Second Thoughts: Game #24 – Indians 6, Rangers 3
|W: J. Gomez (2-1) L: C. Lewis (3-1) S: C. Perez (10)
Player of the Game: Jeanmar Gomez (7 innings 3 ER 8 Hits 1 BB 2 SO)
And the Indians keep on rolling! Welcoming the first place Texas Rangers into town on Friday, the Tribe would get out to an early lead and never look back, defeating Josh Hamilton and the Rangers 6-3 at Progressive Field. It was another good outing for starting pitcher Jeanmar Gomez who notched his second win of the year going seven strong innings, and giving up just three runs on eight hits against arguably the best lineup in Major League Baseball.
The win also gives Cleveland their third three-game winning streak of the young season, where the Indians are now 3-0 when new left fielder Johnny Damon starts and bats leadoff in a game. The former World Series champ along with the surging Jason Kipnis at the top of the lineup could spell trouble for opposing teams as Tribe closes out the first full month of the 2012 season.
The Top 9
- Winning the first game of the series. I don’t think many fans realize how important winning a series (let alone the first game of a series) really is in baseball. When winning the first game of a series this season, the Indians have gone on to win that series four out of five times this year. As of today, if the Tribe were to win every three or four game series through the end of the season, they would finish with 106 wins. While that certainly is a stretch, winning a series should at least be a season goal throughout the year.
- Shin-Soo Choo is back! He may have only went 1-for-4 in the ballgame, but that one hit was a big one—a two-run home run to give the Tribe the early lead and more importantly, giving Choo with his first long ball (of what hopes to be many) in 2012. A great sign from the right fielder no doubt.
- Continuing to add and score runs. Two out of the three times when Texas scored a run in the top half of an inning, the Tribe answered back with a run of their own in the second half of that inning. When playing a powerhouse offense like the Rangers, continuing to add and score runs is key in every inning, as Texas never led once in Friday’s game.
- Gomez with another quality start. Forget about Ubaldo Jimenez and his struggles on the mound, Gomez has quietly put together a nice solid start for himself to the 2012 season. Going at least five innings in each of his last three starts, the right hander has walked just four hitters on the entire year while striking out 15 in 22 1/3 innings.
- Getting Texas to ground into double plays. Besides pitching well and giving the Indians another chance to win last night, Gomez was lucky to get out of two jams with two rally-killer double plays, after Texas got their leadoff man on with nobody out in the second and seventh innings and could not get a big hit. This will certainly be factor for the rest of the weekend as well if the Tribe has any chance of winning the series against the Rangers.
- We are all Kipnises. I honestly don’t know what else to say about the Indians rising star second baseman Jason Kipnis. Not only did he extend his hitting streak to eight games on Friday, but has now raised his average above .300 for the first time this season. We’re talking about a guy who was hitting .167 just 12 games ago, and is now leading the Tribe in runs (16), hits (28), triples (3), home runs (4), RBI (17), stolen bases (6), and slugging percentage (.527). Is it too early to think he could be an All-Star this July?
- HERE’S JOHNNY. Johnny Damon got his second hit as a member of the Tribe last night and it proved to be a big one, as the Indians left fielder hit a two out, two run triple in the bottom of the seventh to give Cleveland some insurance runs late in the game. In three games with the Tribe this season, Damon is hitting .167 with 2 RBI where both his hits are extra-base hits as well. He is already showing signs of bringing with him the same veteran leadership his former teammate Trot Nixon brought with him to Cleveland back in 2007.
- New AL Saves leader Chris Perez. Who would have thought that a month after his Opening Day meltdown, Tribe closer Chris Perez would not only be leading the American League in saves, but go a perfect 10-for-10 in save situations since the Home Opener? I certainly had my doubts with Perez, but the right hander is certainly turning me into a believer.
- Jack Hannahan, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Kipnis all sporting a .300+ average. When 1/3 of the lineup is hitting above .300, you know things are more than likely going well for the entire team and that has been the case at the start of May for the Indians. Hannahan (.306), Cabrera (.303), and Kipnis (.301) have all given the Tribe something different each night, but have stayed consistent and have become early interracial parts to the lineup. If the Indians want to play in October, they need all three of these players to simply keep doing what they have been doing and stay hot at the plate not only during the first half of the season, but down the stretch as well in the second half.
