Look upon the 2019 Cleveland Indians’ Opening Day lineup and weep:
- Leonys Martín, CF
- José Ramírez, 3B
- Tyler Naquin, RF
- Carlos Santana, 1B
- Hanley Ramírez, DH
- Jake Bauers, LF
- Jordan Luplow, LF
- Greg Allen, LF
- Roberto Pérez, C
- Brad Miller, 2B
- Eric Stamets, SS
- Max Moroff, SS
It looked bad from the onset, but few could have predicted the kind of total implosion we’d see so early on in the season, not to mention the ill-timed rise of the dinger-crushing Minnesota Twins that put the Tribe in an 11.5-game hole in the AL Central as late as June 3. They were tied with the White Sox at that point while the Twins were the best team in baseball with a monster +109 differential and a plethora of home run hitters. FanGraphs had the Indians at just a 4.1% chance of winning the division. It wasn’t pretty.
A little over two months later, the lead has been melted away, the Indians are the best team in baseball over that span, and they’ve claimed a piece of the AL Central throne. For now.
There is a lot of work left for the Indians to do this season — not to mention the two games they have to play against such a terrifying team over the weekend — but for now we can celebrate Shane Bieber dominating. We can celebrate Franmil Reyes actually getting a hit. We can celebrate Yasiel Puig just ... existing.
Tonight’s win mirrored the Thursday night win in that the Indians lineup knocked around the Twins starter through the first few innings. They tagged Daniel Smeltzer for six runs over 4.1 innings tonight. Of the seven hits he allowed, five came consecutively in the fifth inning when *inhale* Oscar Mercado, Carlos Santana, Yasiel Puig, José Ramírez, and Roberto Pérez all hit in a row and Jason Kipnis capped it off with a sacrifice fly. All of that came after Greg Allen bunted himself aboard to lead-off the inning and Francisco Lindor struck out.
The runs were fun, but the most important thing was that it led to the most vital argument in all of sports: Did the Indians bat around?
Every Indians batter had an at-bat in the fifth inning.— Let's Go Tribe (@LetsGoTribe) August 10, 2019
...did they bat around?
Where tonight differed from Thursday is a distinct lack of late-inning heart attacks. Oliver Pérez did his job in the eighth after Shane Bieber walked the leadoff batter, and Nicky Goody shut down the Twins in the ninth.
Bieber — you know, the face of baseball? — was once again brilliant. He fell short of his second consecutive complete game because of some exhausting innings, but he still pitched solid seven innings and instilled enough confidence in his manager to let him start the eighth at over 100 pitches. All against one of the best offenses in baseball.
Undoubtedly the hero of this game was Puig, though. Not only did he account for three of the Indians’ 14 hits, but he did this when a pick-off attempt went awry and he bolted for third base:
HE WAVED AT 'EM! PUIG WAVED! pic.twitter.com/EXL1ou3P5M— SportsTime Ohio (@SportsTimeOhio) August 10, 2019
... and then he did this:
I love him. I love the Indians. I love baseball. LET’S GOOOOOOO.