Things could not really be going any better for the Cleveland Indians as of late as the team has been on an absolute tear since the All-Star Break.
To put it into perspective, the Indians have gone 11-5 since the break, including a 6-1 record this past week. It’s nice to see the team play so well, especially since Detroit will be coming to town this week, and the teams will be battling for first place in the American League Central Division.
The one downside for the Indians this past week has been that while they have had success, divisional foes Detroit and Kansas City have also been on tears. The Royals went 5-1 this past week and with their record at 56-52, they are just 7 ½ games behind the Tigers for first place.
The Tigers were also impressive and went 5-0 during the week. The Indians currently trail Detroit by just three games.
Knowing that, all eyes in the AL Central will be watching the four-game series between the Tigers and Indians this week, which is set to begin tonight in Cleveland. Corey Kluber will be on the mound for the Tribe while Anibal Sanchez will be starting for the Tigers.
Yet, before we look ahead to this week, let’s take one look back at the exciting week that was for the Indians…
July 29 vs. Chicago, W 3-2 (WP: Perez, LP: Troncoso)
July 30 vs. Chicago, W 7-4 (WP: Shaw, LP: Veal)
July 31 vs. Chicago, W 6-5 (WP: Perez, LP: Axelrod)
August 1 vs. Chicago, W 6-1 (WP: Masterson, LP: Sale)
August 2 at Miami, L 10-0 (WP: Fernandez, LP: Jimenez)
August 3 at Miami, W 4-3 (WP: Allen, LP: Jennings)
August 4 at Miami, W 2-0 (WP: Kazmir, LP: Eovaldi)
Player of the Week
Chris Perez — Closer
5 G, 5 IP, 2-0, 3 S, 4 H, 1 R/ER, 1 K
It’s funny, since Perez has not been talking to the media this season, you can almost forget that he’s still a part of this team. However, his performance has certainly done all the talking for him, and that was especially true this past week. The Tribe’s right-handed closer was just fantastic as he made five appearances and either picked up a win or save in every outing. In actuality, Perez has been brilliant since returning from the disabled list on June 28. Since then, Perez has pitched 19 innings and allowed just two earned runs. He clearly has settled in, and it could even be argued that this has been the best stretch of his career to date. It’s been especially important to the Indians that Perez has been able to go out and reestablish himself as the team’s closer considering the struggles that setup manVinnie Pestano has endured this year. The bottom line is that the Indians can now feel good if they’re able to make it to the ninth inning with the lead, and that’s really all a team can ask for from its closer.
Minor League Player of the Week
Bryson Myles — Left fielder, Carolina Mudcats
5 G, 8-for-19, 3 R, 2 2B, 1 3B, 3 RBI, 1 BB, 4 K, 1 SB
Myles has really seen his prospect value rise out of late, and it’s because of weeks just like this. In five games this past week, Myles was an absolute hitting machine, and he has now recorded a hit in 16 straight games. During his 16-game hit streak, Myles has seen his average rise all the way from .242 to the .283 that it is at now. Really, the only negative with Myles is age as he’s already 23 years old but is only playing at the High-A level. However, if he continues to perform this way, there is a good chance that he will be promoted to Double-A Akron before the season is over, and he may then find himself on the radar of the big league club sometime next year. Regardless, the development of Myles has been especially nice this season because the Indians have not had much success in recent years when it comes to developing outfielders. It’s still far too early to say that Myles will even become a Major League success, but he’s doing all of the right things at this point, and he would provide the team with a colossal boost if he does one day develop into a Major League everyday player.
A Rough Week
Asdrubal Cabrera — Shortstop
6 G, 4-for-24, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 7 K, 2 E
At this point, it seems fair to conclude that 2013 is just going to be a down year for Cabrera. Whenever you think he is going to put things together, he unfortunately seems to have weeks like this. It’s been known that Cabrera’s defense is somewhat questionable and that remains the case this year as his UZR of -6.8 is currently second to last in the MLB among regular shortstops while his UZR/150 of -16.3 is dead last. Cabrera’s suspect defense played a big factor in Friday’s loss to the Miami Marlins. Cabrera mishandled what looked to be a routine double play ball, and Ubaldo Jimenez never recovered. Had Cabrera turned the double play, Jimenez would have exited the inning with his pitch count at just 14 pitches. However, the botched play clearly caused Jimenez to lose his focus as the right-hander ended up throwing more than 30 pitches before he was able to get out of the inning. As you might expect, it turned out to be just one of “those” nights, and the Indians lost 10-0. The defensive struggles of Cabrera would be much more forgivable if his bat were performing at the level we expect. However, Cabrera’s OPS of .700 is more than 50 points below his career average of .751, and plate discipline has been a major issue as Cabrera has drawn just 22 walks but struck out 82 times. The bottom line is that the Indians could use Cabrera’s production right now, but an argument could even be made that his backup, Mike Aviles, has been better this year. Perhaps Cabrera will turn it on and play a key role as the Tribe makes its playoff push, but it’s hard to be too confident at this point.
