Second Thoughts Game #160: Indians 12, Twins 6
Tribe crests 90-win mark, moves into tie for first wild card spot
20 games over .500, 22 games better than their 2012 record, two games better than the 2012 division champion Tigers and most importantly, good enough for possession of a postseason berth. While a team’s number of wins doesn’t necessarily dictate how they’ll fare in the playoffs, it still is a symbol of success, particularly to a ball club that doesn’t see the luxury of 90-plus wins very often.
For the Indians, it’s a milestone as they now have reached the 90-win mark for the first time since their last playoff run in 2007. Of course, as Terry Francona said in his postgame presser, the team will not spend much time reflecting on the win column as they prepare for the final two games of the regular season. Still, it’s a mark that many didn’t see the Tribe coming anywhere close to matching after finishing the 2012 campaign at only 68 wins.
After a clear culture change started by the hiring of Francona last offseason, the results are now truly evident and clearly not a coincidence. Contribution to their success this season has been spread almost evenly as evidenced by their 12-6 blowout of the Twins on Friday, including a two-run home run by Drew Stubbs, marking the tenth Indians player to hit at least ten home runs this season. It’s a new hero every night and a team win or loss every time out.
Closer By Committee
Prior to Friday’s game, Francona made it official that Chris Perez will no longer be the Indians’ closer after his latest meltdown on Thursday. He would not specify if anyone was under consideration to fill the role, which could mean using the closer-by-committee system, meaning the ninth inning pitcher will be decided based on matchup. In a way, such a system could work out better for the Indians than having a permanent closer.
In this new age of baseball thinking, relief pitchers are bred and trained for specific roles, including closer. However, not everyone will be successful long-term in such a role. Only a select few can truly find dominance. The Mariano Riveras and Craig Kimbrels of the world are the exceptions to the rule, where their consistent dominance year in and year out have provided them sound job security wherein they have a or likely will maintain their role for multiple seasons.
Chris Perez was that guy for Cleveland since he was able to rack up saves on a consistent basis. Unfortunately for him this season, consistency has been a growing issue to the point where he could no longer be trusted with any lead. The problem for the Indians is with only two games remaining in the regular season, naming a new permanent closer would be too risky at this point since the only other guy with remotely qualified experience is Vinnie Pestano, who has also dealt with inefficiency this year.
Not having a closer, at least temporarily could actually turn out to be a benefit for the Tribe since they could pull and change pitchers in the ninth when they get into jams and/or give up run(s) rather than waiting until the save is blown to make a move. Guys such as Joe Smith, Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw, Marc Rzepczynski or even temporary reliever Justin Masterson could be worked into that plan.
Facts & Notes:
- Michael Brantley increased his hit streak to 11 games on Friday night batting .457 with two homers and 10 RBI’s.
- The Tribe won 90 games for just the fifth time since 1955.
- The 19-6 record posted by the Tribe in September is the best in baseball and the best by the Indians since 1952.
- The Indians matched a season-long winning streak of eight with their victory in Minnesota on Friday, matching the longest win-streak in September by the Tribe since 1954 where they won 11 straight.
- Despite giving up six runs, Corey Kluber extended his no-loss streak to 12 games .
Up Next: Indians vs. Twins @ Target Field. First pitch at 1:05pm ET.
Only two games remain in the regular season for the two clubs on both sides of the spectrum. The Indians will send Sxott Kazmir to the mound to face Twins rookie Cole De Vries, Kazmir has dominated the Twins in four starts going 2-0 with a 1.44 ERA. De Vries hasn’t faced the Tribe this season, but he did make one start against them last season and pitched six shutout innings in a win.
The Indians have a chance to clinch a wild card spot on Saturday, but along with winning their game, which may have to deal with rain delays, the streaking Texas Rangers would also have to lose to be eliminated from contention. It’s coming all the way down to the final few games of the season. Either something has to give or, for lack of a better word, a wild set of one-game playoffs would ensue.
Jake Dungan is a communications student at Stark State College and an intern with the Akron RubberDucks. Follow him on Twitter @MajorLeagueJake.