Second Thoughts Game #151: Indians 5, Royals 3
Offense roars back to life after Royals turn to bullpen
By Jake Dungan
September 18, 2013
Those Tribe fans whose television sets survived past the fifth inning were treated to a Tribe comeback win against wild card rival Kansas City to even the final regular season series between the two AL Central clubs at one. With their 5-3 win, the Indians clinched their first winning season since 2007, which was also the last time they made the playoffs. After Texas snapped their losing streak against the Rays, the Tribe maintained the half-game deficit between them and the two wild card teams.
Considering how different the standings could’ve been with the opposite result, this game could very well prove to be the difference-maker in the wild card race. Cleveland remains half a game in back of the wild card while the Royals move back to three and a half games out as opposed to the Tribe falling to a game and a half out and the Royals moving up to two and a half games out.
Good Teams Pick Each Other Up
As Nick Swisher pointed out in a postgame interview, bad teams pick each other apart, but good teams pick each other up. After losing the series opener 7-1, losing this game would’ve made some wonder if the Tribe fit more in the first model. But as they’ve done so many times this season, they pulled off the seemingly impossible rally to turn the tables on the opposing team.
With their remaining schedule following this series involving the lowly Astros, White Sox and Twins, getting wins now is crucial to getting the momentum going their way heading into that final stretch to where they control their own destiny. With a win on Wednesday, they’ll guarantee possession of a wild card spot with the Rays and Rangers continuing their four-game set.
The way this team has played this season, anyone can be the hero on a given night. Michael Bourn, for example, was the hero of Tuesday night’s game with an RBI triple and a solo home run. Bourn, who has struggled of late, came up big for the Tribe both on offense and defense. That’s just how it’s been. One night it could be Ryan Raburn, the next Asdrubal Cabrera and so on.
Knowing the team doesn’t lean heavily on one or two guys for heroics night after night could partially explain why this team has come this far and why they’ve played free and easy for much of the year.
Terry Francona = Manager of the Year?
There is no question that Tribe skipper Terry Francona has put himself in the forefront of the Manager of the Year conversation as he has taken a previously 94-loss team to playoff contention in his first year at the helm. If Cleveland makes the playoffs, it’ll be very hard to make an argument against the two-time World Series winner.
After right-hander Corey Kluber struggled somewhat in four and two-thirds innings of work, Francona made the early move to the bullpen to play matchup and keep the game close (3-0 Kansas City at the time). Rich Hill came on to face the lefty Mike Moustakas, who flew out to end the inning. Bryan Shaw, Marc Rzepczynski, Cody Allen, Joe Smith and Chris Perez combined for four scoreless innings as the offense plated five to take the lead and the win.
While was up to the pitchers to step up and shut down the offense, the management of the bullpen was a credit to Francona as he did what he could to keep his team in a game that didn’t look promising.
Facts and Notes:
- Over the last week, Michael Bourn, Asdrubal Cabrera and Nick Swisher are hitting a combined .324 with 7 homers and 16 RBI's.
- Swisher and Carlos Santana extended their hit streaks on Tuesday night to seven and 12, respectively.
- In five starts between 2012 and 2013, rookie pitchers making their MLB debut have a 2.79 ERA against the Indians. Royals’ rookie Yordano Ventura pitched five and two thirds innings of one run ball against the Tribe on Tuesday night.
- The Indians’ 3.90 cumulative team ERA in 2013 is their best since the 3.61 mark they posted in 2005.
Up Next: Indians vs. Royals @ Kauffman Stadium. First pitch at 8:10 pm ET.
The Indians will go for the win in both the current and season series against Kansas City as they send hard-throwing rookie right-hander Danny Salazar to the mound in the rubber match. The Royals will counter with the polar opposite of Salazar in soft-tossing lefty Bruce Chen. Salazar has yet to face Kansas City in his young career while Chen has kept the Tribe scoreless this season in two appearances (one start).
Salazar has pitched well since being called up, but has been limited to 75-85 pitches per start and has struggled to pitch deep into games within those constraints. Even though the Indians currently have a deep bullpen, getting length from their starters would still be ideal for their chances at victory.
Follow me on Twitter @MajorLeagueJake for all the latest Cleveland Indians news and baseball chat.
You have to think tonight will be Salazar's last or second-to-last start. Especially with the way Francona is playing so much matchup baseball with the bullpen, you can't really afford to have Salazar capped at 4 innings. The good news is, Tomlin and Carrasco haven't pitched in several days so we could see a 3-man piggyback tonight of Salazar-Tomlin-Carrasco, without overworking Smith, Perez and Allen.
I bought my tickets for all 4 games against Houston. I hope a lot of Clevelanders join me.