Second Thoughts Game #107: White Sox 5, Indians 6
With the trade deadline now in the rearview mirror the Indians would enter this game on a six game winning streak and a season high ten games above .500. With two more games against the White Sox followed by three against Miami the Indians have a golden opportunity to stay hot and try to gain some ground on Detroit prior to the team’s four game series early next week with big-time playoff implications.
The Whole Nine
1. Wow! That is all.
2. Sometimes we get too ingrained in evaluating certain individuals or discussing perceived weaknesses on a team. It’s games like this that allow you to take a step back and look at the whole picture. This might not be the most talented team and it may have its flaws, but they’re never out of any games. This team will not fade out of the playoff race easily and you can just imagine that if they do make it into October they’re going to make some noise. In this game it was a Carlos Santana walk-off after the team managed a ninth inning comeback. In games past it’s been Ryan Raburn, Jason Giambi, Nick Swisher, and the list goes on and on. It’s a new guy every night and it’s a ton of fun to watch.
3. The ninth inning comeback was perfect execution by the Indians offense. They basically grabbed two runs off of only one big hit, Michael Brantley’s leadoff double. Following the double Giambi was hit by a pitch, Stubbs had a bunt single, and then Michael Bourn hit a sacrifice fly that not only scored the first run but advanced the runners on second and first. That ended up being a huge play for the Indians as the White Sox would intentionally walk Nick Swisher before Jason Kipnis followed with the second sacrifice fly to tie the game.
4. The top of the ninth was a different story. It’s a case of one of the Indians best relievers getting beat. There’s not much you can do about that. Cody Allen just didn’t have it in this one. We can debate whether or not Kluber should have been taken out with two outs in the ninth, but Allen only needed to get one out and instead he ended up allowing two runs to score to break the tie. He should have gotten the job done. Luckily, his offense bailed him out.
5. Lost in all of this is the fact that Corey Kluber pitched really well once again. Francona probably should have let him go for the complete game, but it doesn’t change the fact that this is a guy the Indians can rely on for a quality start every time out. He got touched up by three straight RBI hits in the sixth inning, but it appeared to me as more of a blemish than anything. It was just a case of a few balls finding a hole at the wrong time. He was outstanding all night and deserved the win in this one.
6. It was a bad night for Asdrubal Cabrera. Hitting in the four-hole he came to the plate with runners in scoring position in his first three at-bats and couldn’t do anything to get them home. Then, with two on and two out in the bottom of the ninth he struck out on three terrible pitches out of the zone. I predicted that Cabrera would bounce back and have a strong second half, but if nights like this continue hopefully they’ll pull the plug on him hitting in the middle of the lineup quickly.
About the Trade Deadline
7. Part of me was happy to see the trade deadline come and go without any moves made. Don’t get me wrong, I think there are areas of this team that could use some improvement, but the cost for the few players on the market who could make a difference or shore up a current weakness was just too much. At the end of the day you have to be realistic, and there wasn’t a guy on the market who was going to make this team immediately better than some of the others in the American League.
8. To the same point, one of the hallmarks of this team has been the relatively low turnover it’s had all season. This is a tight-knit group of players that is peaking right now. They’ll have a shot at the Division and the Wildcard playoff spots, but it’s going to come down to winning the big games. In those games a better lefty reliever or another bat could help, but at the end of the day it’s on the current group to lead this team to the playoffs. We’ve watched these guys all year, and they’ve battled the whole way. I’m optimistic they’re going to continue to play well over the next two months without any reinforcements.
9. A quick note on the one move the Indians did make; count me in the group that’s happy to see another lefty in the mix. It was obvious that Francona was hesitant to use Pestano and therefore he wasn’t able to get himself fixed in those sporadic appearances. Marc Rzepczynski (probably won’t spell that out ever again) offers some matchup flexibility for Francona and another option if Rich Hill implodes. I don’t see any problem with that.
What more can you say? The Indians are now on a seven game winning streak and keeping pace with the Tigers who are on a tear of their own. Oh, and did I mention that they’ve now moved into the second wildcard spot? That’s right, this is a playoff team right now. They’ll have a chance to finish out a four-game series sweep of the White Sox on Thursday with Justin Masterson facing off against Chris Sale at 12:05 PM in a battle of the team’s aces.