Indians improve to 88-63
What do you get if you combine a locked-in Corey Kluber with a clutch Jose Ramirez? On their own, probably nothing. Jose Ramirez can't score all the runs by himself, and Kluber cannot technically win a game on his own unless he suddenly learns to pick up a bat. However, you throw in some solid contributions from other offensive players, a dominant bullpen, and a Kansas City Royals team that already looks prepared to die, and you end up with a great Cleveland Indians victory.
Early on, before even taking the lead, the Indians offense was hitting Royals pitching Ian Kennedy hard. It started with Carlos Santana's second at-bat of the game, when he scorched a single to the outfield with a 103.6 mph exit velocity, according to Statcast. Jose Ramirez followed shortly after with a double of his own that left his bat at 105.5 mph. Even Roberto Perez, who has made a whole bunch of weak contact this season, got in on the hard-hitting parade, slapping a ball 110.1 mph for a single.
When all was said and done, Ramirez accounted for three doubles and a walk and he was a part of two of the four Indians' runs -- a run scored when Lonnie Chisenhall singled him home in the second inning, and a run batted in in the fifth. Ramirez has done everything in his Angry Hamster power to make the Indians not miss Michael Brantley and he could very well end up carrying this offense into the playoffs. Francisco Lindor looks gassed, Mike Napoli looks old all of a sudden; all while the pitching staff succumbs to devasting injury after devastating injury.
One member of the pitching staff who is not collapsing is Corey Kluber. As he proved tonight, Kluber should be a big part of the Cy Young discussion right up until the final vote is tallied. He pitched 5.1 strong innings and one... eh... inning. The... eh... inning came in the third inning with two outs. To that point, Kluber was not locating his fastball well and even with two outs after striking out Billy Burns and inducing a Jarrod Dyson groundball he was unable to record the final out of the inning. Kendrys Morales and Salvador Perez both singled, scoring the only two Royals runs of the game.
After that, Kluber was indeed Klubin'. His slider/cutter became something else entirely, something comletely unhittable in the sixth inning. One note that seems very important: Matt Underwood pointed out that scouts can't seem to tell the difference between Kluber's cutter or slider, so they've deemed it... something. Something not exactly family friendly, but is nothing more than a way to combine the words "cutter" and "slider." I'll let you work out the name yourself.
Terry Francona also deserves a big part of this win for not letting Kluber remain in the game too long. After Alcides Escobar hit a 313-foot flyball and Chelsor Cuthbert hit a double to deep center, Tito made the call to Andrew Miller in the seventh inning. With no outs, a runner on second, and a one-run lead, there is no doubt in my mind that Miller actually saved the game. Although Cody Allen, who came into the game with no one on base and still gave up a run, will be credited with the arbitrary save stat, Miller can hang his hat on this victory.
Another "save" could potentially be given to Roberto Perez, who threw out the speedy Terrance Gore in the bottom of the ninth with a one-run lead.
With the victory, the Indians have officially eliminated the Royals from the AL Central race. There is still a minuscule chance the Detroit Tigers could do something crazy and take the division, but there will be no repeat in this division, damnit. The Indians' magic number to clinch drops to five.