The Bottom 9
- Instant replay. While I am in favor of instant replay in Major League Baseball, I think there are better ways to implement it, even without the umpires having to leave the field. My own personal opinion would be to add a fifth umpire and have him sit in the press box during the game. This way when a controversial home run occurs, the press box umpire would already be looking at the replay and calling down to the other four with the right call. A much faster way to get the job done if you ask me.
- Attendance. I’ve mentioned attendance once before last weekend in my second thoughts column, and last week it was about 25 degrees cooler at Progressive Field than it was on Friday. With a first pitch temperature of 66 degrees, two first place teams playing against each other, and the first postgame fireworks of the season after the game, the Tribe managed to draw only 16,147 fans to the ballpark last night. It may have been just the 12th home game of the season, but with record heat all across the Cleveland area this week, there’s no better place to enjoy the warm May weather than to watch the first place Indians and take in a ballgame.
- Johnny Damon in left field. I really like Damon’s bat and all the veteran leadership and presence he brings to the Tribe, but his left field days are certainly behind him. He missed a fly ball near the left field wall that resulted in a double for Mitch Moreland who would eventually score on an Ian Kinsler sac fly in the top of the third. With it only being his third game in a Cleveland uniform, I expect Damon will get used to playing the outfield again and only get better.
- Gomez getting too greedy. With the Indians leading 4-3 in the top of the seventh inning, Gomez gave up a leadoff single to Moreland before Alberto Gonzalez tried sacrificing him over, only to have the Indians starter try and fail to throw out the runner at second. It doesn’t matter what team it may be, it’s simply not safe to give extra outs to a dangerous team like Texas.
- Elvis Andrus. With a hit against the Tribe in Friday’s ballgame, Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus has now hit safely in 24 consecutive games against the Indians. While his hit didn’t help Texas win the game last night, stopping this streak is certainly a must going forward.
- Casey Kotchman hitless again. While he did have two hits against the Chicago White Sox this past Thursday, Casey Kotchman went hitless again last night for the ninth time in the last 12 games. Let’s just hope by the end of May, Kotchman is at least hitting .200.
- Pronk in a small slump. Once leading the Indians in batting average earlier this season, Travis Hafner has hit just .188 over his last 10 games. While he has drove in six runs during the same time span, it would be nice to see Pronk hit in front of Tribe fans as the Indians designated hitter has hit just .189 at Progressive Field compared to .371 on the road.
- Hannahan with another error. Yes, Jack Hannahan has looked sharp at the hot corner at times this year, but with another error in the top of the ninth inning, Hannahan has now tied his five error total from last season in just the 24th game of the season.
- Caught stealing again. I like the aggressiveness to try and steal bases, but against a good team and pitching staff like the Rangers, it is not always the best idea. For Michael Brantley, last night was already the fourth time he was caught stealing a base, which is good for second worst in the MLB. This absolutely must change as the season progresses.
With the win, the Indians (14-10) remain in first place and 1.5 games ahead of the second place Detroit Tigers in the Central Division. The Tribe also is now a perfect 4-0 on Friday nights to start the 2012 season, where 10 of their 14 wins on the year have come during night games.
Up next for the Indians: The second of a three-game series against the Rangers on Saturday, as it will be Derek Lowe (4-1, 2.27 ERA) vs. Derek Holland (2-2, 5.13 ERA) at 7:05 pm. If Damon is in the lineup tomorrow night, it will be the first time both he and Lowe start together on the same team since Game 4 of the 2004 World Series, on October 27, 2004.
Follow Jim on Twitter @JBirdman27 or he can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I think Gomez is the most overlooked story this year. He was the Tribe's best starter in spring training and he's carried that over to the regular season. If he keeps pitching at this level we're going to win a lot of games. He was hitting 93 mph last night which is harder than I remember him throwing last year.
Kipnis has really surprised me with his speed and power. We expected him to hit for a decent average, but he's also leading the team in HR's, RBI, and stolen bases despite getting off to a slow start. And his defense has been rock solid. He really is playing at an All-Star level right now.
Hafner may be slumping but that was an excellent piece of hitting on that sac fly. And some of his outs recently have been line drives into the shift.
Great to see Choo finally get a hold of one. Maybe he'll start hitting now.