My mood while watching the Indians since publishing an article on June 3 that more or less declared the season over.
Watching the Indians this weekend felt like
The Tribe were hot before the trade deadline passed; now, with new blood and the old guard still excelling, it’s impossible to not feel confident in this team’s chances.
The Cleveland Indians completed a sweep of the Santa Ana River I-5 Angels of Anaheim behind a fantastic start by Shane Bieber and a hyper-productive offense.
Before we get to the hyper-production of runs, I’d like to discuss Shane Bieber.
I want to point out that two years ago I’d never heard of Bieber. A few weeks later, our own Brian Hemminger introduced me to him while we were podcasting. His K/BB ratio in the minors was something like 25 at the time, and he’d just completed an interview in which he said, “I need to learn how to throw more balls”.
This afternoon Shane Bieber threw his third complete game on the season, and his final strikeout in the bottom of the ninth was the 300th for his career. The only Indians pitcher to reach 300 strikeouts faster was Herb Score.
Bieber controlled the afternoon (9 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 8 K) and the runs he allowed were inconsequential. The first came courtesy of an Albert Pujols single that scored Brian Goodwin, and if distilled to a word the cause of that run would be “sequencing”.
He did leave one over the plate for Kole Calhoun who punished him accordingly with the longball. Outside of this and a double by Mike Trout, the Angels never figured out how to square up the All-Star MVP. Part of that is owed to Bieber’s awesome efficiency. He needed 107 pitches to get through the game today. 71 of those were strikes. 20 of the 31 hitters he faced saw a first-pitch strike. Of the 18 outs that Angels hitters put into play, 13 were groundouts and only five were in the air.
Francisco Lindor is an immaculate shortstop. Carlos Santana’s return and consistent bat is a delight. But if you want to talk about whom the Indians should anoint the MVP of its season so far — in particular when the injuries to the pitching staff are considered — I think it would take an exceptionally good argument to convince me that anyone other than Bieber is deserving.
Many players had a fine day at the plate today for the Tribe, but none were as good as Jason Kipnis’s.
Kipnis went 2-for-3 this afternoon, driving in three runs, scoring twice, and walking once. He even stole a base! He hit a home run in the fourth, but his two-run single in the fifth gave the Indians a three-run lead and made the win feel inevitable. The second baseman’s resurgence since the beginning of June is another story that deserves more attention from this season. Should he continue his rate of production since then for the rest of the season, the end result is that a .300 hitter with “hot garlic parmesan” levels of SLG is now hitting seventh on a team that couldn’t even bunt a runner over in April.
Other Indians that enjoyed quite nice days at the plate:
- Oscar Mercado: The CF poked one over the head of Mike Trout and into the trees in center. That was his ninth dinger on the season. He also drew a walk later in the game.
- Francisco Lindor: Does this surprise anybody? I don’t know if it’s fair to call his season quiet—he has the highest slugging percentage on the team, it turns out—but he produces so consistently. It reminds me of watching Tracy McGrady when he played with the Magic, where sometimes you would think to yourself, “Well, what has he even done tonight?” and then you’d look and realize that he’d scored 25 and dished out 7 assists, and there were two minutes left in the third quarter.
- Carlos Santana and Jordan Luplow: Both earned two hits today and were the only members of the team to do so. Both of Luplow’s hits were doubles, though he didn’t drive anyone in and never came around to score. Neither of those outcomes are his fault and its fun that we watch in an era where we understand that.
Last night, I wrote that it would only be a matter of time until the new acquisition would start to reap the rewards from his hard hits. Well. Uh. He earned a golden sombrero today, and felt frustrated enough to snap his bat over his knee after the third.
He’s excited to be here and he wants to contribute, so I understand the frustration. I actually kind of like him breaking his bat in a 7-2 win. The guy wants to be the guy and based on the fact that he hit a ball over the trees in center during batting practice on Thursday I think he definitely has the tools.
- Brad Ausmus and the Angels’ trainer came out at least three times today to either check on players or remove them from the game. Let’s not forget that these guys have the best-defensive-shortstop-of-all-time-who-doesn’t-regularly-backflip in addition to MIKE TROUT. I wish I could see the kind of season they’d put together with healthy pitching. Alas.
I’ve actually got nothing else today, but if anyone wants to rank slugging percentages from “mild” to “ghost pepper” I won’t stop you.