Indians

Indians 5, Twins 0: Handsome in the House

TJ House

TJ House

Don’t look now, but here they come. The Cleveland Indians, the consistent inconsistents, are in the midst of the soft part of their schedule. After taking two of three from the AL East-leading Baltimore Orioles, the next nine games on the docket featured three of the AL’s worst teams; Minnesota, Houston, and Chicago. The Twins were first up and the way things got started two nights ago early, this wasn’t going to be the beginning of something big. But since Trevor Bauer gave up five runs in the first inning Tuesday night, the Indians have shutout out the Twinkies. That’s right, 17 straight scoreless frames from your Wahoo pitching staff.

They battled back to take the first game of the series Tuesday as they chipped away at that five run deficit and eventually won 7-5. Last night they led from start to finish as T.J. House and four relievers held Minnesota scoreless on five hits in a 5-0 win. The hot and cold offense has woken up again. The arms are doing their thing. Is it de ja vu all over again for the Indians? Could another late season sizzling streak be in the offing?

“Right now, they’re pitching lights out. Last year it was the same kind of thing later in the season. Everybody had that little bit of extra confidence and was able to go out there and execute their pitches,” said Mike Aviles, one of last night’s heroes. “This absolutely feels like the same thing.”

Zach Walters got the party started with a two out homer in the second off of Twins starter Ricky Nolasco. It was his third homer as an Indian, a no doubt, upper-tank shot. In the fourth, back to back doubles from Carlos Santana and Jason Kipnis gave the Tribe their second run. Aviles’s RBI single brought in Kipnis. Francona went with the numbers and gave Handsome Mike the start at third against the right-handed Nolasco. After two more hits off of the right-hander, Aviles is now 7-11 in his career.

Then there was the pitching. House has a way of bobbing and weaving through games and minimizing damage. The Twins put their leadoff batter on base in four of the six innings that House pitched in, but each time they failed to score. He just kept bearing down and getting the big outs he needed.

“Once he gets guys in scoring position, he’s all changeups and sliders,” Twins second baseman Brian Dozier said. “He actually throws more offspeed in hitter’s counts. He has a good changeup. We barreled a lot up, but just didn’t get any hits with runners on.”

The Tribe played the I-71 shuttle with House, Danny Salazar, Zach McAllister and Josh Tomlin over the last two months, flipping guys back and forth in the rotation unlike any season I can remember. It hasn’t been easy for the guys, but everyone is on the same page. It is all about the team.

Said House: “Obviously, I’ve never gone through the situation I’ve been in this year. You always want to be positive and not a nuisance or a distraction in any possible way. So I just told them, ‘Whatever you need me to do, I’m going to do.’ Whether that’s me going down and coming back up and starting, going back down, going to the bullpen, whatever it may be. I’m just going to do my job and help this team win. That’s all I want to do.”

House now has a 1.66 ERA in his last 16 innings of work. Even more impressive is the overall body of work from the group. In the last nine games, Tribe starters have given up just 10 runs in 54 innings, good for a 1.67 ERA (h/t to @joelhammond)

Speaking of the team, the rock of it has to be the bullpen and for the second consecutive night, they were nails in closing out a win. House departed with one out in the sixth and handed the ball to C.C. Lee who worked out of a two on, one out jam. Michael Bourn added an RBI in the seventh and Aviles’s third hit of the nigh, a solo blast in the ninth, ended the scoring. Scott Atchison, Nick Hagadone, and Bryan Shaw closed things out for the win. Of all of the bullpen pieces, Hagadone’s emergence may have become the most important and most surprising. The command issues he has struggled with over the past three years seem to have left and Nick has become a dependable late inning lefty. He’s allowed just one earned run in his last 18 appearances with 15 strikeouts to just one walk.

With the win, the 64-61 Indians moved to within five and a half games of first place Kansas City in the AL Central and trail Detroit by just four and a half games in the race for the second Wild Card. They’ve won seven of nine and have leaped over both New York and Toronto. Now the Tribe goes for the sweep with the unhittable Corey Kluber pitching this afternoon. They couldn’t be in a better spot. The Twins counter with righty Phil Hughes.

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(AP Photo/Jim Mone)

  • Natedawg86

    Need this one today! Keep the streak going, the interest up, and the hope alive

  • mgbode

    Mike Aviles had himself a day.

