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Second Thoughts Game #162: Indians 5, Twins 1

Tribe clinches their first playoff berth since 2007, close out season winning 10 straight

Second Thoughts Game #162: Indians 5, Twins 1
September 30, 2013
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Player of the Game: Ubaldo Jimenez (6 2/3 innings, 5 hits, 1 ER, 1 BB / 13 SO)

The Leadoff

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.

Closing Time

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 jberdysz27@gmail.com.

User Comments

Walter
September 30, 2013 - 8:14 PM EDT
If the 2014 free agent market follows like the 2013 free agent market Jimenez could be the next Kyle Lohse during this off season. The only teams that might give Ubaldo a multi year contract is a team that has there 1 round pick protected like the Indians had this year.

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!!!
Tony
September 30, 2013 - 4:03 PM EDT
Personally I don't thin the Indians can afford to sign Jimenez, and when I say "afford" I mean the opportunity to cost it takes to sign him and potentially lose out on other roster needs AND resigning Justin Masterson next offseason. He's a pitcher that I just don't have faith in staying on top of his game for the 5-6 years it will demand under his new contract. He's heading toward a 5 year deal this offseason, and who knows, maybe even six. He's heading toward an Anibal Sanchez type deal, which may even be his floor now. Just too rich for the Tribe. They will pick up his option and also offer the qualifying offer in which case he will decline both times because he is going to go for a big contract this offseason.

Seth
September 30, 2013 - 1:03 PM EDT
I don't know Matthew, Ubaldo's market should be interesting to say the least. If anyone gives him Anibal Sanchez money, or even a little less, I would not want it to be Cleveland, even if they had the money to spend. I would not want him on a 3 year deal/10+ per year under any circumstances. This season, the last 2 months at least, has been amazing for Ubaldo, but I would not bet millions of dollars on him maintaining that success. It's as no-brainer now for the Indians to make the qualifying offer, and 1 year $14 million would be fine if he takes it. I imagine he'll decline it at this point, but it will be interesting to see who's interested in giving him a multi-year deal and losing a draft pick to sign a guy who was one of the best pitchers in baseball for 3 months, but prior to that was one of the worst pitchers in baseball for 1.5 years. If he reverts back to bad Ubaldo on a 1-year deal it's no great loss, but if you have to keep throwing him out there hoping he fixes things again for 3 years while you're paying him $15 million/year ... ugh. I do think now that someone will throw money at him, and there's a good chance that move will blow up in that team's face. So, probably the Angels.
Shy
September 30, 2013 - 1:00 PM EDT
The Jake is sold out for Wednesday night! You guys are awesome!! Whatever happens I'm so proud of the team and the city- and everybody that has communed and contributed here at Tony's IBI, it's been so much fun. I'm planning on watching at the FlatIron- a saloon in San Rafael that was a blacksmith shop in 1902. There are a lot of people in San Francisco who are pulling for the Indians. Go Tribe!
Matthew
September 30, 2013 - 12:42 PM EDT
I can't imagine a scenario in which the Indians re-sign Ubaldo. His resurgence has been fun to watch, and hopefully we'll get to enjoy it for a few weeks longer. However, he's going to get 4-5 years at $15M or more per year in free agency. There's no chance they can spend that kind of money.

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.
anonymous
September 30, 2013 - 11:46 AM EDT
Thanks Tony, I really hope we can sign him this off season. The Dolans really can't afford to lose him. I truly think they could win back the fans with a solid offseason.
Tony
September 30, 2013 - 11:25 AM EDT
The option changed to a MUTUAL option when he was traded. It is written as such in his contract. I already verified this first hand with the Indians. It is incorrectly listed as a club option still (what it used to be) be other sites. He's gone this offseason and will test the free agent market.
anonymous
September 30, 2013 - 11:22 AM EDT
I need some clarification . According to Jimenez contract it states that the Indians have an 8 million club option on him for the 2014 season. However, other Internet sites state that he is a free agent next year. Could Someone please let me know which it is?
CamfromMaine41
September 30, 2013 - 11:22 AM EDT
i like salazar pitching, have the rays or rangers hitters faced him much if at all? advantage>pitcher
Daingean
September 30, 2013 - 10:37 AM EDT
Things went perfectly this weekend. Tribe takes WC spot while the Rays and Rangers tied. Tribe miss Price (if they play the Rays) or Darvish (can't see the Rangers letting him pitch on 2 days rest).

Time to get it done on Wednesday!!!

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