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Second Thoughts Game #94: White Sox 2, Indians 3

Gomes and Bauer propel Tribe into All-Star Break with series win

Second Thoughts Game #94: White Sox 2, Indians 3
Trevor Bauer fans a career-high 10 batters in six and two thirds innings of work. (Photo: AP)
July 14, 2014
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The Indians head into the All-Star Break on a high note earning a game and series win over the White Sox. After 94 games, the Tribe sits in third place at an even 47-47 and seven and a half games behind first place Detroit. Considering the inconsistency this team has battled through so far, that's not the worst spot to be in.

Yan Gomes and Trevor Bauer stole the spotlight with dominant performances on Sunday, although Mike Aviles certainly earned a spot on the highlight reel, as the Indians came from behind late to win 3-2 over their South Side rivals. Gomes provided the majority of the offense driving in all three Tribe runs on the afternoon while Bauer fanned a new career-high 10 batters in six and two thirds innings of work.

Player of the Game: Yan Gomes (2-for-4, HR, 3 RBI).

Like his team, Indians catcher Yan Gomes ended his first half of the season on a high note recording two hits and driving in all three Indians runs of the day.

Gomes got the scoring started in the bottom of the second with an RBI single. For a while, that seemed like enough of a cushion as Trevor Bauer kept the White Sox off the scoreboard into the seventh inning, but after Chicago pulled ahead 2-1 in the eighth, Gomes stepped up to the plate and came through again with a two-run homer into the right-field bullpen to put the Tribe back on top 3-2.

While you could make an argument for Gomes being an All-Star, he has struggled a bit at the plate as of late as he was only batting .212 with two homers and five RBI in nine July games heading into Sunday. It wouldn't hurt to see his plate discipline improved after the break. His season OBP is only .306 as he has struck out 72 times against only 18 walks in 79 games. Last season, he only struck out 67 times in 88 games.

The rest of Gomes' stats have been impressive, or at least respectable, though, as he heads into the break batting .261 with 12 home runs and 36 RBI. The power Gomes showed last season has proven to not be an aberration as he is on pace for somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 by the end of the year.

His defense has also continued to prove to be among the league elite despite his early struggles. In addition to how well he continues to handle the pitching staff, he has thrown out 36% of potential base stealers, which is good for 9th in baseball.

Unleashing the Curveball

For the second straight start, Trevor Bauer pitched a quality start which led to a Tribe win. Well, on Sunday, the young right-hander tossed an absolute gem against the White Sox. Once again, though, his second gear didn't kick in until around the fifth inning, which is something that may never change.

He left a lot of pitches up in the zone in the early innings and bobbed and weaved around base runners with some help from his defense. (I still can't believe Mike Aviles made that throw!) After he found his groove, however, like his last start against New York, he was almost unhittable. During the first four innings, Bauer allowed four hits and two walks. In the last two and two thirds innings, he allowed only three base runners via hits.

The separator pitch for Bauer as of late has been his curveball. It's taken some time this season for him to bring it out and add it too the regular mix of pitches, but as of right now, I can say that it has become his go-to pitch in a two-strike count. He still limited its use on Sunday, but more than half of the 12 curveballs he did uncork resulted in swings and misses. All 10 of his strikeouts were swinging and eight of them were on curveballs in the dirt.

Need I say more?

His slider is also becoming a nice weapon in his arsenal. He got one of his whiffs on a slide piece that tailed a bit to the outside. That coupled with a mid-90s fastball and illusory curveball could end up being a lethal combination for years to come in Cleveland.

Swisher Settling In

One guy who may not want the All-Star Break to come around just yet is Nick Swisher as he has been swinging a hot bat lately. For most of thie 2014 season, Swisher has been the subject of criticism due to his struggles on the field as he has struggled to even bat his own weight for most of the season.

Since the calandar flipped to July, however, the Ohio native appears to be finally finding his rhythm at the plate as he has been pretty much limited to DH-only duties with Carlos Santana taking the majority of the reps at first base. He is now batting .289 in the month of July with three home runs, a double and 11 RBI in 12 games played thus far, raising his season average to .208 from .197.

It's not just him getting more hits. His entire approach at the plate has taken a turn for the better. During the depths of his struggles, he was trying to pull the ball, as I affectionately put it, six feet behind his head. When he striking out, he was grounding out weakly into the teeth of the defensive shift used against him. In the last few games, however, he is harnessing his swing much better and is waiting back on pitches and hitting them where they're pitched. Sunday was anothe example as his two hits were singles up the middle and to the opposite field.

Cleveland media icon and sports talk host Bruce Drennan made what I thought was a great point about Swisher and his struggles so far this year saying this is a guy who loves and cares about this team so much that he is just trying too hard to be successful. Now this season, I've had a few opportunities to meet the Tribe first baseman during spring training and his recent rehab assignment in Akron and I now know for a fact his personality is the same 24/7. He cares, but maybe sometimes cares too much.

What adjustments has he made to attribute to his recent success? Hard to say. Maybe he's found a way to relax at the plate more, maybe he's changed some swing mechanics or who knows, maybe he's been playing hurt this whole time with an undisclosed injury. I won't question it, though. If he has it working now, let it keep on working.

Up next: All-Star Game @ Target Field. First pitch at 8:00 pm ET (Tuesday).

Michael Brantley may be the Indians' lone All-Star representative this season, but that doesn't make him any less deserving. He will not be starting in the Midsummer Classic, but he will get in the game at some point and hopefully show the rest of the baseball world why he has been the Indians' most valuable player for the first half of the 2014 season. Don't forget to tune in and cheer on Dr. Smooth Tuesday at 8pm on Fox!

Jake Dungan is a communications student at Stark State College and an intern with the Akron RubberDucks. Follow him on Twitter @MajorLeagueJake.

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