A couple of weeks ago, it appeared the Cleveland Indians started to figure it all out. They went to Minnesota, swept the first place Twins to go from two games out at the beginning of the series to two games ahead at the end.
Then they went to Baltimore and took three out of four from the Orioles, completing an eight game trip at 7-1.
The Indians were 11th in the American League in runs scored going into the trip, and came home 7th as the bats started to click, led by red hot hitting by Jose Ramirez, Edwin Encarnacion, and Lonnie Chisenhall.
They came home for a seven game homestand with a 2-1/2 game lead over Minnesota, only to score just two runs in a three game series in which they were swept by the visitors.
Outside of Ramirez, who has put together a remarkable month of June, the bats went silent. They put plenty of men on base, but couldn’t get a big hit. It seemed the old rule of the rally finding a struggling hitter was in effect because Yan Gomes left a small village on the basepaths.
The starting pitching wasn’t great, and overall the Cleveland pitching staff now ranks second in the AL in ERA. Even in the Twins’ series, Trevor Bauer persevered after a tough second inning to get into the 7th, and Corey Kluber struck out 13 in seven frames on Saturday.
Josh Tomlin struggled in the third game, but still only allowed four runs when it was all said and done.
Terry Francona is clearly frustrated with his ballclub, stating again yesterday that this is a different season, and the players can’t keep harkening back to 2016.
Tito should follow his own advise and make some changes in the batting order, something we wrote about a few weeks ago.
The top two hitters, Francisco Lindor and Jason Kipnis aren’t getting on base in front of Ramirez and Encarnacion. Lindor’s on base percentage is .313 and Kipnis’ is .286.
Perhaps when Michael Brantley (.360 OBP) is back, he should go into the leadoff spot with Lindor in the #2 hole, and Kipnis dropping into the #5 or #6 hole.
He has already mentioned a leadership void talking about how his club misses guys like Jason Giambi and Mike Napoli.
When Chris Antonetti and Mike Chernoff traded Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn during the 2015 season, they turned over the team to players like Kipnis, Brantley, and Yan Gomes.
Brantley missed most of last year with a shoulder injury, Kipnis has struggled after missing most of spring training with a sore shoulder, and Gomes hasn’t hit since the 2014 Silver Slugger season.
It’s hard to lead when you are hurt or struggling.
Perhaps the team turned a corner last night when after trailing 8-1 and 9-2, the Indians rallied for a 15-9 victory, their first big comeback win of the season.
We still feel the Cleveland Indians are the best team in the American League Central Division because they have the best pitching mostly because of the bullpen and best hitting in the division.
However, there are warning signs that they may need something to shake them up. The skipper is clearly concerned. He can make the first moves by changing the lineup and perhaps going to Roberto Perez as the regular catcher.
Francona’s concern should make for an interesting few weeks prior to the trading deadline. Just another thing to keep an eye on.