Second Thoughts Game #162: Indians 5, Twins 1
Tribe clinches their first playoff berth since 2007, close out season winning 10 straight
Player of the Game: Ubaldo Jimenez (6 2/3 innings, 5 hits, 1 ER, 1 BB / 13 SO)
For the first time since 2007, Cleveland, you will have an October to remember!
Winning their Major League best tenth consecutive game Sunday, it was the Indians that made quick work of the Minnesota Twins to clinch the top A.L. wild card seed and a playoff berth for the first time in six years.
The victory also gives manager Terry Francona and his team 92 wins, concluding his first season as skipper with a 24 win increase in just one year. The Tribe also sweeps their franchise-best seventh four-game series to close out the memorable regular season.
"U" did it
I can’t say it enough, Ubaldo Jimenez (13-9, 3.30 ERA) single-handedly saved the Indians season this year.
Even with Justin Masterson back healthy in the bullpen, Jimenez has been the team's ace in the second half posting a MLB best 1.82 ERA over his last 13 starts. The No. 13 was lucky for the right-hander on Sunday as he finished the regular season winnning his 13th game, striking out a career-best 13 Minnesota batters.
Forget about whether or not Big U will be back with the Tribe in 2014, it’s time we finally enjoy the real reason ownership went out and traded for the All-Star two years ago. Jimenez finishes 2013 with the tenth lowest ERA in the Amercian League at 3.30, and ninth in strikeouts with 194 through 182 2/3 innings.
He won't pitch in the one-game wild card playoff Wednesday, but I can bet you Jimenez's name is already inked in as Cleveland's No. 1 starter for Game 1 of the ALDS should the Indians make it there.
Buzz in the 216 Swishalicious
It was the bat of switch-hitter Nick Swisher that got the Tribe rolling from the very first inning Sunday, as he launched his team-leading 22nd homer over the left field wall off Twins starter Scott Diamond (6-13, 5.43 ERA).
The two-run blast gave the Indians the early lead they would never waiver, as the Mayor of Brohio finishes the month of September with seven home runs and 17 RBI. No, he may not have finished with his typical average year in terms of years past of average, but he’s come up big down the stretch.
Over his last 40 games dating back to Aug. 16, Swisher hit .281 with seven doubles, 10 homers and 26 RBI. Let's hope the 2009 World Series champ can stay hot as we enter the month of October.
Celebration and Francona
Swisher said it best following the game, when he talked about the team going from 94 losses to 92 wins in just one season.
Even though I predicted the team would finish with 90 wins and a playoff spot in spring training, it really hasn't hit me until now when seeing the celebration and champagne fly how special this team really has been. Baseball is such a great sport, and to see the finally Indians popping bottles again is something to soak up living in the moment.
I don’t think you could ask for a much better first year in Cleveland for Francona. The guy is a winner, plain and simple and for him to be leading the ship with his two World Series champioinships, is crazy to even think about.
It’s almost as if the slate is completely cleansed from his collaspe with the Red Sox in 2011, and while the fans are without question estatic, nobody is happier than Francona himself.
Win the one-game wild card game Wednesday, and things could really get interesting as the Tribe would square off against Francona’s former club the Boston Red Sox in the American League Division Series.
For now though, it’s just like the motto Tito has been preaching all season long, focus on one game at a time.
Salazar slated for one-game playoff
The Indians announced shortly after Sunday’s clinch that they will start 23-year old rookie Danny Salazar (2-3, 3.12 ERA) in the one-game wild card playoff at Progressive Field Wednesday. Who would have thought a starter that was in Double-A Akron less than five months ago would pitch the biggest game for Cleveland in the past six years?
If there is a starting pitcher who deserves that chance with Masterson and Jimenez unable to start, it's Salazar. With the hard-throwing rookie now slated to start a playoff game, it reminds me a lot of how the Indians used Jaret Wright in his rookie year in 1997 postseason.
You have to think Francona will be pulling out all the stops in this elimination playoff game, where I would almost bet Masterson will piggy back Salazar at some point Wednesday night. In a sense, this one-game wild card playoff essentially will be a Game 7 for both clubs, where the winner moves on and the loser goes home.
Finishing the regular season winning 10 straight, Cleveland (92-70) conclude the 2013 regular season up one game on both Tampa and Texas in the wild card. Surprisingly, the team also finishes just one game in back of the Detroit Tigers for the A.L. Central Division title. If only, if only, right?
The team improves to a franchise best 21-6 in September having won 15 of their last 17 to close out a magical 2013 campaign. 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 have to wait until Monday to find out their opponent for the wild card playoff game, as the Rangers and Tampa Bay play a tiebreaker elimination game in Texas. The winner will travel to Progressive Field Wednesday to take on the red hot Tribe.
Cleveland finished the season 2-4 against the Rays while owning a 5-1 record against the Rangers in 2013.
No matter what happens between now and Wednesday night, this has been one memorable ride.
Follow Jim on Twitter @JBirdman27 or he can be reached via email at email@example.com.
But I hope Jimenez leaves in style by helping the Indians to there 1 world series championship since 48.
Go Salazar on Wednesday. Let get this journey going. 12 wins needed!!! GO TRIBE!!!
I'm trying to be realistic and just be thrilled that his second half has all but guaranteed that we will be able to make a qualifying offer and get an extra first round pick next year. This team's track record in the draft is not exactly stellar but it couldn't hurt to have a bigger bonus pool and an extra pick.
Time to get it done on Wednesday!!!