Indians improve to 56-38
When you think about it, the Cleveland Indians only needed two players today: Tyler Naquin and Carlos Carrasco. I am not sure how Naquin could have swung playing catcher and running to first base in time to field a ball by himself, but if he could have found a way -- and also hit the way he did -- the Indians would have still beat the Kansas City Royals by two runs.
Naquin's big day entailed two two home runs, a double, a walk, and six runs batted in. His first home run came at a time when it looked like it would make a huge difference, with the Tribe up 1-0 in the top of the third. His second came in essentially garbage time, a three-run shot in the fifth that put the Indians over the double-digit hump.
If Naquin was not already in the discussion for American League Rookie of the Year, he surely is now. Some of these numbers could change by the end of the day, but among American League rookie batters, Naquin is tied for the lead with 12 home runs alongside Dae-Ho Lee and Byung-Ho Park, while also leading in on-base percentage and having one of the best wRC+ ratings in the entire league. His six runs batted in is also a single-game record by an Indians rookie. The last one to do so was Turner Ward in 1990.
Of course Naquin only accomplished the win by himself in theory. In practice, nearly every other member of the Indians who started the game contributed one way or another. Carlos Santana, Jason Kipnis, and Mike Napoli all added home runs, for example. Hitting balls really hard is something they have done a lot of over the past month.
13 American League players have hit 5+ home runs in July. With Napoli, Naquin, Kipnis, and Santana, the Indians have four of them.— Jason Lukehart (@JasonLukehart) July 20, 2016
The only Tribe starters to not have a hit were Francisco Lindor and Roberto Perez, the latter of whom still managed to draw a walk. Although it came while the Tribe were already up, 11-0, Perez's walk was a great battle at the plate. He began 0-2 then worked his way back with a great eye and a few protective swings to put men on first and second with no outs.
Pitching wise, Carlos Carrasco was dominant on the mound from the get-go, carrying a perfect game through three-and-a-half innings until I accidentally ruined everything:
Even with my curse bestowed upon him, Carlos continued on his way to what could have easily been a complete game shutout, but he was pulled after the sixth inning. It is hard to blame Terry Francona for the call, the heat index was over 100 when the game started (as Matt Underwood frequently reminded viewers at home) and the game was well in hand at that point.
Carrasco finished the day with six strikeouts, two walks, and one hit allowed over those six innings. This was just his third shutout of the season, but his 11th start of the season (out of 14) in which he has allowed two or fewer runs. Cookie probably will not find himself in the Cy Young discussion because of the two months he missed with a hamstring injury, but it does not look like he is going to stop anchoring this phenomenal rotation anytime soon.
Who knows what could happen in the next few months, but this team just feels... special right now. The offense is thumping like it was in the '90s, with a pitching staff that might make the '90s Atlanta Braves turn their heads. None of that means they are guaranteed a World Series, but if they keep playing like they are there is a pretty good chance at a second parade going through Cleveland. Their next test will be the final leg of their current road trip when they head back to the East Coast to face the Baltimore Orioles.