day Thursday before their final three regular season games of the year.
“That’s a lot of baseball,” Francona said. “I think the day off tomorrow is welcomed. I think the day off will be really good for these guys and then we’ll come back this weekend and see what we can do.”
Up next for Indians: After an off day Thursday, the Tribe welcomes the Tampa Bay Rays into town for the final three-game series of the season beginning Friday. Cy Young candidate Corey Kluber (17-9, 2.53 ERA) makes his last start opposite right-hander Chris Archer (10-8, 3.42 ERA) at 7:05 p.m.
Follow Jim on Twitter @JBirdman27 or he can be reached via email at email@example.com.
The pitching staff is all settled. Get another legit right handed stick, AAA pitching depth and this team is good to go. Need to get Swisher and Kipnis back to swinging the bats again along with Raburn. This will add to the overall depth of the team and lineup.
The perfect person to do that is Adrian Beltre. Beltre could the same thing with his leadership to help Urshela like Rolen did for Todd Frazier for the Reds. At the same time he would provide protection in the line up for Brantley and also give more opportunities for Gomes to become an offensive force in the lineup.
At the same time the Indians could see October baseball for the next 2 years.
You bring up a great point about the competitive nature amongst the four of them- reminds me of the 90s Braves pitching staffs - Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz, Avery, later Neagle. I remember a few times about how they had friendly competitions amongst each other to try to match or outdo their rotation mates in an effort to keep up their end of the bargain and not falter when their turn came up in the rotation. That's what I see developing amongst the members of our rotation.
If our rotation can come close to theirs in terms of performance, I like our chances in the future, especially if we can upgrade the offense and rest the bullpen more.
Speaking of upgrading the offense, I hope the Indians at least look into Victor Martinez this offseason, just to see. Combining him with Brantley and Santana (and Gomes and Chisenhall right behind them- no Kipnis in the heart of the order) would certainly help the offense, even if Victor doesn't have quite the year he had this year. How to pay for him? Trading Swisher is probably unlikely, but I think Bourn can be, though the Indians would likely have to eat salary and take back little in return.
Trading Aviles would help, but if you really want a radical idea, Kipnis is the guy to trade- that would free up a good chunk of money. I'm not sure the Indians would be willing to do it but I would certainly consider it. I don't see him as a premium offensive player, and defensively, he's nowhere near Ramirez, who should be at 2B long-term. If Kipnis is here next year, I'd have him in LF, but if it would help to bring Martinez to Cleveland, I would trade Kipnis to make it happen; not only would it boost the Indians' offense, it would weaken Detroit's in the process.
Plus, Victor has history, plus he likely sees the coming shift in the AL Central; the Tigers aren't getting any younger, and their window is beginning to close. Add in they have significant money tied up in Verlander and Cabrera, plus Nathan and Price for next year, and it will be hard for them to make any significant upgrades. They can't outspend the Dodgers, Yankees, Red Sox, Angels, Rangers, any or all of whom could and probably will be in on Scherzer, potentially weakening Detroit even more. If I recall correctly, too, didn't Hunter say he was retiring or seriously considering retirement after this season? That too will weaken Detroit for 2015.
Victor is not that young anymore, and I'm sure he's considering who would give him the best chance of winning a championship in the coming years. Is that the Tigers or is that the Indians? (I know- they're not the only two teams who probably will look to add him, but if you just consider these two, and if he wants to remain in the familiar Central Division). The Indians should get better with more experience and with more reinforcements coming. The Tigers will likely be hard-pressed to make significant improvements due to the money committed already, plus the fact the team is no longer young, plus the fact that the farm has very little impactful talent close to the Majors.
Based on all that, I'd reach out to Victor and see if he couldn't be added. I think that would be as impactful as adding Beltre, if not more so, and it would cost money, not prospects, to add Martinez. He and Santana could share 1B/DH duties (not sure Aguilar would get enough at-bats, though, the one fly in the ointment), Chisenhall and Urshela could split third until Urshela is ready to take over full time, Ramirez would man 2nd when Lindor is ready to take over SS, and you would have Brantley in CF, Chisenhall in RF (supplemented with a combination of Murphy and/or Raburn if they are still here, Swisher, Walters, Ramsey, Moncrief, and/or FA), and one or more of those aforementioned RFers (Swisher- could help save on his legs by having to cover less ground in LF) and/or another FA in LF.
Something to consider- I hope the Indians do, even if the chances of it happening are a bit of a long-shot.
As for Addison Reed, I'm not that impressed. He always seems to get into trouble and he's blown a number of games for both the White Sox and the D'Backs. Personally, I really don't see him as a closer- 7th, 8th inning guy, perhaps. Maybe he could assist Shaw in that role, but as a closer, I'd think I'd go with Allen and Hagadone as your two top options. Someone else, I might consider, but Reed doesn't do much for me- reminds me more of Bob Wickman and especially Joe Borowski - he might manage, maybe, but likely deliver a lot more hairy 9ths than you care to see from your closer, with several of them being blown saves. If he came cheaply, I might consider a flyer in a set-up role; otherwise, I'd look elsewhere.
As for McAllister, I think he's valuable because he could probably fit either role. Right now, he'd be in the bullpen, but I wouldn't write him off as a starter just yet, just like I didn't write Carrasco off as a starter either. It sometimes takes time to find your place on a team or to adapt to a specific role. Certainly McAllister's stuff seemed to play up, which is always a bonus. Perhaps he could help take the pressure off of Shaw in the 7th/8th- the way McAllister was throwing, being a set-up guy isn't out of the question. He might be a better, and certainly, cheaper option than the aforementioned Reed.
Even with Tomlin, I want to see what he can do with a full offseason of rest and after he threw a number of innings this year. I personally think he wore down as the season went along- he'd give up hits and some HRs from time to time, but wasn't beating himself with walks and constantly falling behind in the count, which was largely the case with in the second half of this year (and not the case in the first half). I'll take him in the 6-7 spot- he's still better than a lot of 6-7 guys we've had before (and in many of those years, better than the 4-5 starters from those years).
What Salazar and Bauer (and Carrasco too) have going for them is that they have great stuff. They are all making progress, but we'll probably continue to see up and down performances next year as well. Also, the thing that I like seeing is that all three are very serious and intense competitors. Maybe they're taking a lead from Kluber's take-no-prisoners attitude, but they're really going after it and giving a 100%+ effort, and with the their stuff, the right kind of coaching and a little patience they have a real good chance of developing into quality SP's--but again, its a process that can take time, and failure is often a key part of that process...
Numerous fans have said dump Aviles after the season. I agree, but I disagree with the timing. I think he holds value as a trade chip for clubs looking for INF depth. Aviles' $3.5 contract is affordable for most any club coupled with his versatility, I think he could bring back at least a bullpen arm or a prospect in return.
I think the Tribe should just plug and play McAllister next yr. The ability to log multiple innings should fit well. The fact he has been dominate in that role encourages me, that we will add another dynamic pen arm to go with Shaw and Allen. I think there should be some concern with the use of these arms adding an arm with multiple innings capacity should fit the bill. With McAllister in that role the bullpen would be virtually set for next yr.
A permanate move to the pen would likely mean adding SP depth, but there are some arms on the farm developing. That could help offset the move to the pen.
Looks like Mcallister may have found a home as a 7th/8th inning reliever where he can just air it out for an inning or two.