Second Thoughts Game #101: Indians 1, Twins 3
Since June 14th, the Minnesota Twins are 8-21. They’re a team heading hard for the cellar of the Central Division for the fourth time in the last five years. These are the series that the Indians need to win if they want to earn a playoff spot. The loss in this game was a huge missed opportunity, and offsets any momentum gained during the Detroit series. Luckily for the team, they have nine more games against the Twins this season to redeem themselves.
Bauer surging in July
It wasn’t a perfect start from Trevor Bauer as he seemed to fade late, but it was the type of start that should be good enough to beat Anthony Swarzak and the Twins. It wasn’t to be though, as the Indians bats fell flat. That shouldn’t diminish what Bauer is doing right now. He’s been excellent in the month of July, and has churned out five quality starts over his last six outings.
The Indians have needed some of their starters to step forward, and Bauer was always the guy with the talent to do so. We’re starting to see him turn that talent into results. Bauer’s posted a 2.84 ERA with a 23:8 strikeout to walk ratio in 25.1 innings in July. Right now, he’s easily the second best starter on the Indians staff and a key to their hopes down the stretch. He goes through periods where he struggles with his control, but the biggest change he’s made over the last month is keeping his fastball down in the zone.
Bauer was burned by home runs in the month of June, but until the sixth inning home run from Oswaldo Arcia, he hadn’t given up a long ball during the month of July. If he can continue to keep the ball in the park, he seems poised for a huge second half. It’s easy to forget that at this point last year Bauer was a mess, and there were legitimate questions about his ability to pitch in the majors. Now, he might be the most important player on the team down the stretch. It’s been quite the turnaround.
Jose Ramirez – Long-term or short-term stay?
The answer is likely short-term, and I understand that.
Still, I’m hopeful that the team can find a way to keep him in Cleveland. For my reasoning, look no further than what he did in this game. Ramirez was the one Indian who came to play on Wednesday. He had the team’s only RBI, on a double in the second inning. He laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance Jason Kipnis into scoring position with one out in the sixth. Then, in the eighth inning with a runner on first he had an infield hit that turned into a double after a throwing error.
Ramirez set-up Michael Brantley with three consecutive at-bats with runners on scoring position, and Brantley failed to capitalize on all of them. It’s hard to fault him too much, as I think we’d all agree that Brantley is the player we’d want up with those opportunities. He just didn’t get it done in this game. This game is still a reflection of the impact that Ramirez can have just on the offensive things, before discussing his defensive versatility or speed.
It’s doubtful that the Indians explore trading Asdrubal Cabrera before the deadline, and obviously Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall are entrenched at second and third base. There isn’t an obvious place to play Ramirez, and I’d agree that there’s no point in having him in Cleveland sitting on the bench when he can play every day in Columbus. I do think he can be valuable in spelling Michael Bourn against left-handers, and can fill-in at other positions as needed to get semi-regular appearances.
The big problem with that is the overlap between Ramirez and Aviles. They’re both right-handed bats (or a switch hitter in Ramirez’s case), both whose best defensive position is second base, and both of whom can play shortstop, third base, and the outfield. They both have speed and are good base runners. The problem is the team doesn’t need two Mike Aviles’, and I don’t think Aviles himself is going anywhere. I will say though, with Aviles’ .621 OPS this year, and the fact that Ramirez COULD be a superior player right now in all aspects of the game, they should be thinking long and hard about keeping him on the roster for the balance of the season.
-The Indians bullpen has given up just four runs in 19 innings since the All-Star break. The relievers continue to be relied on heavily with the majority of non-Corey Kluber starters failing to pitch deep into games. Regardless, everyone from Nick Hagadone to Carlos Carrasco to Cody Allen has been contributing solid work.
-With Michael Bourn nearing a return, now is as good of a time as ever to go on record that I hope the team keeps Jason Kipnis in the leadoff role. While he does have a .879 OPS since the All-Star break, the reasoning is more than that. Kipnis’ on base percentage and base stealing skills (7 SB’s since being inserted into the leadoff spot) make him a more dynamic player than Bourn at the top of the order.
-Up next, the Indians will send Kluber to the hill as they open up an important four game series against the Kansas City Royals. They’ll be facing Danny Duffy (2.66 ERA, 3.95 FIP) in game one, looking for an elusive win against a left-handed starter.
hit the ball you sweep.
Lonnie has hit .230 in July, so I'm not sure he is as "entrenched" as might be supposed, especially since it's quite clear he is not a favorite of the manager. I wonder if Kip was just suffering from the after effects of injury this year, or instead is regressing to the level of an earlier period in his career.
For all the complaints about Swisher and Santana, they are hitting .290 and .250 in July. Don't think they are moving them before the deadline, so the hitting is improving. We have to give Santana credit for power too....by year's end he will likely have about 22+ home runs.
Am I missing something here with regards to JRam's ability to play in center?