Second Thoughts Game #72: Twins 1, Indians 5
Special K in Cleveland
Some were starting to question the future of Scott Kazmir as a starter for the Indians after his last start against Washington, when he served up five runs, four hits and three home runs in just two and two-thirds innings of work. Whether it was the rain, a mechanical issue or just another example of the inconsistency that the left-hander has dealt with so far this season, he had nothing working for him that night.
Kazmir needed 75 pitches to make it two thirds of the way into the third inning last weekend. On Friday night, he only needed 95 to get through seven dominant innings of work, allowing just one run on five hits. He did allow a solo home run to Brian Dozier, accounting for the Twins only run of the game. Unlike his last start, he had his pitches and his command working for him as he kept his pitch count down, striking out seven Twins hitters along the way.
Is Scott Kazmir a long-term solution for the Indians rotation? Probably not, but his return to the majors has been a nice, inspiring, feel-good story for Tribe fans and baseball fans in general this season and as a starter, he’s been serviceable thus far despite his inconsistency and has shown that he has the ability to pitch deep into games and show some form of dominance as he did on Friday night. He may end up in the bullpen at some point, as of now, he should stay in the rotation.
Jason Kipnis: Mr. June
So far this season, it seems as if everyone is taking turns having red-hot months. In June, it’s been second baseman Jason Kipnis, who is in the limelight as he’s been on an absolute tear at the plate batting .355 so far this month. The young middle infielder only had one hit in Friday night’s game, but that one single drove in two runs. He also had a sacrifice fly, giving him three RBI’s on the night.
While it’s likely too late for Kipnis to put together a legitimate All-Star campaign, he may finally be on track for the successful season many expected from him prior to opening day. He’s now raised his season batting average to .267 while hitting nine home runs and 38 RBI, as well stealing a team-leading 16 stolen bases, tying him for third in the American League in that category.
Whether he’s a hitter still trying to figure out what specific offensive category he will excel in or if he actually ends up being one of those do-it-all players for the remainder of his career, Kipnis for the time being is giving the Indians production in just about every way possible. He’s hitting for average, hitting home runs and extra base hits, driving in runs and utilizing his speed on the base paths. That, in addition to his solid defense in the field (despite his error on Friday), makes him a very exciting player for the fans to watch.
One Game at a Time
As cliché as it may sound, the best approach for the Indians is to focus on winning the game at hand before thinking about what the Tigers, Royals or any other rival team is doing. Since the turning point in Texas a week ago where the Tribe snapped an eight-game losing streak, I believe the Indians have followed that approach and have slowly pulled themselves out of the hole they put themselves in.
Now a week since that crucial series win in Arlington, the Indians have quietly won seven out of their last nine games taking three straight series and reestablishing themselves in second place in the division. In addition, Cleveland has picked up a couple games on the division-leading Tigers and now stands only three games out of first place, still very much in the race.
Believe it or not, the Indians have survived what on paper appeared to be the toughest part of their 2013 schedule. As bad as things looked at times, they’ve stayed at or around the .500 mark and have kept pace with Detroit, who thankfully haven’t been much more consistent than the Tribe. While no game or series is technically easy in baseball, the Indians do have a favorable schedule the rest of the season compared to what they’ve faced over the last month or so. It’s up to them if they can take advantage.
Quote of the Game:
"He looks like he's pretty much back to where he was, to me. He looks like he's pretty comfortable out there,” – Justin Morneau on Scott Kazmir’s performance on Friday.
Up Next: Twins vs. Indians @ Progressive Field. First pitch at 7:15.
After taking the series opener, the Indians are looking to take their fourth consecutive series win and move to 4-1 on the season against Minnesota. Corey Kluber, arguably Cleveland’s hottest starter behind Justin Masterson, will look to extend his dominating streak and hand the Tribe their fourth straight victory. The Twins will send right-hander PJ Walters to toe the rubber against the Tribe. In two career starts against the Indians (both last season), Walters has no decisions, but has a 5.94 ERA against them in just nine and a third innings pitched.
Jake Dungan is a communications student at Stark State College and an intern with the Akron RubberDucks. Follow him on Twitter @MajorLeagueJake.