15 for fighting: Ball Played

A long list of injuries,1 an 11-game road trip, and playing against three teams clawing for postseason positioning2 were not enough to prevent the Cleveland Indians from setting a franchise record 15-game winning streak just a year removed from the mark being tied at 14. Thursday night’s game against the Chicago White Sox would up being more a victory lap than a tense affair as the Tribe eased their way to another victory, this time to the tune of 11-2.

With expected White Sox starter Carlos Rodon being scratched, the Pale Hose turned to Mike Pelfrey to start the game. The Tribe responded to the late switch by having the first four batters cross home plate before an out was recorded.

The White Sox did respond with two home runs of their own in the bottom of the first inning as Corey Kluber settled in. They would be the only two runs of the game as Kluber struck out 13 in seven innings before Shawn Armstrong and Craig Breslow faced the minimum in their two innings of relief. A day after Carrasco stayed under 100 pitches for his complete-game win, the Tribe pitchers threw only 117 total pitches.

With the game in hand and several hundred customers of Universal Windows Direct celebrating at a special watch part in the Right Field District back in Progressive Field,3 the rest of the game would belong to the prospects.

Erik Gonzalez had a career game as he hit two home runs (came into the night with two career home runs in 68 prior games) alongside a sacrifice fly to finish with four RBIs (came into the night with seven RBIs in 68 prior games).

Greg Allen wanted in. Allen hit his first MLB home run in the seventh inning, and it was a no-doubter halfway up the seats as Tom Hamilton thanked Jonathan Lucroy for turning down a trade in 2016 that would have sent him and Francisco Mejia—who also had a hit on Thursday—to the Milwaukee Brewers.

Don’t forget that despite being a MLB veteran, Francisco Lindor is still younger than both Gonzalez and Allen (at 21 years old, Mejia is two years younger than Lindor). After hitting a triple to lead off the game, a home run, and a single, Lindor needed a double in the ninth inning to complete the cycle. While it didn’t happen, Lindor was still all smiles after the game.

Indians MLB standing

The Indians (84-56) now have a magic number of 12 over the Minnesota Twins to win the division. Any combination of 12 of wins for the Tribe or losses for the Twins will clinch. It is possible the upcoming 10-game home stand can see the Indians popping champagne corks in front of the home crowd. Given that the Tribe is 17-3 in the last 20 games and 24-6 in the last 30 games, it might be worth scanning the availability of tickets late next week if anyone wants to see them clinch.

The Indians also continue to have the best run differential in MLB (+199) as they have scored with a Top 5 offense (5.1 runs per game) and prevented run scoring at the second-best MLB rate (3.7 runs per game) despite residing in the American League.4 Sitting at 2.5 games back of the Houston Astros, there is a real possibility of obtaining homefield advantage (and an ALDS against the wild card entrant). Sitting at a full five games above the Boston Red Sox, home field advantage in the ALDS should happen barring a collapse. Also of note since the World Series homefield will be determined by regular season record, the Washington Nationals are two games ahead of the Indians in the standings. Only the Los Angeles Dodgers- still eight games ahead- are the only team out of reach in the standings. Component-based evaluations though have the Indians in a virtual tie with the Dodgers even before last night’s win (one game should not have a drastic effect).

The Indians have won on the road (MLB-best 48-27), at home (36-29), against right-handed starters (53-33), against left-handed starters (31-23), in one-run games (16-13), in extra innings (3-2), against winning teams (37-23), and against losing teams (47-33). The only major category the Tribe has struggled was in interleague play (6-14).

Indians pitching

Over the 15 game winning streak, the Indians have a team ERA of 1.87 with 132 strikeouts to just 30 walk, while allowing a .211 batting average against. Six different Indians starters have earned a win: Trevor Bauer (3), Ryan Merritt (2), Mike Clevinger (2), Carlos Carrasco (2), Corey Kluber (3). Only twice during the streak did an Indians starter receive a no decision: Danny Salazar’s failed rehabilitation start and Carrasco against the Tigers (he gave up one run, Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen could not hold a one run lead). The Tribe has four shutouts and three games of allowing just one run over the 15-game span. The win streak started by allowing six runs to the Boston Red Sox; no team has scored more than four in a game since.

The defense has been outstanding and needs to be given partial credit for the limited runs allowed. Metrics are not all that useful over such a small sample size, but the team has recorded 20 double plays and caught 2-of-5 would-be base stealers over the win streak.

Carlos Santana has been ridiculous at first base as he has taken the AL-lead in DRS (+8) as he continues to state his case for a Gold Glove Award. Francisco Lindor has finally started looking like the Frankie defensive wizard Tribe fans had grown accustomed to seeing, and his partnering with Jose Ramirez turning double plays is great. The catching duo of Roberto Perez and Yan Gomes continues to be the best pair of defensive backstops in MLB. Even the constant rotating cast of players in the outfield has played well to take away hits from the opposition.

Indians hitting

Over the 15 game winning streak, the Indians have a team slash line of .322/.401/.591 with an fWAR over six. The Tribe leads MLB in each slash category and fWAR over that period. The closest MLB comparison to that slash line is Paul Goldschmidt of the Arizona Diamondbacks who has hit .314/.424/.597 (156 wRC+, 5.7 fWAR) on the season and is considered a Top 5 candidate for the NL MVP Award. Yes, the Indians as a team- despite the injuries and lineups filled with prospects- have hit as if they were a MVP candidate over the last 15 games.

