Notes from the Wigwam: Wins continue to pile up

The wins continue to roll in for the Cleveland Indians, who now sit alone atop the American League Central with a record of 26-17.

So, how good was this past week and a day? Well, for starters, the Indians had three, yes count that, three walk-off wins during the past series against the Seattle Mariners, which ended up being a four-game sweep.

Even when the Indians made mistakes (blow saves, give up leads, etc.), it appeared as if this team can do no wrong.

Yes, it is only May 21, but there does seem to be something special brewing with this ball club. Can they sustain it? I’m not sure, but we might as well make the most of it while it lasts.

With that said, let’s take a look back at the week that was…

Weekly results

May 13 vs. New York Yankees, W 1-0 (WP: Masterson, LP: Phelps)
May 13 vs. New York Yankees, L 7-0 (WP: Nuno, LP: Bauer)
May 14 at Philadelphia, L 6-2 (WP: Pettibone, LP: Kazmir)
May 15 at Philadelphia, W 10-4 (WP: Kluber, LP: Hamels)
May 17 vs. Seattle, W6-3 (WP: Pestano, LP: Luetge)
May 18 vs. Seattle, W 5-4 (WP: Perez, LP: Perez)
May 19 vs. Seattle, W 6-0 (WP: Masterson, LP: Hernandez)
May 20 vs. Seattle, W 10-8 (WP: Smith, LP: Furbush)

Player of the Week

Jason Kipnis — Second baseman

7 G, 11-for-28, 8 R, 3 2B, 3 HR, 8 RBI, 4 BB, 5 K, 3 SB

It’s officially safe to say that the early season worries over Jason Kipnis’ struggles may have been a tad premature. Kipnis went on a tear this past week as he’s in the middle of a five-game hit streak, and he has also recorded at least two hits in all five of those games. After his impressive week, Kipnis brought his line back to a more than respectable .264/.329/.500. Getting Kipnis right will be key to the Indians’ chances of competing in the American League Central this season, so it’s good to see that he’s been able to turn things around. He already has seven home runs on the season, which is a nice number, but let’s also hope that we don’t see him encounter a major power outage as we did last year. In the first half of the 2012 season, we saw the left-handed hitting Kipnis send 11 balls out of the ballpark, but he was only able to muster three home runs over the second half of the year. He’s off to a good start once again, but the key will be sustaining it.

Minor League Player of the Week

Francisco Lindor — Shortstop, Carolina Mudcats

7 G, 10-for-30, 6 R, 4 2B, 3 RBI, 2 BB, 3 K, 3 SB

What can’t Francisco Lindor do? The Tribe’s top prospect collected 10 more hits during his past seven games, and he also stole three bags to bring his season steal total to 11. Overall, Lindor is hitting .331/.399/.466 with 11 doubles, four triples, one home run, 17 RBI, 18 walks and just 17 strikeouts. He’s proving to be an incredibly advanced bat, and the Carolina Mudcats are essentially becoming “The Francisco Lindor Show.” It seems as if there are a high number of pundits and analysts out there who believe that Lindor could be on his way to cementing himself as the top prospect in all of baseball, and it’s easy to see why. Again, I ask you, what can’t Francisco Lindor do? With every passing week, it seems as if he is proving that the answer to that question is nothing.

A rough week

Carlos Santana — Catcher

8 G, 4-for-28, 3 R, 3 2B, 4 BB, 7 K.

Santana has had some great weeks so far in the 2013 season. Unfortunately for the switch-hitting catcher, this was not one of them. The only real positive of the week was the fact that of his four hits, three of them went for extra bases. After his rough week, Santana has seen his average fall all the way down to .296. That’s still a solid average, but that is a mighty drop from the .370-plus that he was hitting earlier in the year. Santana will obviously come around, but one of the best things about this past week is the fact that the team was able to still score runs despite Santana’s struggles. That has to be very refreshing for Santana, who has watched his team struggle during the past two seasons when he would go into offensive slumps. This is just the latest evidence that this team’s offseason additions continue to pay massive dividends. With a new series upon us tonight, Santana will hopefully be able to relax again and recapture that strong swing that he’s displayed on so many occasions in the early parts of this season.

