For months, we heard a tremendous chorus of naysayers swelling to triple fortissimo, declaring without nuance that this Indians team would never live up to its pedigree.
They complained about the bat of Edwin Encarnacion, claiming it lay limp at his side like a broken wing.
They griped about the criminal inconsistency of our starting rotation, Trevor Bauer foremost among the culprits.
They clamored that someone needed to step up from the Indians roster and start leading the offense.
Today, we saw all three of these “nays” slayed. Encarnacion erupted, Bauer shined, and several Indians hitters stoked hot streaks to complete a sweep of the Minnesota Twins with a 5-2 win.
Perhaps it took 62 games for the Cleveland Indians to hit their stride. Now, the naysayers should shove it, because this team is bounding with the same effortless glides that Bradley Zimmer uses to beat out a throw at first after a bunt. The Indians thumped the Minnesota Twins today and throughout the weekend with precise pitching, unrelenting offense, and the elusive element cynical fans claimed they’d never develop: the swagger of a team that’s Been There Before.
Trevor Bauer, Elite Starting Pitcher (?!)
On May 31, I wrote about Trevor Bauer’s increased curveball usage set against the backdrop of a league-wide trend. I wasn’t just whistling dixie, it turns out.
Roberto Perez said on May 30: "We were talking and said, 'We've got to use the curveball more. I think that's one of your best pitches.'" https://t.co/rDeQThXmWr— T.J. Zuppe (@TJZuppe) June 18, 2017
His pitch selection continued to lean on the curve in his prevailing starts, and today the tendency remained. Since that start, it hasn’t always been pretty; Bauer issued five walks against the Rockies in Colorado (Coors Field is for killing curveballs, for what that’s worth) and lasted only an inning and two-thirds in the next. On the 13th he limited the Dodgers to two runs in nearly six innings of work, and today he put the lid on a dominant series against the Twins with what we might call “Vintage Good Bauer”.
Today’s game is what fuels the frustration of Indians fans everywhere when “Vintage Bad Bauer” leaves a game in the third; we’re all painfully aware of how [redacted] talented the kid is. If tossing more hooks helps him find the juice more often, then let them fly without hesitation, kid.
He wobbled in the late game, hitting a batter and allowing two runs. I put one of the runs on Daniel Robertson’s head, as he failed to cut-off a ball in the corner. To Trevor’s credit, he cut-off a throw on the next play to catch Rosario in no-man’s land and end the inning before any more damage could be dealt.
Inexplicably, Tito tried to let him pitch the eighth, and after he walked the first batter the Indians turned to the pen. No reason to push a guy into another inning when he’s up four and already over 100 pitches, you know?
Because he generated all five RBI the Indians earned today, he gets his own section to himself. Encarnacion went 3-4 with two monster home runs to the upper deck in left field, an RBI single, and a sacrifice fly. This is the Edwin that Indians fans dreamed about when, in the dead of winter, the CLEFO shocked us all and scooped a handful of golden coins out of Dolan’s vault to sign the slugger.
Now that it’s summer, it’s prime Edwin season. I expect that we’ll seen more than a few more dominant afternoons from Edwin throughout the rest of this season.
It feels kind of good to say this about the rest of the Indians offense: they left a lot of runners on base today. Any time you can hang five runs on a team and take a win you’re happy, but there were plenty of additional chances for the Indians to generate more. I personally don’t believe there is any long-term difference per player in production with RISP than in any other situation, and so the teams’ ability to continually get runners to second and third can only count as good. It could easily have been a ten-run day for the Tribe.
Other items of note or Tribe Tidbits or We Really Should Get Together and Come Up with a Unified Name for this Section Already
- Jose Ramirez had eleven hits in the series against the Twins.
- It is a small thing, but Cody Allen pitched the eighth inning in a typical setup man outing, then handed it over to Andrew Miller for the save. I am 100% in favor of a flexible “use whomever happens to be the best choice at the time” approach to the back end of the Indians pen.
- If you’re concerned about Edwin’s age, note that it doesn’t seem to sap any of his power yet. His top three exit velocities today were 108.2, 106.7, and 103.8.
- The Indians reached five games above .500 for the first time this season, and are now riding a five game winning streak.
The grueling stretch of more-games-than-days continues tomorrow for the Indians in Baltimore.