My buddy once told me that each year, every baseball team will win 60 games and they will lose 60 games, and it’s what they do with the remaining 42 that really makes or breaks the season. Coming into this series with Houston, many people seemed to forget that losing three series’ in a row is not the end of the world. Does it suck? Sure. Does it mean that the season should be tossed in the dumpster and lit on fire? No. And with today’s victory against the Houston Astros, the Cleveland Indians have swept one of the best teams in baseball and have won 5 of 6 games total against them. Hopefully this series will help folks remember that the Cleveland Indians are a very good baseball team and a week of bad games doesn’t change that.
Now, for today’s game. Today’s game, ninth inning excluded, was a perfect example of what we should expect from the Tribe going forward. We saw an offense that pounced on a relatively young pitcher early and often. We saw a Cleveland starter who pitched a solid game (yes, I’m aware that the fourth inning occurred, put your hand down). We didn’t see the lights out bullpen that we’ve all become accustomed to, but none of the trio of Bryan Shaw, Andrew Miller, or Cody Allen pitched today, so I’m okay with that.
The Cleveland Indians opened the scoring in the second inning when Yan Gomes picked up his first hit of the day, a double that off the top of the wall in left field that was fairly close to being a home run (don’t worry, that came later). Jason Kipnis was able to single in the second run of the inning a few batters later, giving the Indians a lead that they would not relinquish the remainder of the day.
The very next inning, Gomes stepped to the plate again and he absolutely obliterated a baseball that hit the train tracks at Minute Maid Park:
Yan Gomes hits a home run onto the train tracks in left field in the top of the 3rd inning!!! pic.twitter.com/NUh8uTUtNW— TheRenderMLB (@TheRenderMLB) May 21, 2017
Don’t look now, but Yan Gomes is hitting extremely well. And no, I don’t mean hitting well in comparison to 2016 Yan Gomes, I mean hitting well in general. Following today’s game, Gomes has a batting average of .267 and an OPS of .815. Only Brian McCann on the Astros has a better OPS among catchers in the American League. Pair that with Gomes’ elite defense, and there’s an argument to be made that he is one of the best catchers in the American League right now. Welcome back, Yanimal. Please don’t leave again.
Alright, elephant in the room. Danny Salazar. Let’s talk about him. Yes, he had a bad inning today. Yes, he overall pitched well today. You can do both. Salazar went 5.2 innings, which is about normal for him given his ability to strike everyone out. He usually won’t go deep into games, and today was no different. Salazar cruised through the first three innings, facing just one over the minimum and allowing one run (a home run to Carlos Beltran in the bottom of the second inning). The fourth inning, which was the second time through the lineup for Salazar, was when he ran into trouble. Josh Reddick led off the inning with a single and Jose Altuve (aka one of the best hitters in baseball), punished a fastball low in the zone and quickly gave the Astros two more runs to make the score 8-3.
However, following the home run to Altuve, no more runs would come across for the Astros at the hands of Danny Salazar. On the day, Salazar gave up 4 hits and walked 3. Now, 3 of those 4 hits were for extra bases (home run, home run, double), so the Astros were able to really hit the ball hard when they were able to track Danny’s pitches. However, he also struck out 7, meaning that he was still fooling a lot of hitters. Following the fourth inning, Danny had a very quick fifth inning that allowed him to come out and start the sixth; had he not walked Beltran, he may have made it through six. In short, Danny Salazar gave up three runs in a game in which his team scored eight. He did just fine.
If you’d like to be upset with a pitcher on the Indians, you may want to turn your attention to Zach McAllister, a pitcher who a lot of folks have been calling for to be back in the rotation for some reason. Zach McAllister, as many folks know, can really pitch well when he has his second pitch working. Unfortunately, there are many times when the only pitch he can rely on is his fastball, and that usually ends poorly for him. Take Marwin Gonzalez’s home run in the ninth inning, for example:
The final 9 pitches of the 13 pitch at-bat were all mid-90s fastballs. When you factor in the first pitch to Alex Bregman (another home run) and the first pitch to Nori Aoki (a strike), McAllister threw 11 straight fastballs. McAllister has yet to develop a secondary pitch that he can throw consistently with confidence; until he does, any notion of him returning to the rotation should be buried forever.
As of right now, the Cleveland Indians sit a half game ahead of the Minnesota Twins for first place in the AL Central. Depending on how the second game of their double header with Kansas City goes, the Indians could be headed to Cincinnati alone atop their division. But regardless of what happens the rest of the day, the Cleveland Indians have completed the sweep of a potential playoff rival, and that feels pretty damn good.
Tomorrow, Josh Tomlin takes the mound against Scott Feldman and the Reds at 7:10 PM ET at Great American Ball Park.