News & notes

— While Jason Kipnis did have a tremendous week, there is one player who could be even more deserving of the Player of the Week honor. Right-hander Justin Masterson went 2-0 this past week while pitching a total of 16 shutout innings and striking out 20. In fact, the only reason Masterson did not receive Player of the Week honors in this week’s Notes from the Wigwam is simply because he’s been so dominant all year while this past week was really the first time this season that Kipnis has showed the All-Star potential that he possesses. With earning two wins this week, Masterson moved to 7-2 on the year with an ERA of 2.83. At this rate, it does appear as if Masterson will garner legitimate All-Star consideration as he currently ranks second in AL in wins, third in strikeouts and 13th in ERA. Prior to the start of the season, it was said that the Indians’ chances of contention rested on Masterson and rotation mate Ubaldo Jimenez rebounding from rough 2012s and returning to something reminiscent of their previous forms. So far, Masterson has been even better than he was in the past. So, about that contract extension…

— What more can be said about Yan Gomes other than wow? I’ve heard about leaving a favorable impression, but Gomes is basically making it impossible for the front office to consider replacing him with the incumbent backup catcher Lou Marson. In 17 games, Gomes had gone 16-for-53 (.302) with two doubles, two triples, four home runs and nine RBI. Yep, that’s right — half of Gomes’ hits have gone for extra bases. Gomes was at his absolute best Monday against the Mariners as he went 3-for-5 with two home runs and four RBI. The second home run was especially special as it ended up being a three-run walk-off shot in the bottom of the 10th inning. Of course, Gomes also hit the home run after it appeared as if he was going to lay down a sacrifice bunt to advance the runners to second and third. It’s still too small of a sample size to draw any concrete conclusions on Gomes, and he is not without his flaws; he’s only walked once this season but struck out 10 times. However, it does appear as if we’ve seen enough to conclude that he is a superior option to Marson. He’s swung a hot bat as of late, and it will be interesting to see if the Indians attempt to plug him into some other spots on the field to ensure that his bat can stay in the lineuo. Remember, he’s played various infield and outfield positions both in the minors and last season with the Toronto Blue Jays, so Gomes is not limited to catching duties.

— Center fielder Michael Bourn showed some minor signs of rust when he made his return to the Indians’ lineup on May 10, but they seem to be a thing of the past as he recorded eight hits this past week and stole two bases. Bourn now has a .305 average in 20 games, and it’s easy to see this guys’ value. When he gets on base, he wrecks havoc as the opposing pitcher always has to account for him. Though, the other value with Bourn is his defensive ability. So much has been said about Zach McAllister’s strong start, and I’ll be the first to say that he deserves that credit. However, guys like Bourn, Michael Brantley and Drew Stubbs also deserve a lot of credit, especially when you consider McAllister’s fly ball percentage of 39.1 percent. In the past, there were probably a lot of balls that might find gaps or might drop in for hits, but the trio of center fielders are no ensuring that many of McAllister’s balls go for routine fly outs. McAllister is obviously reaping the benefits as he currently sports a 2.65 ERA in 51 innings and eight starts. As stated earlier, McAllister has done a lot to refine his game, but credit must also be given to the outfielders, and it all starts with acquisition of Bourn.

— It does appear as if Scott Kazmir may now be coming back to Earth. In his past two outings, Kazmir has gone 0-1 and allowed nine earned runs in eight innings of work. Kazmir has struggled to locate in his past two starts, which has allowed hitters to sit on whatever pitch they want and this has ultimately led to a lot of runs. It’s only two starts, and it is too early to pull the plug on the Kazmir experiment, but I imagine he will be on a very tight leash. Remember that he has not pitched regularly in the Majors since 2010; that was three years ago. He’s already struggling and has only pitched a total of 28 1/3 innings, but what happens when he begins to approach 50? 75? 100? It just seems unreasonable to believe that his arm can hold up over the course of the season, especially when you consider his limited body of work in the past few years. As I stated earlier, it’s still a bit too early to abandon ship here, but you have to believe that the Indians will not hesitate to replace Kazmir if his struggles continues. Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer are both high-impact arms that are ready and waiting at the minor league level. It’s my belief that both of these players will be back in the Majors before the year is done, and if Kazmir’s struggles continue, he could be one of the likely candidates to be replaced.

— So is it fair to be worried about Chris Perez now? In his last two outings Perez has allowed three earned runs, which all came off solo home runs. Of course, it was also just a couple weeks ago when Perez earned the save after a faulty replay call by officials where they ruled an obvious home run a double. Blown saves and bad outings are part of the game, but what’s concerning is the frequency with which these types of outings are happening with Perez. Maybe this is just a bad string for Perez, and hopefully he will come around, but it’s been rough to watch as of late. He’s always been a guy who can make your heart jump when he enters the game, but it’s been taken to a whole new level as of late.

Quick hits

— We keep waiting for Ubaldo Jimenez to collapse, but it just has not happened yet. Jimenez had another solid outing this past week as he allowed two earned runs in five innings and struck out nine. He now has a gone 3-0 and has a 1.90 ERA in his last four games. It would be a colossal boost to the Indians if Jimenez is returning to form.

— Brett Myers will make at least two more rehab starts before joining the Major League club. He’s scheduled to throw Wednesday for Double-A Akron, but there’s still no word on when he could rejoin the Indians.

— The Indians still rank last in the MLB in attendance with an average of 15,936. Though there are signs that it could be improving as they drew more than 30,000 fans this past Friday. The Detroit Tigers are in town for a two-game series beginning tonight, so it will be interesting to see if the fans come out.


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