Second Thoughts Game #13: Indians 3, White Sox 4
Axford blows first save opportunity as Ramirez walks off Sox
Last year, it was Jason Giambi was the hero against the White Sox. This year, Alexei Ramirez whipped up some heroics of his own and exacted a little revenge on the team that beat Chicago 17 times in 2013.
Despite the efforts of Corey Kluber and the Tribe offense in the late innings, the Indians dropped the series and have now lost their fifth game against an AL Central rival with a bout against the division-leading Tigers coming up next in Detroit.
We all know what was wrong with the game on Sunday, so I'd like to focus on what was right.
Corey Kluber: The Stopper
Last year, the Indians got off to a slow start in April and it wasn't until game two of a doubleheader against the Royals when they really got their season going. In that game, Corey Kluber made his season debut as a starter where he pitched seven innings and allowed only two runs. After that game, the right-hander established himself in the rotation as not only an effective starter, but also a guy who could act as a "stopper", as in someone who can step up during a losing streak or a time where the team is struggling and right the ship.
On Sunday, Kluber tried to repeat his performance from last April, this time against the White Sox by pitching seven and a third innings of, once again, two-run ball. One pitch by John Axford in the ninth failed to complete the job he started.
It's nice to see that Kluber appears to be back on track, however, after a rough outing against the A's to start the year. The right-hander did a nice job preserving his pitch count as he only threw 97 pitches on Sunday with 70 of them being strikes. His strike-throwing percentage was over 72% compared to the 55% he threw in his first start.
As I've said before, command is key for Kluber. Once he has that and is able to move his pitches throughout the strike zone, his unflappable mentality on the mound should be able to carry him the rest of the way.
Brantley and Murphy Driving in Runs
Michael Brantley coming through in the clutch should come as no surprise to many fans and the fact that he is currently second on the team and fourth in the league in RBI with 10 probably isn't a shock either. But what if I told you that the team leader is David Murphy and that he is tied for third in the league in that category?
Is this the same player that had a miserable spring training performance and many called a bust at the beginning of the year? Over his last eight games, the Tribe right fielder has gone 9-for-27 (.360) with two home runs, a triple, three doubles and 10 RBI. He has also come through in the clutch as half of his at-bats with runners in scoring position have resulted in hits. As a matter of fact, four of his five hits in such situations have gone for extra bases.
Brantley hasn't been as clutch as he was a year ago, but he's still been successful batting .294 with runners in scoring position. His emergence as a run-producing bat in the middle of the lineup despite the absence of big time power has been one of the more encouraging developments over the last couple seasons. Plus, his intelligence and approach as a hitter and his ability to hit against both left and right-handed pitching are part of the reason why the Tribe signed him to a multi-year deal this past offseason.
Facts and Notes
- After hitting a home run off Jose Quintana on Sunday, Michael Brantley is now hitting better against left-handed pitching (.300) than right-handers so far this season (.286).
- Jason Kipnis is now batting .400 in his career at U.S. Cellular Field against the White Sox.
- Mike Aviles has now recorded multiple hits in three straight games.
- Marc Rzepczynski, Cody Allen and Scott Atchison are the only remaining Indians relievers who have not yet allowed an earned run.
- Cody Allen has struck out at least one batter in each of his seven appearances thus far.
Up Next: Indians (6-7) vs. Tigers (6-4) @ Comerica Park. First pitch at 7:08 pm ET on Tuesday.
The Indians have the day off on Monday as they travel north to Motown for a showdown with the top AL Central contender on Jackie Robinson Day. Detroit is coming off a series loss to the Padres, who took two out of three from the Tigers over the weekend in San Diego.
Zach McAllister will be matched up against Anibal Sanchez in the game one of this three-game set. Sanchez scuffled a bit in his last start pitching five innings and allowed three runs against the Dodgers, although only one of them was earned. McAllister is coming off a terrific start against the Padres where he pitched seven and two-thirds shutout innings to earn his first win of the year.
Jake Dungan is a communications student at Stark State College and an intern with the Akron RubberDucks. Follow him on Twitter @MajorLeagueJake.