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Second Thoughts Game #106: White Sox 4, Indians 7

Bench comes through again with clutch RBI hits late

Second Thoughts Game #106: White Sox 4, Indians 7
July 31, 2013
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As this team has shown time and time again this season, there is no opponent or deficit they don’t believe they can overcome. They’ve had their ups and downs throughout the year, but they’ve never given up on themselves. Now they find themselves at a season-high 10 games over the .500 mark.

And it’s not May 12th, 2011 where the Tribe was 23-13 with four and a half months of baseball left to play. It’s now the end of July with the second half well underway and the Indians find themselves at 58-48 and two and a half games behind front-running Detroit and only a half-game behind Baltimore for the second AL Wild Card slot.

Now granted there’s still two months left in the regular season and a lot can still happen, but given where the Tribe was at this point in the last couple seasons, there is good reason to start getting excited about what’s happening in Cleveland. The starting pitching has been consistent, the offense has come through when most needed and despite having a rough post-All-Star break start, the defense and the bullpen has begun to pull together a bit.

Bench Mob Clutch Hitting

No words can do justice for how key the Indians bench has been to their success this season. Along with providing depth behind multiple positions on the field, the Indians basically have a four-spot extension of their lineup in Mike Aviles, Ryan Raburn, Yan Gomes and Jason Giambi. They can start any of them in any game and more often than not count on them delivering quality at-bats and even key hits in the clutch.

Since the All-Star break, the bench as a whole has hit .343 (23-for-67) as a group with four homers and 15 RBI’s, including five doubles and 11 runs scored. Raburn’s pinch-hit RBI single on Tuesday night marked the second straight game that a Tribe bench player delivered a clutch RBI knock as a pinch-hitter following up Giambi’s walkoff solo home run on Monday night.

Much of the bench’s success could be attributed to how manager Terry Francona has used them, especially as of late. The pinch-hit/pinch-run decisions by Tito the last couple games have paid off with Giambi and Raburn at the plate and putting a guy like Drew Stubbs on the bases when he’s not starting. Getting Yan Gomes more playing time has also been a smart move by the Tribe skipper as he continues to get more starts behind the plate, starting with catching Scott Kazmir exclusively. Expect the Tribe bench to continue to be key contributors down the stretch.

Chris Perez Dominating since DL Stint

Since coming off the disabled list, Chris Perez has become a shutdown, strike-throwing machine in the ninth inning for the Indians returning to his All-Star form. In 15 appearances since recovering from a shoulder injury, Perez has pitched nearly shutout baseball allowing only one run in 16 innings (0.56 ERA) while allowing 11 walks, three walks and striking out 11 in that span. Perez has also been perfect in save opportunities (9-for-9) since coming off the DL.

Perez has also taken a vow of silence with MLB reporters and writers until further notice. For the columnist trying to learn what he’s done to turn his game around, it can be frustrating, but in the grand scheme of things, it may end up being a good thing for a team that is focused on winning and doesn’t need any unnecessary distractions. Whether he intends to or not, almost everything he says at this point will create drama amongst fans and local media due to his early-season struggles, injuries and off-the-field issues. A team in a playoff chase doesn’t need to deal with that right now.

Quote of the Game:

“We showed our versatility. Each guy compliments each other so well,” – Terry Francona on the Tribe’s comeback victory.

Facts and Notes:

  • Yan Gomes went 1-for-2 with a single, a bases-loaded walk and a strikeout against fellow countryman Andre Rienzo in the first MLB matchup between a Brazilian hitter and pitcher.
  • After 106 games in 2013, the Indians are at 58-48, in second place and two and a half games out of first. After 106 games in 2012, they were 50-56, in third place and eight and a half games out.
  • Michael Bourn drove in a run on Tuesday night, tying him for first in the majors in RBI’s since the All-Star break with 13.
  • Former setup man Vinnie Pestano was optioned to AAA Columbus following Tuesday’s game to make room for newly-acquired left-hander Marc Rzepczynski. Move is only expected to be temporary as Pestano has pitching issues to be straightened out.
  • Tuesday’s originally scheduled starter for Chicago, Jake Peavy, was scratched at the last minute and ended up being traded to the Red Sox in a three-team deal later that night.
  • Alex Rios was pulled from Tuesday’s game after fouling a pitch off his foot. No serious injury, but it could affect Chicago’s plan to trade him by Wednesday’s deadline.

Up Next: White Sox vs. Indians @ Progressive Field. First pitch at 7:05pm ET.

The White Sox have yet to announce their starter for Wednesday night’s game against the Tribe, who will turn into one of this year’s biggest surprises as far as starting pitching goes in right-hander Corey Kluber. In a no-decision against Texas, Kluber pitched six innings allowing only three earned runs. The right-hander is yet to face Chicago this season, but is 1-1 with a 4.41 ERA against them in two career starts against them.

A lot of changes could be in store for the Sox between now and Wednesday night’s game as they continue to seek deals for several of their key pieces. With Peavy gone, keep an eye on players such as Rios, Alexei Ramirez, and several of their pitchers not named Chris Sale. Also watch for former Tigers prospect Avisail Garcia to make a pit stop in Cleveland on his way to AAA Charlotte depending on if Rios or any of their other outfielders are dealt.

The Indians are in second place, 10 games over .500, two and a half games behind Detroit and only a half-game out of the wild card race. This team believes. The question now is, do you?

Jake Dungan is a communications student at Stark State College and an intern with the Akron RubberDucks. Follow him on Twitter @MajorLeagueJake.

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