Indians improve to 44-48
5-game lead in AL Central
Winds may howl, raindrops may plummet, and lightning may grab the sky with electric fingers, but Michael Anthony Clevinger is impervious to weather delays.
Clevinger held the Angels to a single hit in 5.2 innings of work, although he allowed four walks. This is what the box score will show, and it is the kind of line that might remind fans of a younger Danny Salazar. The reality is a little bit different. Here are the pitches that resulted in Clevinger's first three walks:
Ah, but Michael Anthony Clevinger shouldered these burdens, too, and pitched his way to glory.
I mentioned his four walks; the last came in the top of the sixth when Trout took a high fastball. This appeared to be the one correct walk issued by blurry-eyed blue. Clevinger might have been perfect through five at that point with a much lower pitch count. Despite the turbulent heavens, questionable calls, and strict pitch count limit, Clevinger earned his first career win for the Indians.
One teammate in particular buoyed Clevinger's performance tonight. On at least three occasions, Jose Ramirez laid out for hard-hit baseballs and converted the out. At the same time, Ramirez still boasts a wRC+ of 124 and OPS+ of 112. This, combined with his growing defensive talent at the hot corner, gives the Indians an intriguing depth chart moving forward. Should Yandy Diaz arrive in Cleveland soon, the Indians can deploy two third baseman that are also comfortable roaming the outfield as they see fit. Both also have experience at shortstop and second base. Yes, it is perfectly normal to be salivating at this point.
Plenty of help came from the Indians lineup, too. Four consecutive two-out hits (Lindor, Napoli, Ramirez, and Chisenhall) led to three runs in the bottom of the first inning and allowed Clevinger to pitch with a lead for the rest of his outing. Every Indians starter notched at least one hit, and Lindor slapped three. While the sexiest hitting streak in baseball belongs to Francisco Mejia of the Lynchburg Hillcats (50!), the Indians 3-4-5 hitters have the following hitting streaks after today's game:
Lindor: 9-game streak
Napoli: 13-game streak
Ramirez: 17-game streak
Yes, it is perfectly normal to be salivating at this point.
The Indians bullpen chipped in 3.1 innings of scoreless baseball and did not allow a hit. Not to fan some old argumentative flames, but TJ Zuppe made an interesting point tonight on Twitter:
Before July 18 meltdown, Shaw had gone 13 straight appearances without allowing a run. So make that 24 of past 25 outings w/o run allowed.— T.J. Zuppe (@TJZuppe) August 14, 2016
The season is long and our memories are short. The doesn't absolve Shaw of his past sins and certainly wouldn't excuse a meltdown in his next appearance, but it is a reminder that the man is really quite good at baseball most of the time except for the times when he is not in which case my god someone please end the carnage.
The Indians hold a five game lead over the Tigers in the AL Central. Tomorrow, they can sweep the Angels and hopefully convince the more anxious Tribe fans that the starting rotation isn't falling apart, the season is not slipping away, and hope is not a small fragile bird shattered by the slightest breath of fate.
Last note: Tonight, I learned that any game going beyond midnight in the timezone where it is played is referred to as #WeirdBaseball, and according to Jason Lukehart, you must eat ice cream. Done and done. Let's Go Tribe!