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Second Thoughts Game #161: Indians 5, Twins 1

Jimenez, Tribe win their ninth straight and take over top wild card seed

Second Thoughts Game #161: Indians 5, Twins 1
September 29, 2013
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Player of the Game: Scott Kazmir (6 innings, 6 hits, 1 ER, 2 BB / 11 SO)

The Leadoff

Started from the bottom now they’re here!

The hottest team in all of baseball was at it again Saturday afternoon in Minneapolis, as the Tribe took down the Twins 5-1 to win their ninth straight. With the victory, Cleveland now sits in the driver’s seat up one game in the American League wild card race where they control their own destiny.

Over the nine game win streak, the Indians have hit .296 as a team averaging 5.8 runs per game. Their pitching has also remained consistent, where starters own a combined 2.61 ERA and bullpen a 2.15 ERA.

Buckle up Tribe Town, time to prepare yourself for another October to remember.

Kazmir has no kryptonite

Who would have thought at the outset of the regular season that Scott Kazmir would finish the year with more wins than David PriceCole Hamels and Stephen Strasburg?

From a guy who had his career hanging in the balance just one year ago, to becoming (in my opinion) the best free agent sign of this past offseason. Holding Minnesota to only one run on six hits, Kazmir reaches 10 wins for the first time since 2009.

He also records double-digit strikeouts for the second consecutive start, now having struck out 21 batters over his last 13 innings.

So, which southpaw would you want anchoring a pitching staff right now?

Kazmir (10-9, 4.04 ERA) with 29 starts in 158 innings (47 BB/ 162 SO)

Player B (14-13, 4.78 ERA) with 32 starts in 211 innings (65 BB/175 SO)

Although Kazmir boasts less innings compared with this starter, his other numbers certainly have fared better this season. Player B is in fact former Tribe ace CC Sabathia. Yes, it could’ve been just a down year for the Yankees starter, but its crazy how one pitcher is getting paid upwards of $25 million this year while the other signed a minor league deal with incentives.

Unlike the one time ace back in 2007, let’s hope Kazmir shows up in the playoffs when it matters the most on baseball’s biggest stage.

Welcome back Bourn

After missing two straight games due to a small right wrist injury, the Indians welcomed back Michael Bourn with open arms Saturday. The center fielder finished the ballgame 2-for-4 with a two-run triple and a run scored back in the leadoff spot of the lineup.

Hitting just .219 in the month of August, Bourn has heated up in a big way down the stretch. Since September 10, he is hitting .291 (16-for-55) with three doubles, four triples, a homer and 10 RBI.

While he does have a minimal amount of postseason experience, the veteran Bourn will definitely be a key piece to the puzzle in October at the top of manger Terry Francona’s lineup.

Slamtana goes yard

It was Cleveland who struck for the game’s first two runs off Twins starter Cole De Vries (0-2, 10.80 ERA), as Carlos Santana launched his 20th homer of the season to put the Tribe up two in the fourth.

The switch hitter becomes the second Indians player to hit 20 home runs this year, and it’s the first time he’s reached the 20 long ball plateau since 2011. Santana has also now hit in six straight, where he owns a .348 average (8-for-23) with five doubles, two homers and six RBI.

Batting in the heart of the lineup, Santana will also be a valuable piece if he can keep his hot tear going past Game No. 162. With Yan Gomes serving as the primary catcher now, all Santana has to keep worrying about is his at-bats and the production he puts up at the plate, so far so good.

Clinch Sunday?

Forget about football Sunday, it could be a clinch Sunday in Cleveland as the Tribe wraps up their four-game series with Minnesota in hopes of popping champagne for the first time since 2007.

A win in the rubber match clinches not only a wild card berth, but home field advantage in the wild card game set for Wednesday October 2. The worst possible scenario for the Indians would be a loss to the Twins and a win by both Tampa Bay and Texas. In that scenario, the Wahoo’s would be forced to play a tie breaker game in Cleveland before playing the one-game wild card playoff.

Just win baby!  

Closing Time

Winning their ninth straight, Cleveland (91-70) moves up a game in front of Tampa Bay for the top wild card seed.

The team improves to a franchise best 20-6 in September having won 14 of their last 16 with just one final regular season game remaining on the schedule. It is their longest winning streak in the month of September since they won the American League Pennant in 1954.

Up next for the Indians: The Tribe will try and clinch a wild card berth on the final day of the regular season Sunday afternoon at Target Field. Right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez (12-9, 3.38 ERA) takes the hill in what is the biggest game for the Indians in six seasons. Minnesota will counter with lefty Scott Diamond (6-12, 5.54 ERA). Jimenez is 0-1 in one start against the Twins this year, allowing two runs over six innings of work back on August 23.

Follow Jim on Twitter @JBirdman27 or he can be reached via email at jberdysz27@gmail.com.

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