The number of pitches that right-hander Danny Salazar threw in throwing five no-hit innings on Friday for Columbus. Salazar was brilliant in the contest as 40 of those pitches went for strikes, and he also struck out eight batters while allowing zero hits and walking none. Strikeouts often lead to a pitcher’s pitch count increasing, but that was not the case here. Plain and simple, this is basically the definition of efficiency.
News & Notes
— Speaking of Danny Salazar, it was announced Sunday that Salazar would take Jimenez’s rotation spot for Wednesday’s game against the Detroit Tigers. Jimenez will be pushed back to start this Friday. The move comes as a bit of a shocker, but it also seems to make a lot of sense. Salazar has been one of the most dominant pitchers in all of the minor leagues as of late, and he certainly impressed in his first start for the Indians as he allowed one run and struck out seven in six innings while leading the Tribe to 4-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on July 11. Salazar has continued to dominate since then for the Clippers and his fastball was reportedly between 97 and 99 miles per hour in his start this past Friday. If anyone has the ability to shutdown the Tigers’ much-heralded offense, it’s probably Salazar, so it’s easy to see why the Indians made this move. Unfortunately, while this move clearly indicates the Indians think very highly of Salazar, it unfortunately shows that the team does not trust too much in Jimenez’s ability. Jimenez has definitely been better than anyone expected this season, but he still has some mental lapses, which was evident Friday with his inability to pick up his defense after Cabrera’s error. The move to Salazar may also be a preview of next year as Jimenez will more than likely be gone, and Salazar could be a prime candidate to replace him in the rotation.
— All signs seem to point toward Yan Gomes now being an everyday player. Gomes had another brilliant week for the Indians as he went 7-for-10 in four games to raise his average to .310. It is still a small sample size as Gomes has only played in 47 games this season and compiled 155 at-bats, but he has consistently gotten better and better as the season has gone on. Here is some food for thought. We all know that Mark Reynolds has been incredibly underwhelming this season, and it’s a well-know fact that he will not return to the Indians next season. What if the Indians take a different approach with the designated hitter position next season and let Gomes and Carlos Santana split time evenly between there and catcher? There’s not really a blueprint for this type of method working, but it could be something for the Indians to consider because Gomes is clearly worthy of more playing time. There have been a handful of breakout candidates on the Indians this season, but perhaps no one has broken out more than Gomes. Most teams long to have even one offensive-oriented catcher, but thanks to Gomes, it appears as if the Indians now have two. That’s a great problem to have.
— Jason Kipnis had a bit of rough week for awhile as he even endured a mini slump and went 0-for-10 across three games in the middle of the week. Of course, the term slump and Kipnis is a bit of an oxymoron these days, and he then followed that performance up by going 4-for-6 in his next two games. As it stands, Kipnis is currently hitting .295/.375/.497 with 15 home runs, 68 RBI and 21 stolen bases. He has a legitimate chance to reach 100 RBI this season and if he accomplishes that feat, he will become the first Indian to do so since both Victor Martinez andTravis Hafner reached 100 RBI in 2007. You can go up and down the Indians roster, and there are a number of candidates that have had a big impact this season, but there is arguably no Indian more important than Kipnis. It’s evident that Kipnis is the pulse of the club, and they seem to go as he goes. Given the Indians’ struggles against Detroit this season, it’s imperative that Kipnis helps set the tone for a big series. Kipnis is probably very jazzed for tonight’s start of the biggest series of the season, and let’s hope that same excitement rubs off on his teammates.
— Speed played a big role for the Indians this past week as both Michael Bourn and Drew Stubbs recorded three steals during the week. The most impressive thing for Bourn is that all three of his steals came in Saturday’s 4-3 win over the Marlins. With the acquisition of Bourn and Stubbs, Tribe fans expected that the Indians would be running like crazy this year, but Bourn only actually has 16 steals on the season while Stubbs has 13. Both numbers are below what the two typically would average at this point in a season. Nonetheless, the Indians still are tied with Boston for second in the Majors with 84 steals, which only trails Milwaukee. Speed if often a facet of the game that is overlooked, but its value and importance cannot be denied. In fact, speed could have an even enhanced role against the Tigers this week. As everyone knows, Detroit has a handful of very talented starting pitchers and almost every one of them can be classified as an ace. In those types of games, sometimes it’s important to manufacture a run by using your legs, and this could be an area where the Indians have an advantage. It might be just a slight advantage, but it’s an advantage nonetheless, and the Tribe needs to take everything it can get at this point.
— While the Indians have played good baseball for much of the season, the team has unfortunately struggled mightily against the Tigers this season. The Tribe owns just a 3-9 record against Detroit this year, so that only heightens the importance of this week’s series.
— Zach McAllister has settled in nicely since coming back from the disabled list. He made two starts this past week and allowed a total of four earned runs in 12 1/3 innings of work.
— Following the Tigers’ series, the Indians welcome the Los Angeles Angels in town for a three-game series.