The Tribe has 39 doubles, five triples, and 33 home runs over the 15 games for a ridiculous combined 77 extra base hits. The team has scored at a clip of 7.3 runs per game as only twice has the team finished with less than four runs scored. In seven of the 15 games, the Indians have scored at least nine runs. In 11 of the 15 games, the Tribe has double-digit hits. Adding in walks, the Indians reached base at least 10 times in every game except for the 4-0 win against the Kansas City Royals on August 26.

  1. Michael Brantley, Jason Kipnis, Andrew Miller, Danny Salazar, Josh Tomlin, Lonnie Chisenhall, Abraham Almonte, Bradley Zimmer, Jose Ramirez, Jay Bruce, and Yandy Diaz. []
  2. Red Sox, Royals, and Yankees. []
  3. A promotion by the company in July was any project in that month would be refunded should the Indians have a 15-game or more win streak during the rest of the regular season. $1.7 million in projects will now be refunded. []
  4. Los Angeles Dodgers are second with +177, Astros second in AL with +171 []

  • Harv

    – I said all last season: use your new investor to “overpay” Lindor before he starts cranking that power. Did they listen to me? Huh? [I know they did. Frankie and his peeps are just too smart]. Still won’t stop me from enjoying his talent and spirit for however many seasons we have him. Having Ramirez locked up and getting first glimpses of the newbies make it easier.

    – Doesn’t matter that the latter part of the streak is against lesser opponents; that’s probably the case in all streaks of this length. This team is so locked in. And without Kipnis, Miller, Brantley …

    – Was waiting for the league’s adjustments to finally slow Zimmer’s talents and mess with his head a little, and looks like we’re here. But if he can keep himself from chasing, take his walks, that will keep him contributing even if he can’t counter-adjust until next year. Zimmer on the base paths messes them back.

  • mgbode

    Last night ended with Greg Allen (LF), Bradley Zimmer (CF), and Tyler Naquin (RF) in the outfield and if you squinted just right, then you could see visions of 2019 when they have all made their MLB adjustments and are covering so, so much OF grass on defense.

  • jpftribe

    I tried, but all I could see was Kipnis collecting $14.5M on MLB Network.

  • mgbode

    Naw, he’s playing first base.

  • jpftribe
  • mgbode

    Don’t call me Shirley!

  • Steve

    I wondered how they would find playing time to not waste away the young guys on the bench.

    Blowing everyone out seems like its a good plan to accomplish that.

  • scripty

    There was a flyball in the 9th that could easily have been a double off the LCF wall and I thought to myself, there’s zero chance Zimmer or Allen doesn’t catch that.

  • Petefranklin

    This team is baseball bliss at it’s finest. I just can’t get enough of watching them, even the end of last nights blowout. I am just wondering if Kip has a place on this team anymore. Brantley should undoubtedly get starts, but if Kip doesn’t get his bat going quickly, does he come off the bench? This team plays better when the pitching is stifling, and the defense seems to have so much to do with that. If Kip does not come back to a starting role, I’m afraid that the team will be better off. BTW Kip is my favorite player.

  • mgbode

    I remember that exact same thought. They BOTH got there and the only issue was that they had to communicate which one was going to make the tough catch look routine.

  • mgbode

    I approve of the plan as well.

  • mgbode

    Are you sure about Brantley and undoubtedly?

    Chisenhall, Bruce, A-Jax, and Zimmer + Guyer is quite the outfield. If Brantley is not healthy (still cannot put weight on his ankle), then it’ll be tough for him to crack into postseason playing time.

  • Petefranklin

    I wasn’t sure that he was that unhealthy, but it just seems like the guy never has a bad at bat. In the postseason I want him in there over all those guys for his bat as long as he can play adequate defense.

  • mgbode

    Yeah, even healthy he has been a 110 wRC+, which would be 4th on that list below Chisenhall (144), Bruce (131), and A-Jax (128).

    Of course, we are talking relatively small samples for each of them. It would definitely be a “good” problem to have if Brantley makes it back healthy and his hitting well.

  • Steve

    There’s almost no chance that Francona drops one of his veteran guys. Kipnis won’t just back in the lineup, but he’ll be flailing away at the top of the order against LHP.

    Also, get ready for Tomlin to make the postseason roster.

  • mgbode

    Decent chance Tomlin doesn’t make the ALDS roster, but I would be shocked if he was left off the ALCS.

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  • Petefranklin

    Tomlin may get a little nicked up in houston washington new york or chicago, but would rule in both LA’s, StL and AZ at least for 5 innings. He has the playoff experience edge so Terry’s going to give him his postseason innings. Teams have been scouting him for years and Josh still produces.
    BTW We’ve stumbled upon a pit bull puppy. The wife( a steelers fan) wanted a name. I said Kaiser and she loved it until my son told her about our QB of the future. I guess his name is Kluber now!

  • mgbode

    your son ratted you out!

    my son is named Cade. my father-in-law kept quiet about McNown being the only UCLA QB to beat USC four times (he & my wife are Trojan fans).

  • Petefranklin

    That’s awesome!
    Kluzer maybe?