Overcoming a Danny Salazar-induced triple bogie on the first hole, the Cleveland Indians showed a champion’s focus down the stretch on Thursday, birdieing in each of the final five frames to beat the White Sox, 5 skins to 4.
For some reason, everyone mobbed Tyler Naquin after his game-winning sac fly to center field, even though it was Abe Almonte who had doubled to the gap, took third base on the next pitch, and scored the winning run. “Papa, why are walk-offs always all about the hitter, even if he didn’t get a hit?” “That’s just how it’s always been, Son.” “But why?” “Because humanity will always celebrate those who capitalize on the hard work of others.” “I found a Pokemon!”
Oh, by the way, there won’t be any Robert Griffin news of any kind in this article. That headline was merely what we in the industry call “desperate clickbait” or “the last resort of an Indians writer in Brownstown.” A historically terrible football team’s glorified scrimmage drew about 58,000 rabid supporters versus the first-place Tribe’s 12,000 and change last night. But, as of last count, a total of zero people were shocked by this.1
For some reason, everyone mobbed Tyler Naquin after his game-winning sac fly to center field, even though it was Abe Almonte who had doubled to the gap, took third base on the next pitch, and scored the winning run.
Instead, Cleveland (69-50) remains six games up on Detroit, and will try for the upteenth time this season to hit the mythical 20-games-over-.500 mark on Friday against Toronto. The ChiSox (57-63), on the other hand, have free-fallen a considerable distance since those days in April when everyone was imagining a Red Line World Series. On the year, Chicago only has one series win over Detroit, and they have yet to take a single set from the Royals or the Indians. While Cleveland is 33-17 within the division, the Sox are 20-29. I might be the first person ever to honor the late Dennis Green by referencing this obscure press conference quote of his: “they are who we thought they were!”
Salazar False Starts
Sometimes you get a ketchup stain on a white t-shirt, so you wash it, and it looks like the stain is gone, and then you venture outside into the daylight and realize, now that you’re out in public with no escape, that your ketchup stain is very much still visible and perhaps even more prominent than you remembered it. That was Danny Salazar’s start on Thursday night, as the Indians’ decision to skip a rehab assignment and put Danny right back where he’d left off resulted in just that: he picked where he left off—i.e., pitching crappily.
Salazar gave up three runs on just one hit and three walks in the first, and when Francona was denied a mulligan, he elected to just put the driver back in the bag and focus on his iron game the rest of the way. OK, now I’m back to the golf metaphor? I thought we had a ketchup thing going? Either way, Salazar didn’t appear to be hurt, and even continued throwing in the pen after Kyle Crockett relieved him in the second inning.2 Fortunately, Mike Clevinger and the Indians pen were more than up to the task of shutting down the White Sox while Cleveland sloooooowly chipped away at the earlier deficit. Four double plays in the first five innings didn’t help the cause, but it all worked out in the end thanks to the picket fence they built from the fifth to the ninth.3
At the end of June and that 14-game win streak, we all realized that this club’s invincible starting pitching couldn’t possibly maintain its dominance at that level for 162 games. We may not have expected quite the regression we’ve seen, however, as the Indians have improbably morphed into more of an offensive juggernaut with a good but stumbling rotation.
Indians Starting Pitchers, Through July 1 vs. After July 1
10-3, 2.22 ERA, .185 BAA, 2.49 K/BB, 10.3 K/9
1-1, 8.64 ERA, .333 BAA, 2.45 K/BB, 9.7 K/9
7-2, 3.02 ERA, .222 BAA, 2.64 K/BB, 8.2 K/9
2-3, 6.50 ERA, .286 BAA, 1.40 K/BB, 7.0 K/9
9-1, 3.21 ERA, .253 BAA, 6.40 K/BB, 6.0 K/9
2-5, 6.26 ERA, .291 BAA, 4.57 K/BB, 6.9 K/9
4-2, 2.56 ERA, .225 BAA, 4.20 K/BB, 9.0 K/9
4-4, 4.27 ERA, .230 BAA, 3.47 K/BB, 8.9 K/9
8-7, 3.50 ERA, .210 BAA, 4.78 K/BB, 9.0 K/9
5-1, 2.41 ERA, .232 BAA, 3.53 K/BB, 9.1 K/9
Looking at those numbers, was your first takeaway, “gee, Kluber sure has been consistent,” or “Holy shit, we’re terrible! The sky is falling! Every man for himself!” Either way, there is a Twitter community for you.
Dan Otero and Andrew Miller threw three combined shutout innings last night and both dropped their season ERAs under 1.50. Since that same July 2 date mentioned in the previous section, these two dudes have thrown a total of 40 innings (19.2 for Otero, 20.1 for Miller) and surrendered just 24 hits. If you got weird and based their ERA on hits instead of runs, it’d be 5.40—which is only a little worse than the Arizona Diamondbacks’ actual bullpen ERA (using runs), currently at 5.09.
Tabs on Tabler
Jose Ramirez, who drove in two more runs including the game-tying one in the eighth with two outs, is knocking on the door to one of the Indians’ most cherished single-season records. Yes, it’s Pat Tabler’s storied mark for “batting average with 2 outs and runners in scoring position.” In 1987, Pat hit an insane .440 in 75 such “clutch” ABs, driving in 41 runs in those situations alone. His BABIP was also an astronomical .526, as Patty’s infamous deal with the devil at the crossroads was truly paying off. J-Ram, meanwhile, has now raised his average to .423 with 2 outs and RISP across 52 at-bats.
He’s racked up 25 of his 53 ribbies in those scenarios. Jose’s BABIP: a much more reasonable but still stupid .455. If Ramirez comes through in his next two 2O/RISP moments, he will at least temporarily pass Tabler’s mark, which we all told our children would be insurmountable.
Greatest Single Season BA w/ 2 Outs & RISP, Indians History (min. 50 chances):
- Pat Tabler (1987): .440
- Dale Mitchell (1952): .429
- Jose Ramirez (2016): .423
- Victor Martinez (2007): .400
- Lou Boudreau (1948): .397
- Luke Easter (1950): .393
- Gary Alexander (1978): .386
- Johnny Burnett (1931): .380
- Manny Ramirez (1999): .375
- Rico Carty (1975): .373
Living in Chicago, I don’t get to see most of those exciting Browns preseason games, and I am also blacked out from the Manning and Underwood Show when the Indians play the White Sox. This does give me the chance to listen to WGN’s ultimate homer broadcaster Hawk Harrelson, however. I hated Hawk for my first several years in this town, but now have come to appreciate his daily, sorrowful resignation over his underachieving Pale Hose.
For a blatant homer, he also does more praising of the opposition, aka the “bad guys,” than you’d think. This week, he lavished praise on J-Ram, Kipnis (“the native of Northbrook”), Rajai Davis (“this guy has been killing us for years”), Tito (“any manager than finishes over .500 eleven years in a row is a Hall of Famer”), and the general depth and talent of the Cleveland roster. I suppose he did also place some harsh judgment on the entire Indians starting rotation for their low number of hit batsmen, suggesting they’re all too finesse to pitch inside. He may have just been comparing them to his old pal and Indians teammate Sam McDowell.
- Editor’s Note: the solution is obvious. The Indians should have a Browns legend throw out the first pitch and sign autographs behind home plate during every single game. [↩]
- There’s no way, in the wake of the Brantley saga, they’d start heading down a similar road with Salazar, right? Just ignore that Roberto Perez might have been rushed back from injury a bit too. [↩]
- One run in each inning. [↩]