Things weren’t looking too good for the Cleveland Indians when they were drubbed 9-0 in the first game of a day-night doubleheader at Kansas City on April 28
They fell to 8-13, which put them in line for another miserable season.
But in the second game that day, the Indians started to turn things around, winning 10-3 as Mike Aviles hit a three-run homer and finished with a career-high five RBIs.
Since that ugly start, the Indians have been playing pretty good baseball, winning 18 of 22 games through Monday for a 26-17 record. They also were in first place in the American League Central by 2 1/2 games over Detroit.
Cleveland completed a four-game sweep at home over Seattle on Monday when Yan Gomes hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the 10th inning for a 10-8 victory, the Indians fifth straight win. The Mariners helped out with errors in the last two innings on dropped balls after throws at first base by closer Tom Wilhelmsen and first baseman Justin Smoak.
Seattle had tied the game in the eighth, and taken the lead in the ninth and 10th innings.
“You don’t look up very often and see your opponent score three straight innings and you win,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “That was interesting.”
It’s been that kind of season so far for the surprising Indians.
Cleveland won 5-4 over the Mariners on Saturday when Jason Kipnis scored the winning run when a throw by the Mariners Brendan Ryan pulled catcher Jesus Montero off the plate.
They won 6-3 in 10 innings last Friday night over Seattle when Kipnis slugged a three-run homer with two outs in the 10th.
“That was awesome,” Kipnis said. “I was just amped up.”
Monday’s win was Cleveland’s fourth walk-off victory this season. The Indians were 5-0 in extra innings going into Tuesday’s game.
“We just take it as a challenge,” Indians first baseman Nick Swisher told the Associated Press after Sunday’s win. “We’ve got that scrappy-type and gritty-type of team. It may not always be pretty, man, but somehow we’re going to find a way to get it done. We just love coming to the ballpark right now. Things are rocking.”
Francona, the former Boston Red Sox manager who is in his first-year with the Indians, is pretty excited about his club too.
“Watching the guys jumping all over each other is fun,” Francona said after Saturday’s win.
In a 7-6 victory in 10 innings over Minnesota on May 3, Drew Stubbs was the hero, hitting a double to the wall in left-center to score Aviles. It capped a five-game win streak, the team’s first such streak since winning seven in a row early in the 2011 season.
Since that 9-0 loss at Kansas City, Cleveland’s offense has picked up steam. The Indians averaged nearly six runs per game during their 18-4 stretch. Going into Tuesday’s game, they ranked fourth in the major leagues in runs; sixth in batting; first in homers and fifth in on-base percentage.
Several players have contributed to the Indians success. Left fielder Michael Brantley was leading the club with a .306 batting average and Mark Reynolds topped the team with 12 home runs and 37 RBIs. Kipnis had seven homers and 24 RBIs; Swisher and catcher Carlos Santana had six home runs apiece.
But Cleveland’s pitching hasn’t been bad either. The bullpen ranks eighth in the majors with a 3.07 ERA through Monday’s games. Starter Zach McAllister is 3-3 with a 2.65 ERA and Justin Masterson is 7-2 with a 2.83 ERA. Masterson struck out a season-high 11 in seven innings of a 6-0 win over the Mariners on Sunday.
“Our starting pitching is giving us a chance to win,” said Francona, who won two World Series with the Red Sox. “We have a very good bullpen. We’re playing well defensively. A lot of guys are contributing offensively. That’s a good way to play baseball.”
It’s still early, and the Indians don’t have to be reminded that they were 25-18 at this point last year before finishing with a 68-94 record.
Whether Cleveland can keep up its torrid pace and compete for the postseason might come during a current stretch of 25 games against the Tigers, Red Sox, Reds, Rays, Yankees, Rangers and Nationals, all of whom had winning records and were a combined 50 games over .500.
But the Indians are having fun now, and that seems to be all that matters as they try to build onto their winning ways.
Copyright © 2013 Bob Hurst. All Rights Reserved. Distributed by Hurst Sports Media.