The Tribe’s Offense Explodes In A Big Way
Last season, the Indians made their playoff-flavored bacon by beating the lesser teams on the schedule. They took a big step in doing that again in 2014 by defeating the Minnesota Twins 9-4 to take three of four in the series.
After struggling throughout the west coast trip and the first few games of this series, the Tribe bats finally came to life and supported their starting pitcher in a big way. Michael Brantley (3-5, 2B, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI), David Murphy (3-4, 2 2B, 1 BB, 2 R, 1 RBI), and Asdrubal Cabrera (4-5, 2 2B, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI) led the way, but in truth this was a total team effort, as each player in the lineup either got a hit, scored, or drove in a run. This game marked the second consecutive multi-hit game for Cabrera, and if he can continue making solid contact it would go a long way towards a Tribe playoff push.
Overall, it was a refreshing performance for an offense that had been struggling. The most encouraging thing about it was that it truly was a balanced team effort. The Indians scored in six separate innings, and each player in the lineup contributed something to the effort. This balance will be critically important with Jason Kipnis still sidelined and Nick Swisher and Carlos Santana still mired in slumps. Hopefully as the weather in Cleveland begins to heat up, the Tribe bats will follow suit.
Justin Masterson was dominant through four innings, facing the minimum, striking out five and inducing six ground ball outs (including a double play). After that however, Masterson’s control began to evade him.
In the fifth, he walked Chris Colabello and hit Kurt Suzuki to put runners on first and third with one out. But Masterson managed to strike out Josmil Pinto and induce a groundout from Chris Herrrrrmannnnn to escape the fifth having thrown only 50 pitches.
Masterson ran into more trouble in the sixth thanks to more poor control and sloppy defense. Danny Santana led off by reaching on a ball that rolled between Masterson’s legs for an error. Masterson then walked Brian Dozier, and both advanced on a wild pitch. Masterson struck out Eduardo Escobar and got Trevor Plouffe to line out to third, but then Colabello hit a slow grounder to short. It would have been a tough barehanded play for Cabrera, and when he missed it both Santana and Dozier came around to score on some heads-up base running. Masterson then allowed a walk, single, and double to open the seventh before recording a groundout and giving way Scott Atchison.
All in all, it was both an encouraging and discouraging performance from Masterson. Masterson looked as strong as he had all season through five innings, only for him to lose it in the sixth and seventh. His detractors will point to this kind of inconsistency as to why the team was wise not to extend him during the offseason, and it would be tough to argue. At the same time, Masterson has four quality starts in his last five outings, and he’s looking more like the solid contributor he was last season, if not a $17 million per year pitcher.
One may be tempted to point out the Twins are absolutely decimated by injuries right now and aren’t exactly running Spahn and Sain out there every day, but we wouldn’t want to detract from the Tribe’s improved play of late right?
In all seriousness, the Indians took an important step in getting back into the playoff race this past series. There’s a lot of season left to play, and the Indians still have plenty of time to get back into the thick of things if they continue to hit and pitch like they did today.