Indians prevail in potential playoff preview
The Cleveland Indians are taking to this persona of contenders pretty well. They went toe-to-toe with the Toronto Blue Jays and took two of three games at home from the current leaders of the American League East. What’s more, they did it in some pretty fun ways that should keep fans engaged and hopefully coming to the ballpark.
This is just a fun team in general that’s been providing tons of entertainment all season en route to a seven game lead in the American League Central. It doesn’t get much more entertaining than Tyler Naquin sliding head first into home plate on a walk-off inside-the-park home run and thrusting his hand into the air in a rock-on pose. This came a day after Naquin hit a walk-off sacrifice fly to make sure the Indians took two out of three from the division rival Chicago White Sox.
Naquin wasn’t supposed to be in the position. If not for an injury to Michael Brantley and a suspension to Abraham Almonte, Naquin might be toiling at Triple AAA instead a legit rookie-of-the-year candidate making game-changing plays during a playoff push. He’s a perfect fit on this team.
The Indians, too, aren’t supposed to be in this position. No one except probably Terry Francona saw them atop their own division let alone a half-game back from the best record in the AL at 71–51.
This team is load with Naquin-like stories. How about Jose Ramirez? He was the shortstop that preceded phenom Francisco Lindor, needed another trip to the minors and re-invented himself as a utility player and now the starting third baseman. Ramirez jacked a two-run homer to give the Tribe a 3–2 come-from-behind win over the Blue Jays in Sunday’s rubber match. He’s batting an insane .388 with runners in scoring position. He hit an RBI single and scored a run in the Indians’ five-run fourth that put them in a position to nearly take the second game against the Jays.
The Indians have won eight of their last 11 games going into the last five weeks of the season. They look well-suited to keep pushing for a divisional title on the way to the playoffs. Everyone talks about the stellar starting rotation and improved bullpen thanks to the Andrew Miller trade, but this offense has really shined. The Indians lead the AL in stolen bases (who saw that coming), are second in runs scored and second in batting average.
You can thank Rajai Davis for leading the stolen base charge. The 35-year-old free agent pickup must have access to the fountain of youth leading the AL with 33 steals. Another off-season addition, Mike Napoli, definitely helps bring in the runs leading the team with his 29 home runs. Lindor is helping that team batting average of .271 with his own team-leading .314 average.
That’s just a few player on the offensive side we highlighted. This is a well-balanced team that has already overcome some tough challenges like injuries (Brantley and Carlos Carrasco), suspensions (Almonte and Marlon Byrd) and slumps (Josh Tomlin and Bryan Shaw). They stumbled out of the gate after the All-Star game but have re-grouped. I can’t wait to see what kind of fun Naquin, Ramirez and company have for us.