Game #56 Observations: Indians Wrap Up Four-Game Sweep of White Sox with 5-4 Comeback Victory
CLEVELAND - Seven days ago the Indians finally broke their ugliest losing streak in a long time, earning a 10-3 win in Comerica Park in Detroit.
It was a much-needed win from the perspective of not only breaking the eight-game losing streak, but also giving the team just a little bit of confidence that yes, they could win a game again.
Now seven days later and the club has lost just once in that time, and their confidence seems to be swelling by the day, and for good reason.
Thursday night was easily the most impressive win of their latest streak, having seen them win seven of their last eight games.
Their only hiccup in this stretch was a 5-2 loss to the Tigers last Saturday. Other than that they have played impressive baseball, and are looking to enter the playoffs on a high note.
The win over the White Sox Thursday had it all, great starting pitching early from Zach Plesac, clutch hitting on offense, and a comeback with two outs and two strikes in the 7th that seemed to stun everyone, most notably the White Sox.
The two monster hits in the 7th that put the Indians ahead was a sharply hit single to right center by Cesar Hernandez to drive in a pair, and then (who else), Jose Ramirez doubled off the wall in left center to score two more.
The pen did an excellent job, and just like that with three games left the Indians are 1.5 out of first in the AL Central.
With a lot to digest, here’s some observations from Thursday’s huge comeback win.
How About That 7th Inning?!
After the two teams combined for two runs in what looked like an old fashioned pitchers duel, the clubs then went off for seven runs in the 7th inning - three for the White Sox and four for the Indians.
The Sox got to starter Zach Plesac with a leadoff triple by Yoan Moncada, and he scored on a ground out by Yasmani Grandal to break a 1-1 tie.
Chicago led 2-1 when Nomar Mazara came through with a huge two-out, two-run single to left that made it a 4-1 game, and it looked like the Sox would salvage at least one game of the four-game set.
Not so fast.
The Indians clawed their way back with three straight pinch-hit singles, Josh Naylor, Tyler Naquin and Mike Freeman, to load the bases with no outs.
Delino DeShields, who had a tough night all around, grounded into a fielder’s choice, and Francisco Lindor hit a shallow fly to left that couldn’t advance the runners.
With all seeming to be lost, Cesar Hernandez stood in the box with two strikes, hopeful to come through.
Hernandez lined a single over Yolmer Sanchez’s head at second, scoring a pair to cut the deficit to 4-3.
DeShields went to third on the throw, giving the team the tying run standing on third with still two outs.
It was time then for the player who could be the MVP in the American League to do it again, as Jose Ramirez came through.
Ramirez crushed a Carlos Rondon pitch off the wall in center, scoring both DeShields and Hernandez scored, and it was 5-4 Tribe.
“He is next level, it’s so cool to watch him, so much confidence, anyone you want up at the plate right now it’s him right now,” Indians starter Zach Plesac said.
It was the largest deficit of the season overcome by the team, and they did it in somewhat amazing fashion starting with the pinch hits.
“We were fortunate all three guys got hits, the guys kept fighting,” Indians acting manager Sandy Alomar said.
From there, the bullpen did their job, and the sweep was complete to bring the team to a game and a half back in the division.
Pen Closes the Door
Zach Plesac wasn’t awful, he just ran into problems in that 7th inning, allowing three runs and not being able to close the door on Mazara, which was the key hit of the frame.
Coming in for the Tribe was Cam Hill, who got the final out in the 7th, and then in the 8th threw a very fast and effective 1-2-3 frame.
From there it was the MLB leader in saves, Brad Hand, who came in and got a pair of K’s and got pinch-hitter James McCann to ground out to first to end the game.
For Hand he’s now 15-for-15 in save opportunities, which is best in all of baseball.
It could have been easy for the Indians as an offense and even the pen to mail it in after the Sox took the three-run lead, but instead they got great efforts and were able to get the job done.
“Unbelievable, right now it’s a great run right now, the guys are locked in and focused and trying to win games,” Alomar said.
Plesac went 6.2 as the team’s starter on Thursday, allowing four runs on four hits with two walks and seven strikeouts.
He looks like he’s on pace to be the starter for game two of the playoffs, and while he had a tough final inning, he appears focused and ready to compete.
“Whoever starts is going to put us in a good position to win,” Plesac said.
The way the staff has picked each other up this season and how good the starters have been, he’s exactly right.
The Final Countdown
Three games left. That’s all the team has standing in the way between themselves and the postseason, a position that they clinched when Jose Ramirez clubbed a three-run homer on Tuesday night.
The team that stands in their way is the Pittsburgh Pirates, a team that they swept earlier this year, and a team that honestly has had a tough year, going 18-39 entering play on Thursday.
This doesn’t mean the Indians can afford to look past Pittsburgh, as that’s a sure fire way to find themselves taking an “L” at some point this weekend.
Ask the Chicago Cubs about the Pirates, they are in first in the NL Central, yet just lost three straight to Pittsburgh.
The Indians should be able to take care of business against Pittsburgh, and from there they will have to let the chips fall where they may as to how the postseason seeding will line up.
The other two teams in the AL Central, the Twins and White Sox, both have much tougher matchups this weekend, as the Twins will take on the Cincinnati Reds, who are looking to better their postseason position, and the Sox will host the Cubs, who are looking to get back on track for the playoffs.
Should the Indians win all three, and the Sox lose two and the Twins, who are now back in first in the division, lose three, the Indians will sneak in and steal away the AL Central, putting them in a position to host a team in the wild card series.
It’s a position that seemed impossible after the team lost eight in a row, but they kept talking about getting on track and getting hot again, and here they are after sweeping a first place team four straight days.
“We know how special this group is, we know we’re going to win and it seems like a dream right now,” Plesac said.
“It’s completely new to a lot of guys, and it’s coming down to where we are going to stay present and enjoy the moment because we don’t know when it’s going to end.”
If they keep playing like this, it’s not going to end for some time.
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