When we evaluated the Cleveland Indians after the first sixth of the season, they were floundering at 10-17, on a pace to go 60-102 for the season.
The next 27 games proved to be much more successful, mostly due to the starting pitching and the bullpen settled into some redefined roles.
Terry Francona’s club went 16-11 in this group of games and hit the one-third point in the season at 26-28 and very much in the mix for a post-season berth.
The Royals have come back to the pack a bit and the Tigers have been in a major slump, so the surprising Minnesota Twins are currently the division leaders, with the Indians five games back. They sit just two and a half games out of a wild card spot.
The offense improved, thanks to a historic month by Jason Kipnis, who was moved to the leadoff spot, and currently sits 6th in the American League in runs scored per game. They are 4th in the league in OPS, mostly because they are 2nd in on base percentage, led by Carlos Santana, who leads the AL in walks.
Still, the offense is inconsistent. In the last 28 games, the Tribe scored three runs or less in 14 of them, exactly half of them. However, they scored seven or more runs in six games, which is what improved their ranking. Thanks to the pitching staff, they won four of the games they scored three runs or fewer.
The Twins rank just ahead of Cleveland in runs per game, and they had 10 games of three runs or less in that span, along with seven games scoring seven or more. It’s a slightly less volatile attack.
When they score four or more runs, the Indians are 21-9.
Without a more consistent offense, the pitching has to shoulder the entire burden for this team winning.
The Tribe pitching staff ranks 11th in the Junior Circuit in ERA, but the way the starters are going, they will continue to rise in that statistic. And they lead the AL in strikeouts by a wide margin, fanning 39 more hitters than Tampa Bay in two fewer games.
The “Big Four” of Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, and Danny Salazar all have allowed fewer hits than innings pitched and struck out twice as many hitters as they have walked. That is outstanding.
All of them have an ERA under 4.00 as well. Over the last month, since Kluber’s 18 strikeout performance against St. Louis, a span of 23 games, Tribe pitchers have allowed more than four runs in a game just four times, and in two of those games, they allowed just five runs.
That’s dominant pitching.
Shawn Marcum isn’t the fireballer the rest of the guys are, but he’s provided good outing in three of his four starts. Despite not being able to throw in the mid 90’s, he is striking out almost a hitter per inning.
As for the bullpen, Cody Allen has pitched well since the end of April, allowing just four earned runs in 16-1/3 innings, striking out 23. His return to form has stabilized the ‘pen, and the others have followed suit.
Bryan Shaw is looking more and more like the guy who pitched here in 2013 and 2014.
Zack McAllister and Nick Hagadone have been inconsistent, and Scott Atchison was not pitching well before he went on the DL with an ankle injury.
Things are looking up at Progressive Field.
The starters are throwing like we all expected entering the season, and if the bats can start showing some improvement, it could be a fun summer downtown.
What a difference the second sixth of the season was.