The Cleveland Indians are in a position one may have hoped for but many wouldn’t have believed prior to the start of the 2021 season. After avoiding a 4-game sweep with the Yankees, the Tribe has taken 9 of its last 12 and before being no-hit Friday the team had reeled off five in a row.
Sitting at 17-14 and in second in the AL Central, the Indians take on their state rivals in the Battle of Ohio this weekend. Now, the team looks to clean up its mistakes from their first act and keep the winning streak alive as they head home.
What Went Wrong Series One:
The two clubs saw each other in mid-April and the Reds got the best of the Indians taking two of three. The series got off to an ugly start with Logan Allen on the mound — who lasted two innings and gave up five runs. After Allen was pulled, four relievers took the mound — three of which gave up additional runs. The Indians lost that first game 10-3, despite having 10 hits to the Reds 11.
Despite the bludgeoning the day before, the Tribe came out poised to win the second game. Triston McKenzie had a solid outing providing the Indians with five innings and allowing one run. Bryan Shaw, Nick Wittgren, and James Karinchak gave the team three scoreless. With a 2-1 lead headed into the ninth, Emmanuel Clase took the hill. After the team put out the first two batters, a fielding error by first baseman Josh Naylor gave Jesse Winker a chance to drive in the tying run. The Reds would walk it off in the 10th to win it 3-2.
The series finale was a strong showing by the Tribe on both sides of the ball. Shane Bieber went eight innings allowing three runs, two walks, and 13 strikeouts. All six of the Indians’ runs were supported by the deep ball. Jose Ramirez gave the Indians a 1-0 lead in the first, Roberto Perez had a three-run shot in the fourth, and Jordan Luplow capped it off with a two-run in the seventh — final score 6-3.
Pitching Probables: Second Series
Aaron Civale (4.0, 3.20) is set for game two and has been providing some length for the Indians but has allowed a combined seven runs in 13.1 innings pitched with just six strikeouts. Civale has only walked three in that timeframe. RHP Louis Castillo (1-3, 6.07) will take the bump for the Reds.
Game three might lean more toward a bullpen game as the club is still looking to solidify a new five stater. Sam Hentges (1-0, 5.00) was called up to fill that void, but Phil Maton ended up starting his last expected outing instead since Hentges can provide more length. In his last outing, he went 3.1 innings allowing six hits, two runs, two walks, and two strikeouts. RHP Tyler Mahle (1-1, 3.23) will get the start for the Reds.
Expect to see the bullpen getting work this weekend. Between two starters who are not exceeding roughly 5-6 innings and are still looking to figure it out along with a new arm in the rotation, the bullpen will be relied on. Appearances by Clase, Karinchak, Wittgren, Bryan Shaw, and up-and-coming Nick Sandlin should be expected.
The Indians outscored the Kansas City Royals 24-13 over the last four games. In the six games the team has played in May, they’re slashing at .234/.314/.444 which is a significant lift from the 24 games in April at .207/.283/.382. While a smaller sample size, the bats are starting to heat up with contributions from more than just Jose Ramirex and Franmil Reyes.
Eddie Rosario - in his last five games, Rosario has six hits, six RBI, and one home run in 18 at-bats. He’s slashing .333/.400/.556
Harold Ramirez - the four games Ramirez has played for the club he’s slashed .294/.294/.471 with five hits and two RBI in 17 at-bats.
Cesar Hernandez - another contributor after a slower start has been Hernandez who is slashing .292/.393/.500 in 24 at-bats including seven hits and one home run.
Josh Naylor - Naylor has had an interesting start to his career as an Indian with a shortened season last year and some defensive miscues this year. Despite that, Naylor continues to play hard for the club and has added seven hits, two home runs, and six RBI in his last 24 at-bats — slashing .292/.320/.625.
Amed Rosario - Rosario has been another offensive contributor with a live on .286/.286/.476 in the last seven days providing six hits in 21 at-bats.
How They Win
The Indians are finding a new way to win every night — and between additional run support for the rotation, new offensive contributors as of late, and the consistency of the back-end of the bullpen, they are running into the Reds at the time who have lost 10 of their last 15.
While a small sample size — the one thing you can not overlook is the team’s willingness to battle every night no matter what adversity has been. The club will have to continue on without Roberto Perez behind the dish as he’s had surgery to repair his fractured finger. We’ll see if this early-season momentum carries throughout the month of May for the Tribe, but for now you can count on the club giving it their best shot each night.