Second Thoughts Game #155: Indians 4, Astros 1
Dominant performance by Kazmir leads Tribe to third straight victory
Player of the Game: Scott Kazmir (7 innings, 4 hits, 0 ER, 1 BB / 10 SO)
It felt like it was October at the corner of Carneige and Ontario Saturday night.
Putting up three runs in the first inning, the Indians made quick work of the Houston Astros for the 4-1 win. Scoring four runs on 16 hits in the first two games of the series, the Tribe scored four runs off Astros starter Paul Clemens (4-6, 5.69 ERA) through the first four innings.
That was far from being the storyline of another Cleveland win though, as Indians starter Scott Kazmir (9-9, 4.14 ERA) continued his quest for the postseason with another brilliant performance from the center of the diamond.
KKKKKKKKKKazmir delivers again
I don't care how they do it, Indians ownership better find a way to keep Kazmir in a Tribe uniform for many years to come.
Scattering four hits through seven scoreless innings Saturday against Houston, Kazmir struck out 10 and walked just one for his ninth win of the season.
It was the third time the southpaw reached double-digit strikeouts this year, striking out 10 or more hitters three times in one season for the first time since 2007. The last time he pitched seven innings with at least 10 strikeouts was Sept. 10, 2007.
With Kazmir picking up his ninth win, it gives all five Tribe starters at least nine victories for the first time since 2005.
For a rotation that was without a hard-throwing lefty since the days of Cliff Lee and CC Sabathia, Kazmir has been hands down Cleveland's best free agent acquistion of this past winter. Pitching has been without question what has gotten the Tribe where they're at right now, and Kazmir has certainly been at the center of it.
American League Comeback Player of the Year? Possibly.
Whether he is or not, it's time the Indians invest in another left-hander and pay him this offseason.
Michael Brantley capped off a three run first inning belting a two-run homer to the seats in right off Clemens, giving the Tribe the lead they would never waver. Eight of his nine home runs on the season have now come at Progressive Field.
With 66 RBI, Dr. Smooth is also one RBI shy of tying catcher Carlos Santana for the second most RBI on the club.
The long ball also extended Brantley's hitting streak to six straight, batting .364 (8-for-22) with a double and RBI over the six game stretch. Surprisingly or not, Dr. Smooth hasn't quiet been consistently smooth when it comes to monthly averages.
The left-handed hitter hit .311 in May, .222 in June, .318 in July, .233 in August and now .302 in September. While he has had his struggles in the batter's box, Brantley continues to be a key contributor with runners in scoring position, where he is hitting a team-high .351 on the season.
Cabby heating up?
Better late than never.
Going 3-for-4 in the ballgame on Saturday, shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera raised his average above .240 for the first time since September 1. It was the fourth time since June 29 the switch-hitter collected at least three hits in a game.
Hitting .241 with 14 homers and 61 RBI on the year, Cabrera has hit .294 (15-for-51) with five home runs and 12 RBI over his last 15 games.
I'll be honest, I sure had my doubts about Cabrera all season long, but he is finally starting to produce when it matters the most. Sure, maybe it has something to do with playing bad teams down the stretch, but hindsight is always 20/20. It would be nice to see the only member of that memorable 2007 team help the Tribe again this time around for a chance to play in October.
If there are fireworks, they will come
After turning in an attendance of 29,917 over the first two games of the series, Tribe fans finally showed up to watch their playoff contending team beat down the Astros for the third consecutive night.
With 26,611 in attendance Saturday, it was the first time I truly felt the ballpark feel like a Tribe Town. Was it because of the Nick Swisher fireworks that followed after the game? Maybe.
It was the 14th time this season there were over 25,000 at Progressive Field this season. I am in no way doubting Indians fans, but excluding Opening Day, all 14 games have come on promotional nights. Whether it's the loud booms that gets people in the stadium or not, it was nice to finally hear the loud roar of a crowd on a cool September night.
Winning their third straight, Cleveland (85-70) stays a half game in front of the Texas Rangers for the second A.L. wild card spot. They also remain only one game behind the Tampa Bay Rays for the top wild card seed, which boasts home field advantage for the one game playoff.
The team improves to 14-6 in September having won eight of their last 10 with just seven games remaining on the schedule.
Up next for the Indians: The Tribe will try and breakout the brooms in the series finale with Houston Sunday afternoon, as the team sends Corey Kluber (9-5, 3.62 ERA) to the hill against Astros lefty Erik Bedard (4-11, 4.60 ERA). Kluber is 3-0 with a 2.37 ERA over his last 10 starts, while Bedard has only one win since July 2.
Follow Jim on Twitter @JBirdman27 or he can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.