The Cleveland Indians continued their arduous climb towards .500 by completing a sweep of the Colorado Rockies in walk-off fashion with a 6-4 win on Sunday.
Any recap of this game must start with walk-off hero Michael Bourn. The maligned outfielder hit the game-winning two-run blast in this contest, and has now boosted his slash line to .288/.331/.406, good for a 110 OPS+. Bourn isn’t running like he did in his pre-Cleveland days (3-7 on stolen base attempts), but if he keeps hitting it will go a long way towards at least somewhat justifying his $13.5 million salary.
Opportunity was the theme of the day for the Indians lineup. Colorado starter Jhoulys Chacin was all over the place early in this game, and the Indians took advantage in the first. Bourn and Asdrubal Cabrera each walked to put two on with no outs before RBI behemoth Michael Brantley shot a single through the right side to get the Indians on the board. Two batters later, Rockies catcher Jordan Pacheco made a poor decision to try throwing out Michael Brantley at second on a dribbler off the bat of Lonnie Chisenhall, which loaded the bases for Jason Giambi. Giambi used his #veteranpresents to draw an RBI walk from Chacin, and David Murphy followed with a sacrifice fly to left to plate the third run of the inning.
After the Rockies netted some response runs (Copyright: Matt Underwood) to tie the game at three heading into the bottom of the third, the Indians struck again. Michael Brantley cranked a double to the wall in right-center to lead off the inning and was moved to third on a fly ball off the bat of Jason Kipnis. Another fly ball from Lonnie Baseball put the Indians up 4-3. The Indians bats stayed relatively quiet from there until the Bourn home run.
This offensive performance may not knock anyone’s socks off, but after plating just five runs in the series against the White Sox, the Indians scored five, seven, and six in the three games against the Rockies. Consistency had been this group’s bugaboo, but hopefully they can keep up the pace when the Red Sox come to town.
The (Not So) Bad
It would be extremely harsh to characterize Josh Tomlin’s start as bad. The under-the-hood numbers look great; eight-to-one strikeout-to-walk ratio, nine ground balls versus five fly balls, and a WHIP under one for the outing. But Tomlin allowed another home run, this one a two-run shot from Corey Dickerson in the second inning after yet another error from an Indians third baseman, and he has now allowed a home run in each of his six outings this season.
This has been an interesting string of starts from Tomlin. He’s striking out 23.1% of batters he faces, a career high by a mile, which combined with his typically low BB% (3.9%) has boosted his K-BB% to an excellent 19.2 K%-BB%. A 1.67 HR/9 is abnormally high, especially when paired with a 15.0% HR/FB rate. But with a fly-ball percentage over 40% (42.6%), gopher balls will remain a problem, as they have been throughout Tomlin’s career.
Going forward, the key will be the strikeout rate. If Tomlin continues striking batters out at this pace he’ll be more than all right. But his past history (pre-Tommy John surgery, but still relevant) and current arsenal don’t suggest he will continue posting such gaudy strikeout totals. Tomlin can still be somewhat effective without the strikeouts, but not nearly to the level he has been thus far.
The Bottom Line
The sweep of the Rockies was a nice change of pace after a rough series in Chicago. But life in the American League is tough, and it doesn’t get any easier with the scorching-hot Red Sox coming to town. The Indians have been excellent at home this season (18-11 record), and will need to keep that going to push themselves back into contention.
Stats courtesy of FanGraphs