Who are these Cleveland Indians hitters and what did you do with the group we’ve watched most of the season?
If we can take anything from this current Tribe three-game winning streak it is that this streaky team can be very dangerous when they get hot. The baseball season is a marathon, not a sprint. We are only a month in and we’ve already seen many peaks and valleys with our team.
We saw them get shut out back to back nights in Tampa, then explode for 13 in the series finale. In a three-game home series against Chicago, they combined to score two runs in two games, sandwiched around a nine run win against tough lefty Chris Sale. They scored just 11 times in a five-game losing streak and then ended the skid by dropping 19 runs on the Astros in Houston. Oh, but dont forget the three-game losing streak later that week where the offense scored four runs, including another shutout to open a doubleheader Sunday. That was when we thought the Wahoo attack had hit rock bottom.
Whatever happened Sunday afternoon in Kansas City must have jarred something loose because since then, they have been hotter than a Kate Upton photo shoot.
The Tribe took the final two games in KC by putting up 19 runs on 28 hits. With the up and down nature of the offense, you really had no idea what to expect as the Indians returned home after the 5-4, three-city road trip. Zach McAllister took the mound to face the Philadelphia Phillies and former Cy Young award winner Roy Halladay. The big right-hander has not been himself thus far in 2013, but in his last three starts, Halladay has allowed just four earned runs in 21 innings.
It took the Tribe no time to keep their offensive mojo going. With two out and Jason Kipnis on third (single, stolen base), the hottest Indian of them all, Carlos Santana, crushed a Halladay pitch down the line in right. He used some body English to keep the ball fair for a two-run homer. It was the third straight game the Indians got on the board in the first. Halladay walked Jason Giambi to bring Mark Reynolds to the plate. With all of the fanfare that came with the signings of Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher (and rightfully so), the free agent that has paid the most dividends through the first month has been the man they call “The Sheriff.” Reynolds showed off that power stroke, going to right-center for the second two-run homer of the inning.
It was 4-0 after one inning and the Tribe was just getting started.
In the fourth, Reynolds led off with a single and was brought in on the third two-run blast of the night, this one off the bat of Lonnie Chisenhall. There aren’t many swings sweeter that Lonnie Baseball’s when he makes good contact. The offense wouldn’t quit until the chased Halladay to the showers. Ryan Raburn and Drew Stubbs singled and both came home on a two-out single by Asdrubal Cabrera. That was it for Doc, who went just three and two-thirds, allowing eight runs on nine hits, including three homers.
While all of this was going on, McAllister settled into cruise control. Through five innings, Z Mac had just one run on two hits. Sure, its a lot easier to pitch with a huge lead, but The Zach Attack continued to show consistency, something this rotation sorely lacks.
With Halladay gone, the Phillies turned to old friend Chad Durbin for some long relief. Tribe fans have seen his act before. He was an original member of the Bullpen Mafia and his former team took turns beating him like he stole something. With two outs in the fifth and Giambi on second, Raburn launched his third jack in the last two nights that almost left Progressive Field completely. Stubbs then singled. Leadoff man Michael Brantley was feeling a little neglected, so he got into the act, putting a laser shot deep into the seats in right field. It was now 12-1 and the Tribe had hit five two-run blasts.
“We did a really good job of extending innings, then doing damage after we extended the innings,” Manager Terry Francona said. “We had a really good approach, and the ball was carrying.”
Just when you thought they were done, they weren’t. With two outs in the seventh, Raburn and Stubbs hit back to back solo bombs off of lefty Raul Valdes. That’s right, Raburn has hit two, two-homer games in a row. Its the first time and Indian has done that since Travis Hafner in his 2004 prime.
What exactly has gotten into Raburn? Whatever it is, the Indians need to ride it out. He got an extra start with Nick Swisher needing a night off to rest his sore shoulder and he certainly took advantage. In his last two games, Raburn is 7-8 with four homers and seven RBIs.
“I’m just trying to have good at-bats, and right now it’s paying off. It’s part of the game. Sometimes you get locked in,” Raburn said.
By the way, the Indians attack, which has looked completely lost at times, is second in the majors in Home Runs, slugging percentage, OPS, and seventh in runs scored.
“I think we’re starting to get on that roll a little bit,” Giambi said. “We’ve pushed through the tough times and we’re starting to play really well offensively. That game tonight, against Roy, that’s unbelievable to have that type of game tonight against him.”
McAllister finished his evening going seven innings, allowing two runs (both on solo homers) on five hits. He struck out four and walked just one on the way to his second win of the season.
Some high comedy came in the eighth when Giambi beat out an infield hit with a headfirst slide into first base. “I felt like Mr. Potato Head,” he said. “My parts were moving everywhere.”
So the Tribe’s offense has now put up 33 runs in three games and the starting pitchers (Corey Kluber, Ubaldo Jimenez, and McAllister) have gone 21 innings, allowing just four earned runs. Now that, my friends, is a beauty of a three-game winning streak.
The 11-13 Indians end their mini-series tonight with Philadelphia in what should be a dandy of a pitching matchup. Rookie Trevor Bauer will get the callup from Columbus for a spot start. He has made three AAA starts and is 1-0 with a 2.50 ERA while striking out 24 in 18 innings. Bauer will face off with former Indians Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee (2-1, 3.03 ERA), who is pitching for the first time in Cleveland since being traded in 2009.
(photo via Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer)