Second Thoughts Game #155: Indians 7, Twins 2
Kluber bolsters case for Cy Young as Tribe throttles Twins
The Indians at least guaranteed themselves a second straight non-losing season on Sunday with their 81st victory of the campaign. Corey Kluber was as good as he's been all season fanning 14 Twins batters over eight innings of work. He now has his name etched in the history books alongside Indians legends such as Bob Feller, Sam McDowell and Luis Tiant.
After a stretch where runs came at a premium for the Indians, they have scored 14 runs in their last two games combined following their 7-2 blowout on Sunday. Michael Bourn and Michael Brantley each notched three hits. Brantley is now just seven hits away from the 200 mark. Jose Ramirez, Carlos Santana and Jason Kipnis also recorded multi-hit performances.
They failed to gain ground on the Royals as they defeated the Tigers on Sunday 5-2, but they did gain a game on the Mariners and are now only two games behind them in the standings. So as the Indians return home to finish the season, they will open with hands down the most crucial series of the year against the Royals, who maintain possession of the second wild card berth with three and a half games separating them from the Tribe.
Corey Kluber now has his name alongside Indians elite as he became the first Tribe pitcher in over 40 years to eclipse 250+ strikeouts, which puts him at 10th on the all-time list of Indians single season strikeout leaders. With 14 whiffs on Sunday, the right-hander now leads all major league pitchers with 258 punchouts on the year. He could even move up to ninth or eighth on the list with just a handful more strikeouts, which he should be able to get against the Rays later this week.
Now the question is will the Tribe right-hander be able to take home a Cy Young award after the season? As I've said before, it's a three-horse race for the award in the American League this season between Kluber, Felix Hernandez and Chris Sale.
While he has put up another unbelievably dominant season, I would have to say Sale's chances are the slimmest due to his recent struggles and the fact that he missed time with injury earlier in the season. Felix Hernandez, on the other hand, still would appear to be the front runner for the award as he leads the league in several categories, including ERA (2.07), WHIP (0.912) and ERA+ (178). Kluber does make a strong case, however, with his league-leading 258 strikeouts and 2.39 FIP.
Whether or not he wins the award or not, the fact that we can say we have a legitimate ace pitcher again for the first time in several years is reward enough.
200 Hit Countdown
Let's just put it plain and simple. Michael Brantley is having a season that no one else in Indians history has ever had. By the end of the season, the Tribe left fielder could be the first hitter in franchise history to finish with at least a .320 batting average, 20 home runs, 40 doubles, 100 runs scored, 100 RBI, 200 hits and 20 stolen bases. That's as complete a season as you could ever have. If you take the stolen bases out of the equation, the last Indians hitter to finish with those stats was Hal Trosky in 1936.
With his three hits, two RBI and a run scored against the Twins on Sunday, Brantley just needs seven more hits to eclipse 200, which would be the first time that's been done by an Indians player since Kenny Lofton accomplished the feat in 1996. Only Jose Altuve has more knocks in the major leagues this season. He also needs just three more RBI and seven more runs scored to hit the 100 mark in both categories.
Some may mock me for this comparison, but there isn't a more complete hitter in the league other than Mike Trout. Obviously Trout puts up bigger numbers in several categories, but if you look at the overall stats this season, it's not really a landslide.
By the way, how shrewd does the contract extension Chris Antonetti signed Brantley to this offseason look now? Over the next three seasons, the most Brantley will be guaranteed in a year is $7.5 million. He does have an $11 million option in 2018, but it is a team option and still more than reasonable if he continues to put up numbers like these.
Brantley likely won't win the MVP award over Trout, Victor Martinez and Nelson Cruz, but he'll definitely get some votes. Watching him and Corey Kluber both accomplish such historical feats this season has been a thrill to follow.
Get Out to the Ballpark!
This team... We've loved it, we've hated it and we've ruled it out on multiple occasions and yet here we are heading into the final week of the season in the middle of a final playoff push. They will wrap up the campaign at home in Cleveland starting with a crucial series against the Royals, whom the Tribe is chasing for one of the wild card spots.
With the Browns heading into a bye week, the only sports action in Cleveland for the next week will be the Tribe's final push for the postseason. Despite all the heartbreaking losses and frustrating underachieving performances throughout the year, this group has never lost hope and has been rewarded for its efforts with an opportunity to still play October baseball. And regardless of whatever flaws this team may have, they deserve all the support they can get for their final push.
From the day Terry Francona accepted the managing job in Cleveland nearly two years ago, he established that this would be a team that will never quit regardless of the opponent, the standings or whatever internal shortcomings the team may have. And I think it's safe to say two years into his tenure with the Tribe, his players have bought in. I've lost count of how many times these guys have been down for the count before somehow managing to get back on their feet.
This isn't a completely flawed team, either. Sure, the offense and defense have had their issues and been mind-numbingly frustrating at times this year, but they've still done their job enough to clinch a second straight non-losing season for the club. And wherever they have fallen short, especially in the second half, the pitching staff, which has performed at a near-elite level since the All-Star Break, has bailed them out.
I know it's been hard to maintain faith throughout the season, but the guys on the field have done it. Let's show them we appreciate the heart and resilience they've shown. Pack Progressive Field this week. If we can get 70,000+ into First Energy Stadium to cheer on the Browns, we should have no problem getting at least 30,000 at the ballpark.
At this point, I'm sure fans are tired of being lectured about the lack of attendance at Tribe games, but they deserve the support now more than ever. They've proven they don't know how to quit. Show them we won't either.
Up Next: Royals (84-70) vs. Indians (81-74) @ Progaressive Field. First pitch at 7:05 pm ET.
Prior to Monday's regularly-scheduled game against the Royals, the Indians will complete last month's game against them, which was suspended in the bottom of the 10th innings with the Tribe up 4-2. That will recommence at 6:05 pm ET. Indians need just the final three outs to complete the victory.
Following the completion of that game, Carlos Carrasco will take the hill against Royals left-hander Danny Duffy. Carrasco's dominant stretch in the rotation got a nice jolt his last time out with his first career complete-game shutout earlier this week in Houston. The right-hander has not yet made a start against the Royals this season, but has faced them twice out of the bullpen allowing only one hit in two and two thirds combined innings.
Danny Duffy has dealt with shoulder issues as he is set to make his first start since the in 15 days. After throwing just one pitch against the Yankees before being removed due to injury concerns, the left-hander has since thrown a simulated game without issue. In his last start against the Indians, Duffy allowed two runs (one earned) over six and two thirds innings in a no-decision.
Jake Dungan is a communications student at Stark State College and an intern with the Akron RubberDucks. Follow him on Twitter @MajorLeagueJake.
Pitchers with a lot of innings like Kluber have done so in the past. Price, Cueto, Hernandez, Shields and Wainright are not that far off past norms in terms of innings pitched in a season.
If the Indians get eliminated before his next start than yes shut him down for the season.
Would like to see Brantley get 200 hits and 100 RBI's. Had as consistent a year as I can remember for a long time. If Trout wasn't Trout, and the Indians had clinched a playoff spot, would be a great choice for MVP !!!
And Gomes ? The straw that stirs the Cleveland Cocktail. Best trade of Antonetti's career. Much better offensively than we could have imagined. And defensively, if it weren't for his smarts back there, Santana would never have moved to first base. So he had a major impact on resurrecting another career aside from his own. With these 4, and the rest of the starting pitching, the future looks bright indeed. Now, if only Hoynes is wrong about the defense !!!!