    Walters/Holt/Dickerson/J.Ramirez – really hope at least 1 of these guys sticks. so far, they are at least looking like competent MLB guys. Much more enjoyable seeing if the young players can develop rather than throwing out old guys who won’t though.

  • Harv 21

    Something about Zach Walters’s lean build with power remind me of Richie Sexson. Will be interesting to see whether he can develop strike zone discipline as the pitchers look at his film and start pounding his weaknesses. Potentially interesting player.

    Developing a belated true appreciation for Carlos, who’s gotten as stubborn about the strike zone as Frank Thomas. Now, if he could consistently turn that discipline into screaming line drives he’d be Frank. Course, that’s why Frank’s in the HOF and other walkmeisters are not.

  • Harv 21

    Dickerson is 32 and on the downside of whatever. Best put him in the Shelley Duncan file, a little spackle when starters need a quick rest.

  • mgbode

    Dang, you are correct. I got a bit too over-excited there. Thanks for the correction. Well, still 3 guys on that list.

    Tyler Holt (25yo) – 1st MLB experience now. Sort of strange that he grew up in Gainesville, but went to Florida State. High minors profile is a decent OBP guy w/o great power.

    Zach Walters (24yo) – spot-duty MLB time for Nats & now Indians thus far. He’s a throwback all-or-nothing hitter who is completely reliant on his power, but somehow has consistently kept his OPS+ above average in each stint (w/ tiny sample sizes). High minors profile backs up that he’s not a patient hitter, but has power.

    Jose Ramirez (21yo — yeah 21) – not even his 1st MLB duty as he came up for a cup of coffee last year and was phenomenal. he hasn’t hit this year, but his defense has been nice. High minors profile seems to be a solid speed & power guy but nothing amazing. again though, only 21yo doing it, so we need to find a place for him to develop. he may end up platooning with Lonnie next year at 3B instead of Aviles.

    R. Perez (25yo) – probably should include our backup C who has been doing a great job spelling Gomes. High minors profile is an absolute OBP monster other than an initial adjustment to AAA last year.

  • TNB

    Can I say that looking at this team, the bigggest differences to me is the fact that Masterson and Cabrera are gone, and it seems to have made a lot of difference. Obviously, this was team streak from the get go, but we knew what kind of inconsistencies we had in the past, and are giving opportunities to people who might pan out to be steadier, or we could be looking at a miracle 20 win month again, who knows. What I can say comfortably, though, is that I think the indians pitching staff doesnt look THAT far off from being a GOOD staff. Imagine if we could pick up someone like a Dan Haren to be a 3rd or 4th guy for next season with some of the alleviated cap room and extend Kluber?

  • CB Everett

    Walters intrigues me too. Worth a solid look this year. Maybe he’s not the next Jeff Kent or Brandon Phillips but you never know.

  • mgbode

    Please put a name other than Dan Haren in there.

  • markn95

    TJ House is really starting to put it together. Maybe great starting pitching really is contagious. I wonder how good this guy can be going forward. Josh Tomlin had a lot of initial success in 2010-11 and McAllister was pretty good in 2012-13 but the league caught up to both of them. House kind of fits their profile in having mediocre stuff and never being much of a prospect. But hey, maybe he’ll break the mold and develop into one of those crafty lefties that our own guys seem to have so much trouble ever laying a glove on :).

  • Harv 21

    Something about the Ramirez kid: love the demeanor, like he’s totally thinking he’s a major league baseball player and doesn’t belong anywhere else, not in the minors, not working in a convenient store, right here. In the late innings he swung and missed at a very slow curve and started laughing in the box – you could see it from the centerfield camera shot. Then stepped back in and was ready for the next one. Love that. His talent may top out as a Mike Aviles type but he won’t wilt under pressure.

  • mgbode

    completely agree. despite his hitting struggles, he has really been one of my favorite guys to watch. his approach just looks good. and, I hate to put any type of thought on what a player might become when he’s just 21yo and at the MLB level already. that itself is impressive.

  • nj0

    T.J. House’s full name is Glenn Anthony House. T.J. stands for Tiger Junior.

  • nj0

    Over at Fangraphs they looked at 21 year olds playing AAA and the vast majority became above-average major leaguers.

  • mgbode

    Imagine the buzz he would be generating if he didn’t have top5 MLB prospect Lindor breathing down his neck for his spot.

    I really think that he’ll be our starting SS in 2015, then move over to 3B when Lindor comes up. Lonnie better start hitting again soon.