Second Thoughts Game #156: Indians 9, Astros 2
Tribe completes four-game series sweep, gain ground in wild card
Player of the Game: Michael Brantley (3-for-4) with 2 RBI
Forget Tribe Town, how about Sweep City?
In front of the largest Sunday crowd of the season, Indians bats exploded for nine runs on 13 hits against the Astros to complete the four-game series sweep over Houston, 9-2.
Sitting in the driver's seat for one of the American League wild card spots, Cleveland (86-70) are 16 games over the .500 mark for the first time since Aug. 27, 2007.
Smooth in the Clutch
What is there not to like about left fielder Michael Brantley?
The left-handed hitter came up big in Sunday's victory with two clutch RBI singles with runners in scoring position. All season long it seems like we've talked about Dr. Smooth's ability to be the best doctor in town in that category.
Brantley ranks ahead of All-Stars Yadier Molina (Cardinals), Robinson Cano (Yankees), Chris Davis (Orioles) and Dustin Pedroia (Red Sox) with runners in scoring position, hitting .360 (41-for-144) where 55 of his 68 RBI have come with RISP.
Moving to the No. 8 spot in the lineup for the second time over the last five games, I think Tribe manager Terry Francona should leave Brantley in that spot for the rest of the season, where he is hitting .414 (12-for-29) with four doubles and two RBI.
There is no denying something magical may be happening right in front of our eyes at Progressive Field.
Sunday marked the sixth time this year the Indians have swept a four-game series, tying the franchise record. The last time a Cleveland team did such a thing was back in 1954, when the Tribe made it to the World Series.
At 50-18 against teams below .500, Cleveland holds the best record in all of baseball against sub-.500 clubs.
The last team in Major League Baseball to complete six series sweeps in the same season were the 1961 New York Yankees, who went onto win the World Series that year.
I wonder if history can repeat itself yet again.
Kluber gives Tribe solid performance
He wasn't at his best, but right-hander Corey Kluber (10-5, 3.61 ERA) ultimately kept his team in the ballgame Sunday picking up his career-high tenth win of the season.
Surrendering two runs on six hits over 5 1/3 innings, Kluber improves to 4-0 with a 2.66 ERA over his last 10 starts. Throwing 52 of his 81 pitches for strikes, the 27-year old also walked one and struck out six.
In his first full season in the big leagues, Kluber has been a valuable piece of the puzzle for Francona and the Indians rotation. Coming to Cleveland in the deal that sent Jake Westbrook to St. Louis back in 2009, there's no question he will continue to be for many years to come.
Like many of his teammates, Kluber has stepped up strong in the absence of ace Justin Masterson as he continues to work his way back from an left oblique injury.
Bourn bounces back
Collecting his fifth triple of the season, Bourn has warmed up in the batter's box of late. Over his last 12 games, he has hit a respectable .271 (13-for-48) with three doubles, three triples, a homer and eight RBI. Just nine RBI away from tying his career-high of 57, Bourn has been a great team leader and example down the stretch when it has mattered the most.
Boasting playoff experience with the Phillies and Braves in his career, the team will need him to continue to be the valuable leadoff man and table setter his is if in fact they do make it to October.
Having won four straight, Cleveland (86-70) moves 1.5 games in front of the Texas Rangers for the second A.L. wild card spot. They also remain just a half 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 15-6 in September, winners of nine of their last 11 with only six games remaining on the schedule.
Up next for the Indians: After a day off Monday, the Tribe will host division rival Chicago White Sox for the final two-game series of the season at Progressive Field. Arguably the American League’s best pitcher since the All-Star Break, Ubaldo Jimenez (12-9, 3.39 ERA) gets the start Tuesday against ChiSox lefty Hector Santiago (4-9, 3.53 ERA).
Follow Jim on Twitter @JBirdman27 or he can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.