The Indians just completed an exciting 3 games against the rival Chicago White Sox, with the 4 game series finale today. While the Sox have not been competitive in the same way as they have been in the past, there is much we can take away from the series. We wrote a few weeks back how this years team had a similar record and place as last years team, but was better prepared to compete throughout the entire season and not fall apart like the 2012 version. You can read that here. Today we will look at some specifics from each game and then some reasons that are facilitating success this year.
Friday: Game #1
- Trevor Bauer started the game and only made it through 2/3 of an inning. Bauer worked out of the stretch only at his own decision and not with discussion with the Tribe coaches and staff. The results were poor to say the least. Bauer gave up 5 runs putting the team in a hole. This also meant that during the first game of a double header the bullpen would have to fill 8 and a third innings.
- Last year’s young squad seemed to get down when the starting pitching started out terribly. This year’s team came back quickly with 13 unanswered runs. The mindset seemed to be “Just cause we gave up 5 runs doesn’t mean we can’t score more runs then the White Sox.” The bullpen pieced together quality innings, only giving up the remaining 5 runs after the Indians had scored 13 straight and added on another 6 with a final score of 19 – 10.
- All Indians starters had at least 2 hits, with Jason Kipnis getting on base 6 times with 3 doubles and 3 walks. Kipnis became the first major leaguer to ever accomplish this feat. Kipnis was robbed of a 4th double by a great running catch by the White Sox left fielder at the end of the game.
Friday: Game #2
- Following a long game, that taxed both bullpens and included a position player pitching for Chicago, the teams took a short break and were back at it starting the second game around 10PM.
- The Indians started strong and took at 4 to 1 lead after the first inning. The Tribe had a 5 to 2 lead going into the bottom of the 6th when the Sox took the lead with 4 runs scored and added 2 more in the bottom of the 8th to go up 3. The Indians were down to their last 3 outs going into the 9th. Even if they were able to tie the game, or take the lead, they had used up most of their bullpen.
- In the top of the 9th the Indians struck with a variety of quality at bats. Three straight singles led to a run, a wild pitch led to the next and Kipnis tied the game with a short sacrifice fly scoring speedy Michael Bourn. Nick Swisher finished the comeback with a solo homerun to deep right field. Vinnie Pestano walked 1 in the bottom of the ninth but struck out the other 3 batters he faced to finish off the game with no drama.
- Starting their 3rd game in the past 24 hours both teams were looking for extended innings from their starters. The Indians only got 5 innings from Ubaldo Jimenez as a high pitch count took him out of the game after giving up 3 earned runs. The White Sox got 6 out of their starter. Due to the extended innings pitched by the bullpen the Tribe called up Joe Martinez, who pitched 2 scoreless innings that were much needed.
- The Tribe again came back after being down 3 to 1 going into the 6th, the team tied the game. Kipnis again came through with a 2 run homer. After the 2 grueling games the day before the teams showed signs of fatigue and little power, but Kipnis was able to come through.
- After two singles, Swisher came through with what ended up being the game winning hit in the 8th. With men on first and second, Swisher ripped a single to center to score the deciding run.
- The Indians took the final game of this 4 game set with a dominate pitching performance from start to finish from Justin Masterson. Masterson had a complete game backed by 4 double plays behind him. His sinker was working well as it assisted with inducing the ground ball outs.
- The Indians pieced together 4 runs on 10 hits, including 4 doubles from different players. Unlike the other games of the series the Indians did not need to come from behind with Masterson’s masterpiece.
- With this win, and a Tigers loss, the Indians are now tied atop the Central Division, proving their staying power in 2013.
Last year the team was very young with only aging, and unproductive, veterans like Travis Hafner. When the team would struggle, like they did being down 5 to start the double header, there seemed no one to turn to. Manager Manny Acta’s low key reserved personality seemed unable to stem the tide. This became more obvious, not just in games, as the season started slipping away as well.
This year manager Terry (Tito) Francona brings a different energy to the team. His excitement, high energy type A personality has been able to help keep the team from falling off the proverbial cliff. Francona is able to be respected with this personality due to his history of winning, financial commitment made to him by the team this off-season and his willingness to engage with the players in fun ways.
Instead of aging veterans who aren’t producing, this year the team added Swisher and Bourn to provide first and foremost talent. Similar to Francona both of the players also bring a history of winning and effort that is looked up to. Another addition, who falls more towards the aging, low production level, is Jason Giambi. Though Giambi hasn’t been lighting up the box score, though he has some big hits, his hustle, energy and knowledge has been a key component of the winning attitude the Tribe has this year.
It is these stabilizing factors that have allowed the team to continue to battle with the Tigers, tied in first today, in the Central. The Tribe has done so while suffering through inconsistent starting and relief pitching, a prolonged slump by Mark Reynolds and the demotion, and recall, of starting third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall. The hope is that some of these concerns bounce back and support the rest of the team, the way they have been. Either way this year’s team is setup to compete for a playoff spot, the front office’s moves this off-season have made it possible.