Second Thoughts Game #78: Indians 6, D-Backs 1
Kluber shuts out Snakes over seven innings as Gomes and Brantley go deep
While Tim Lincecum threw his second no-hitter in less than year's time against the Padres, the Indians finally got themselves back in the win column thanks to the return of the dominant Corey Kluber that has led the Tribe staff over the first months of the season as he pitched seven shutout innings to earn his sixth win of the year.
Offensively, three hits by Michael Bourn, more clutch hitting by Michael Brantley and RBI knocks by Jason Kipnis, Yan Gomes and Lonnie Chisenhall gave Kluber more than enough of a cushion for the victory.
Player of the Game: Corey Kluber (7 IP, 4 H, 0R/ER, 1 BB, 8K).
I'll say one word that has separated Kluber from his struggles in the past and his more recent scuffling this season: movement.
That's what has made this right-hander one of the more dominant pitchers in baseball this season. With his mixture of a fastball, cutter, slider and curveball, all of which are constantly moving, Kluber has improved the strikeout dimension of his game, which has made him a potential All-Star pitcher for the Tribe this season.
On Wednesday, Kluber demonstrated how much difference the movement of his pitches can make when he can throw them for strikes with control. The eight D-Back whiffs revived a trend that Tribe fans should be familiar with by now with Kluber as the right-hander has now struck out at least eight batters in nine of his 17 starts so far this season. In those starts, he is 7-0 with a 1.80 ERA.
I'm not sure what caused Kluber to lose that movement and command over that brief three-start span where he was 0-1 with an ERA of five, but it seems to have returned now and with the heat of summer not going anywhere anytime soon, the conditions are ideal for pitch movement as long as he maintains consistent control.
Kipnis Starting Road Trip Right
After a forgettable home stand, Jason Kipnis has gotten this road trip off to a flying start as he recorded five hits in 12 at-bats against the D-Backs, including a pair of doubles, a triple and an RBI.
Now that Carlos Santana is finally starting to turn things around at the plate, he has been moved back to his original spot in the lineup batting cleanup, which, in turn, moves Kipnis to a less stressful role. In both games in Arizona, Kipnis batted fifth in the lineup after a brief stint in the cleanup spot.
While he won't be an All-Star this year, Kipnis can still turn things around and have another productive year for the Tribe if he stays healthy. Plus, the Indians could always use another productive bat since Brantley has shouldered most of the load all year. Santana has turned things around at the plate and now with Kipnis possibly on the verge of a hot streak, the Tribe lineup suddenly is deeper and has more dimensions.
Bourn on Another Upswing?
It's time to accept that Michael Bourn is a streaky hitter who will have his peaks and valleys throughout the season. As of right now, it appears the Tribe center fielder is on another upswing as he is batting close to .348 over his last five games with two triples (both during Wednesday's game), an RBI and a .444 OBP.
Bourn had arguably his best single-game performance of the season on Wednesday as he went 3-for-4 with two triples, a walk and two runs scored. The Indians are 8-4 this season when Bourn records multiple hits and scores at least one run in a game.
On the season, Bourn is now batting .271 with two homers and 18 RBI. Unfortunately, the run game still has not become a factor for Bourn as it has in the past as he has stolen just six bases in nine attempts so far this season with his last attempt dating as far back as June 7th in Texas. The speed is still there, but whether he's still shy about putting stress on his troublesome hamstring or he still hasn't yet fully adjusted to American League pitching is unknown.
As Terry Francona has said himself, though, the Indians are a better team when Bourn is wreaking havoc at the top of the lineup.
Up next: Indians (38-40) vs. Mariners (42-37) @ Safeco Park. First pitch at 10:10 pm ET (Friday).
The Indians continue their West Coast road trip as they head north to Seattle to take on the Mariners, who have won five out of their last six games, but still stand at six and a half games behind the A's in the AL West. Trevor Bauer will face off against veteran right-hander Chris Young, who has been solid for the M's so far this season going 6-4 with a 3.23 ERA in 14 starts. Even with his lengthy big league career, Young has yet to face the Tribe.
Bauer actually pitched well against the Tigers in his last start, but coming back out to pitch the seventh inning may not have been such a good idea as he gave up back-to-back solo shots to Rajai Davis and Ian Kinsler. His teammates were able to bail him out and take the game into extra innings. The young right-hander will make his first career start against the Mariners.
Jake Dungan is a communications student at Stark State College and an intern with the Akron RubberDucks. Follow him on Twitter @MajorLeagueJake.