Indians running away in CentralBy Matt Verderame
Cleveland rocks. After being a vritual dumpster fire for years in the sports landscape, and heartbreaking when the teams actually were good – the city of Cleveland is rolling.
After watching the Cleveland Cavaliers win an incredible championship under the most impossible of situations, the Indians are now becoming the front and back page story. While most of the world is yet to wake up to Major League Baseball, waiting for the pennant races, the Indians are on an epic run. Cleveland has won 14 consecutive games, the longest such streak since the Oakland Athletics won an American League-record 20 straight games in 2002.
Cleveland beat the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday in the season’s longest game – 19 innings – and now owns a 49-30 record, only bettered by the Texas Rangers in the AL. The Indians are seven games clear of the Kansas City Royals who, while certainly not finished with half the season to play, are in danger. Kansas City may be the defending World Series champ, but it doesn’t have the kind of starting rotation or overwhelming offense to go on a long run.
On the flip side, the Indians are showing why they are very dangerous come October. Cleveland has a serious rotation that includes Carlos Carrasco, Corey Kluber and Danny Salazar. All three can be dominating and have been throughout this stretch. Salazar is in the running for AL Cy Young Award winner, posting 10 wins and a 2.22 ERA. Kluber leads the club in strikeouts with 110 and has seen his ERA drop down after a poor start to 3.50. Carrasco has solidified the staff after being hurt in May, rolling to 2.56 ERA with 63 strikeouts in as many innings. Factor in the quality work of starters Trevor Bauer and Mike Tomlin, and the Indians have the best rotation in the AL.
Offensively, Cleveland does just enough to keep opposing pitchers off-balance. Carlos Santana is not a great hitter, but he has a team-high 17 home runs. Mike Napoli could be put in the same category, but has shown productivity with 52 RBI and 16 blasts of his own. The best hitter on the team is young star Francisco Lindor, who owns a .305 average with 10 homers and 13 stolen bases, while only striking out 45 times. Once Michael Brantley comes back in the summer, the Indians will have an even deeper lineup.
Of all the teams in the American League, Cleveland would be the biggest problem for any of the pitching-rich teams in the National League. Unlike Kansas City, the Boston Red Sox or Baltimore Orioles, the Indians can pitch. Cleveland could legitimately be the favorite alongside Texas to reach the Fall Classic come October.
Only a month ago, we were bemoaning more pain for the city of Cleveland. Now?
Damnit, Cleveland rocks.