Full disclosure: I’m beginning this recap in the top of the fifth inning when the Indians are currently ahead 8-0. Should the Royals mount a terrific comeback, I apologize for my hubris.
With Mike Clevinger taking the mound today against the Royals, the odds were skewed heavily in favor of the Cleveland Indians. After one inning, it was all but over. The Tribe went yard on three separate occasions and buried the Royals early en route to an easy 9-1 victory.
With Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco both out and Trevor Bauer being a bit human, the role of staff ace has been up for grabs for a bit. Shane Bieber continues to prove that he may very well be that guy. But today, Mike Clevinger took the mound and continued to show off the embarrassment of riches that is the Tribe rotation. With a 4-0 lead before even throwing a pitch (more on that later), Sunshine was throwing free and easy all night. There was a point in the game in which he sat down ten in a row (all while the rest of the team poured on the offense).
Clevinger’s success was thanks in large part to the fact that all of his pitches were working. He notched 16 swinging strikes, 10 on his slider alone. While his fastball didn’t generate any whiffs, it did top out at almost 98 mph (97.8 mph to be exact). Couple that with his curve that seemed to have exceptional depth this evening (and a top velocity of 79.9 mph) and his absolutely filthy slider, there was no stopping him tonight. He allowed a run in the fifth thanks to a single by Whit Merrifield, but the second run that almost crossed the plate was cut down by a slick throw by Greg Allen to nab Bubba Starling at the plate and end the inning.
It wasn’t a complete game shutout like Bieber recently threw, but it was a dominant performance by one of the Tribe’s many, many elite starting pitchers.
One thing that the Tribe seemed to be lacking in the early months of the season was slugging. And there’s still an argument to be made that the Tribe would still benefit from a hard hitting right handed bat. But you wouldn’t know it having watched Cleveland completely destroy KC pitching today. The game started with three hitters reaching base: Francisco Lindor singled, Oscar Mercardo singled, and Mike Freeman, after working a nine pitch at-bat, got hit in the foot and loaded the bases. Jason Kipnis then stepped to the plate and took a 2-1 pitch and, well:
A Jason Kipnis grand slam is a good way to start the game if you’re the Indians pic.twitter.com/WAJCoqdzcm— Sports Daily (@SportsDGI) July 28, 2019
For the folks keeping score at home, this is the first grand slam for the Cleveland Indians in 2019. And as evidenced by the jubilation of one Tom Hamilton, it was quite the prodigious blast. The grand slam proved to be enough offense for the rest of the evening, but the Tribe wasn’t done.
In the second inning, Francisco Lindor turned on a 93 mph fastball and blasted it 414 feet into the right field seats at a blistering 105 mph.
In the fifth inning, following singles by Mercado and Kipnis, José Ramírez found himself another patented Home Run Pitch and launched a rocket 422 feet into center field. Granted, it didn’t look like a home run off the bat (thanks largely to the 36° launch angle), but it carried just enough to sneak over the wall and bring another three runs home.
The Tribe was able to score on non-home run hits, if you were wondering. Oscar Mercado’s fourth (yup, fourth) hit of the day came in the sixth inning in the form of an RBI double to center field to bring in Lindor.
Cinnamon Tid Bits
- Oscar Mercado was caught stealing despite having a pretty good jump in case you were looking for a minor blemish on his otherwise stellar day.
- Tyler Naquin was mysteriously removed from the game in the seventh inning when Jordan Luplow took over for him in right field. There supposedly is not an injury concern, but keep an ear out. Luplow then promptly hit a leadoff double in the eighth.
- José’s home run tonight marked his 100th career dinger.
- This is important:
The Twins lost tonight. With the Tribe’s victory, the Indians now sit just one game back of the AL Central leaders. Which is an amazing feat in its own right:
A Tribe win tonight, coupled with a #Twins loss would put Cleveland one game out of first place...— Nick Camino (@NickCaminoWKYC) July 28, 2019
Think about that. They trailed Minnesota by 12 games not that long ago!
Cleveland goes for the sweep tomorrow afternoon. And, hopefully, the top spot in the AL Central.