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 []