On the eve of Game 1 of the NBA Finals, the Cleveland completed the first third of their schedule with a 9-1 win over the White Sox, a game in which Corey Kluber earned his 8th win of the season.
That win made the Tribe 29-25 after 54 games, and in the last 27 games, Terry Francona’s squad went 14-13, slightly less than the 15-12 in the first 27 contests.
The offense is back on track, jumping up to third in the American League in runs scored per game. They are sixth in on base percentage and third in slugging as a team.
Unfortunately, they are ninth in the league in staff ERA, and that’s despite having three starting pitchers with ERAs under 3.14 (Kluber, Trevor Bauer, and Mike Clevinger).
The offense has been led, or maybe a more apt phrase is carried, by Jose Ramirez, Francisco Lindor, and Michael Brantley, who have formed a lethal top of the order.
Ramirez and Lindor both rank in the top five in the AL in extra base hits, the former is tied for second in the league in home runs, and the latter is tied for third in doubles.
And all three are in the top ten in OPS, with Ramirez ranking 4th, Lindor 7th, and Brantley 8th.
Edwin Encarnacion has gotten hot with the weather, now ranking in the top ten in the league in home runs with 14.
With Lonnie Chisenhall, Brandon Guyer, and Tyler Naquin getting ready to come back from injury, Francona and the staff will have difficult decisions to make in terms of the roster.
Rookie Greg Allen is making it very tough for the decision makers. Not counted on to be a big contributor this season, the switch-hitter has hit .286 thus far, and has cut down on strikeouts over the last 11 games.
When the injured return, you have to think it will be difficult for Rajai Davis to keep a roster spot.
The problem for the pitching staff continues to be the bullpen, as 43% of the runs the Indians have allowed this season have come in the 7th inning or later. In addition, the relievers have coughed up more than a third of the dingers allowed by the pitching staff (28 of the 82) so far in 2018.
We thought Zach McAllister was prone to the gopher ball last season, allowing eight in 62 innings. To date this year, he has allowed six in 21-2/3 frames.
Although he hasn’t been primarily a reliever, Josh Tomlin has allowed a whopping 18 round trippers in 36 innings. He’s pitched in 12 games, and only NOT allowed a homer in four of them.
He leads the league in that category despite pitching 26 innings less than anyone else in the top five.
We understand the front office is aware of the problem, and brought in veteran Oliver Perez yesterday, and it may be the trade deadline before a permanent solution is sought, but until it’s fixed, it will be a very nervous time for Tribe fans in the late innings.
Yes, it’s true the Indians are 2.5 games ahead in the AL Central. It’s also a fact that the second place team, Detroit, is in rebuilding mode and isn’t even over .500 for the young season.
Cleveland was supposed to be one of the four best teams in the American League heading into the season, so from that standpoint they’ve underachieved.
On the other hand, if the Tribe fixes its bullpen, there is no reason they can’t make a deep run in the post-season with their starting rotation and hitting.
Perhaps in the next 27 games, we will start to see answers for the relief corps.