Game #54 Observations: Indians Begin Final Week of Regular Season with 7-4 Win Over White Sox
CLEVELAND - The Indians return to Progressive Field started on a high note Monday night, taking care of business against the very team they may be staring at once the postseason begins.
Led by a three-run blast by Jose Ramirez in the first and a solid night from Aaron Civale, the Tribe topped the Chicago White Sox 7-4 to move to 30-24 on the season.
The win puts them now four back of the Sox with six games left to play, three of which will be this week against Chicago.
While winning the AL Central is still very unlikely, the team's primary goal for this final week of regular season play is to get their starting rotation set for the three-game playoff series, as well as hopefully heat up some bats which have been cold for most of 2020.
Civale got into some trouble early, as he got out of a bases loaded jam in the first, and allowed two runners on in the second.
In the end though all four Sox runs came with two outs in the 5th, but he was able to pitch the sixth and didn't allow any more damage to take place.
Here's some observations from the win for the Tribe as they reach that important 30-win mark in 2020.
1. Hot Jose
It is safe to say that Indians third basemen Jose Ramirez might be the hottest bat in all of baseball right now.
After wrapping up a massive series in Detroit against the Tigers, Ramirez began this homestand with a three-run blast to right field in the first inning off White Sox starter Dane Dunning.
Doing a little research goes a long way in showing just how hot at the plate Ramirez has been over the last 10 games.
All season long the Indians have waited for a player to go on a tear like the one Ramirez is on right now.
With the playoffs creeping up, the team and fans are hopeful that he can keep it up, as once again Monday he was 2-for-3 with a homer, double, walk, and two runs scored.
Ramirez is now hitting .290 on the season, and the whispers of him sneaking into the American League MVP race are growing louder.
If he can get a teammate or two to join him in how hot he's been at the plate, the Tribe could make things super interesting in the postseason.
2. Can Civale Impact the Postseason?
In talking about how the Indians are going to set up their rotation for the playoffs, it seems like it's obvious that Shane Bieber and Zach Plesac will start games one and two against the White Sox or whoever the first round opponent is.
After that it's anyone's guess if it will be Carlos Carrasco or Aaron Civale who will get the ball in game three.
Carrasco has been pitching outstanding as of late, but Civale made his presence felt in the decision on Monday, allowing four runs in six innings.
You could say he should have been pulled by then as he entered the 6th inning already at 93 pitches, but he gutted out the inning and gave the Tribe bullpen a break.
It might be a situation where Carrasco starts game three of the playoffs (if necessary) and Civale is ready to go early in the game if "Cookie" just doesn't have his good stuff.
With the win, Civale moves to 4-5 on the season, but he's still had a decent year with an ERA of 3.99.
"His command was not normal, he didn’t give them many pitches to hit in the zone," Indians manager Sandy Alomar said.
"He was careful with him, but we got him for six innings with a high pitch count, we finally got him a couple of runs and he was able to get the win."
If there's one thing that the Indians pitchers must do if it's the White Sox in that opening three game set it is keep the ball in the park.
Civale nearly did that but got careless in the 5th and allowed a two-run, two-out homer to Eloy Jimenez to tie up the game.
If he's to impact the postseason and gets a chance again in some fashion against Chicago, he's got to be ultra careful not to give up the long ball.
"We always have a good plan against them, try to spin the ball and elevate at time, but we use both sides of the park against them," Alomar said.
"We have done a fantastic job and if you give up just four runs to them that’s pretty good, our starter managed to go six, and we only had to cover three innings in the bullpen, so that’s great."
3. Do the Indians Have the Edge?
Likely if there's one team the White Sox don't want to see in a short series to start the playoffs it's the Indians.
Monday night proved that yet again, as the Indians got off to a fast start on offense thanks to Ramirez, and their pitching was good enough to hold Chicago to four runs on nine hits.
Any team is going to have problems against the likes of Shane Bieber and Zach Plesac the way they are pitching, but the Indians top two of their rotation know Chicago all too well, including how to pitch to them to keep the ball in the park.
Entering Monday's game, Chicago had a decisive edge in homers in their starting nine next to the Indians, 75 to 44, but none of that matters if the Indians pitcher can keep the ball in the park.
Playing, and winning in Chicago won't be easy, but the Indians following the win on Monday are 5-2 against the Sox, and just don't seem to fear their lineup of heavy hitters.
Playoffs is almost always about pitching, and has been the case for all of 2020, if the Indians can grind out three or four runs in Chicago it will give them an excellent chance to pull off the 7 vs 2 upset and move on to San Diego or Los Angels for the ALDS against another American League squad.
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