Second Thoughts Game #158: White Sox 2, Indians 7
Salazar effective as Swisher and Brantley power offense
Playoff fever in Cleveland. It’s not often that the words ‘playoff’ and ‘Cleveland’ are mentioned in the same sentence when talking about their three major sports teams. Yet the Indians have defied all odds and put together a magical season on their way to a potential wild card berth.
With a 7-2 win over the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday night, the Tribe improved their record to 88-70, a 20-game improvement over their 68-94 mark in 2012. With only four games in Minnesota standing between them and the Promised Land, the Indians control their own destiny as they hold possession of the second wild card spot by a game over Texas.
As encapsulated by Jason Giambi’s two-run, pinch-hit, walk-off home run on Tuesday night, the 2013 Cleveland Indians have been a team of resilience, camaraderie and just pure entertainment as the unique collection of talents and personalities assembled by Chris Antonetti and his crew in the front office has meshed in such a way that no deficit seems insurmountable, no opponent too daunting and above all else, no game that they can’t enjoy playing. It’s become apparent that the players come to the ballpark everyday looking forward to playing and enjoying every minute of it.
Salazar Dealing Free and Easy
After losing Justin Masterson to an oblique injury early in September, the Indians had a decision to make regarding the starting rotation and rookie Danny Salazar, in particular. The conclusion was made to continue to keep the hard-throwing right-hander in the rotation and bypass his predetermined innings limit while still monitoring his workload with caution. Since then, Salazar has pitched well enough to the point where his in-game pitch limit was lifted prior to his last start against Kansas City.
On Wednesday night, Salazar pitched like a weight was lifted off his shoulders as he went five and a third innings allowing two runs on six hits while walking only one and striking out eight. It’s not the best start a pitcher ever had, but it was good enough for his second win in ten starts and is a good sign moving forward as the Indians may be crafting their playoff roster with him possibly in mind for the rotation.
As Smooth as They Come
Since returning from paternity leave to welcome his newborn daughter into the world, Michael Brantley has been on a tear batting .357 over his last 15 games with two home runs and 12 RBI’s. He is now riding a nine-game hit streak where has a .486 average with two homers and eight RBI’s raising his season average from .272 to .286.
On Wednesday night, Brantley recorded three hits for the third straight game and drove in a run marking his fourth consecutive game with at least one RBI. On the year, Brantley has ranked third in the American League when hitting with runners in scoring position batting .368 in such scenarios. Only Miguel Cabrera and Salvador Perez have posted better marks this season.
Facts and Notes:
- With the win by the Tribe and losses by New York and Kansas City, both have been eliminated from playoff contention leaving just Cleveland, Tampa Bay and Texas to jockey for the two spots.
- After racking up eight strikeouts on Wednesday, Danny Salazar has now recorded seven-plus strikeouts in all but three of his ten starts this season.
- Justin Masterson made his first pitching appearance in a live game since leaving with a strained oblique on September second. It was his first relief appearance since July 9th, 2011.
- The Indians’ 17 wins against the White Sox are their most against any opponent since the Kansas City A’s in 1960 and only the fifth most by any team since 1969.
- After shutting out Minnesota 1-0 on Wednesday night, Detroit clinched their third straight AL Central title, thus eliminating the Indians from division contention.
Up Next: Indians vs. Twins @ Target Field. First pitch at 8:10pm ET.
As we have now come down to the final series of the regular season, the Twins will make an effort to spoil the Indians’ postseason plans as they send rookie left-hander Andrew Albers to the mound in game one of this four-game set. The Tribe, however, hopes for a more favorable outcome than their last matchup against Albers, where he pitched a two-hit shutout back in August.
The Indians will counter with Zach McAllister, who has dominated the Twins in two starts this season winning both decisions and compiling a 2.05 ERA in 13 and a third innings of work. After hitting a bit of a rough patch in late August and early September, the right-hander has pitched better winning his last two starts against Chicago and Houston.
Jake Dungan is a communications student at Stark State College and an intern with the Akron RubberDucks. Follow him on Twitter @MajorLeagueJake.