All week long we’ve heard about the Cleveland Indians being tired. The energy in the clubhouse was down, as team leader Francisco Lindor put it.
Well, finally, they woke the hell up and pounded the Royals, 9-3.
Early on it was the fiery arm of Mike Clevinger that looked the most vibrant. Where he usually sits in the 93-94 range, Clev was pumping 96 with ease to Kansas City hitters. Assuming the radar gun wasn’t off tonight, that’s a huge development.
Sports Time Ohio reporter Andre Knott spoke during the game about how Clevinger worked with pitching coach Carl Willis on his release and extension on his fastball to up his velocity as they looked for anything to put him over the edge from pretty good pitcher to great pitcher.
Maybe something clicked?
It wasn’t just a juiced fastball that helped him reach his fifth double-digit strikeout game of the season, but it certainly helped. Of the 19 swings and misses he caused, 11 came off his fastball. He averaged out at 94.6 miles per hour on the night, according to Baseball Savant, mostly due to some outlying pitches that were way out of the zone and closer to 90. Maybe a sign he really was figuring out something new, maybe just karma keeping him in check for all of sudden being a wizard. I don’t know, I don’t make the rules.
Either way it was a banner game for Sunshine as he finished with just three hits allowed and the only run coming off a solo home run to go with his 10 strikeouts and one walk.
Now, the offense.
The top-third of the lineup, as usual when things are going well, were the big producers of the night. Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez each had a hit, but it wasn’t Michael Brantley pulling his weight as usual.
No, he had the day off.
IT WAS YANDY DIAZ, BABY
The Man of a Thousand Biceps cranked his first home run of the year, a 386 shot that left his bat at a paltry 99.8 miles per hour. He also hit a triple and a single (scorched at 106.1 miles per hour) to leave himself a double shy of the cycle — and the triple was mere feet from being his second home run of the game, the season, and his career.
Is this the beginning of Yandy Diaz, power hitter? Maybe not, but it’s the closest we’ve seen yet. He elevated two pitches with launch angles in the nitro zone of ~25 to ~35 degrees. To this point in his career, his average launch angle was 2.0. TWO DEGREES! I’ve postured all along that just getting your launch angle up isn’t as simple as aiming higher or something weird. There’s a lot that goes into it, and it may be a total revamp of one’s swing. But maybe this is the night muscle memory starts to set in and we see more hammered doubles, narrow triples, and long-distance home runs.
The rest of the offense did okay too, I guess. A pair of hits from Brandon Guyer, Melky Cabrera, and Jason Kipnis while Roberto Perez continued to look just awful at the plate. Yeah yeah whatever.
BUT DID YOU SEE THAT YANDY DIAZ HOMER?
Here it is again in case you didn’t:
SMILE WIDE, YANDY! FIRST MAJOR LEAGUE HOME RUN! #RALLYTOGETHER— SportsTime Ohio (@SportsTimeOhio) September 5, 2018
STREAM: https://t.co/5M5mBtZ4XF pic.twitter.com/bKAZPgCWPw
That smile around the bases is everything.