This winning is becoming rather commonplace, isn’t it? And no, I’m still not tired of it.
The amazing thing about this winning streak is that it’s continued despite a bunch of makeshift lineups. Jay Bruce was out of the lineup again, as was Edwin Encarnacion, but at the end of the game 5 runs were on the board, and that was enough for the Tribe pitching staff.
The Indians were fortunate to catch the Detroit Tigers at the beginning of their teardown. The Tigers seemed like a team that hadn’t yet fully comprehended what had happened, and the Tribe took full advantage of it. The White Sox are also in the midst of a complete rebuild, but they are further down that road than the Tigers. Chicago’s still a mishmash of placeholders, rookies and veterans, but at least they have a comprehensible roster in place for the remainder of the season.
The pitching matchup pitted Trevor Bauer against James Shields, two pitchers seemingly going in opposite directions. Bauer has been fantastic since his early exit in Oakland, while Shields is at a crisis point in his career. Many established pitchers have reinvent themselves once the league catches up to them, and Shields and White Sox are trying to do that via a change in delivery. No longer does Shields deliver the ball almost straight over the top but slightly from the side. And he had some success with the new mechanics, pitching into to the sixth inning. As with any drastic change, we won’t know how the change will work, but you could squint a bit and see him having a second stage to his career.
The Indians, as they have with every win during this streak, got on the board first. This time it was Carlos Santana providing the first blow, a second-inning homer off Shields. Then, later in the inning, Roberto Perez, delivered yet another big hit, a two-out double to score a second run in the inning. With the hit, Perez extended his hitting streak to nine games, which is quite an accomplishment given how rarely he starts. Perez’s hot streak is emblematic of how the Indians have managed to reel off twelve wins in a row; they’ve gotten contributions from everyone who has appeared in a game for them, even players who weren’t expected to even be up here at this point.
Which takes me to Francisco Mejia’s day. The top prospect in the organization was recalled on Friday, and got his first major-league start today as the DH. The 21-year-old had no problems making contact off Shields, in one case literally. Mejia collected both his first MLB hit and RBI in the fourth inning, lining a single back up the middle to drive home the Tribe’s third run of the afternoon. Later he’d line another ball up the middle, this time strike Shields on the side of his right knee. Thankfully Shields’ right leg was not planted on the ground, so while the White Sox starter had to leave the game, he did leave under his own power. Mejia only had the one hit, but nevertheless he was impressive even on the outs he made, showcasing his quick bat and excellent ball striking ability.
On Santana’s homer White Sox Adam Engel faceplanted into the wall despite the ball being well out of his reach. But when Austin Jackson hit a long drive, Engel would judge this chance much better, for he perfectly timed his jump, robbing Jackson of a sure home run. As Jackson saw the catch, he smiled and jogged back to the dugout, perhaps remembering his miraculous catch in Fenway Park.
Trevor Bauer’s day was par for the course for a Tribe starter of late. He went 6.1 innings, allowed two runs (both coming on a home run on a hung curve in the fifth inning), striking out nine and allowing just three base hits. He trade words/motions with Avisail Garcia in the fourth inning; after Garcia said something to him early in the at-bat, Bauer seemingly motioned to the dugout after striking him out. Nothing really happened afterwards, as both teammates and umpires made sure it didn’t escalate, but Bauer’s fastball was clocked in the upper 90s the rest of his outing. Bauer could have finished the seventh, but Terry Francona wanted to get Joe Smith into a game because he hadn’t pitched in a while, which is a good problem to have. Smith would struggle, only retiring one batter and allowing a run to score, but Tyler Olson would limit the damage, getting the Indians out of the seventh with a 4-3 lead.
And what would a Tribe win be without a Jose Ramirez contribution? A day after tying an MLB record with five extra-base hits, he hit a solo homer in the eighth to give the Indians an insurance run. With that homer, Jose now has a ridiculous 76 extra-base hits, far and away the league leader. Ramirez is going to struggle to match Albert Belle’s 103 extra-base hits, but he’s not far from cracking the top 10 (82, held by Manny Ramirez (1998) and Earl Averill (1936)).
Cody Allen got the save, but it wasn’t easy for him. He had trouble throwing his curve for a strike, saving his best for last, a curve that Rob Brantly swung over the top of to end the game.
With the win, the Indians now hold the longest winning streak in the majors this season, and now are just two wins shy of matching the franchise record set just last season. In many ways, this winning streak is even more amazing than last year’s, even if it ends tomorrow. For it’s happened in the midst of the most difficult stretch of the season, with a laundry list of injured and hobbled players while trying to hold off the Twins and Royals in the AL Central.