The Cleveland Indians just had perhaps their worst week of the 2016 season and have seen their AL Central lead shrink to a meager 4.5 games. While some people are becoming very worried about this team, they remain unconcerned. After last Sunday's (8/21) big late inning rally to beat the Toronto Blue Jays started off the week right, everything seemed to go south; Cleveland hit the road for 7 games and come back home tomorrow after going 2-5 on that trip (lost 2 out of three to the Oakland Athletics, 3 out of four to the Texas Rangers). Overall on the roadtrip, Cleveland was outscored 26-16, and 12 of their 16 runs came in one game. However, the Tribe has not lost faith.
Salazar made huge strides to end his recent struggles in a 10 strikeout effort on Sunday
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"As a team, we haven't been winning a lot lately, but we're going to get through this. We didn't get to first place by coincidence. We were playing hard and we know we're going to get through this as a team, too." - Danny Salazar on Indians roadtrip
Right hander Danny Salazar has had a lot of struggles in the recent months, dating back to his last start before the All-star game. After a brief DL stint, Salazar had two awful starts in his return, which certainly raised some red flags. Today, Salazar made possible huge strides towards returning to his All-star form, going 5.1 innings allowing 2 runs on 5 hits, 2 walks, and struck out ten batters. While Salazar was nailed with the loss, it was certainly an encouraging start.
"It was really good. We made sure that he went about things the right way. We started implementing some things that he had kind of gotten away from in the last three weeks, and I think it really paid dividends." - Pitching coach Mickey Callaway
"I thought it was significantly better than we've seen, which is really good. It wasn't enough to win the game, but to see him make those strides was really good, because now we can hopefully get him on a roll." - Manager Terry Francona
"I think it's just getting back to some things I was doing earlier in the year, They help a lot, but I was getting a little bit too much stress in my arm when I was doing it. But, it was helping. I think what I'm doing now, I'm getting back to it." - Salazar
"That's the Danny we remember. That's the Danny we want to see every time out, That's the Danny that's capable of going and winning a bunch of games, that got him to the All-Star Game. He can play a big factor for us down the stretch here if that's the pitcher that we're going to have back on the mound every fifth day." - Second Baseman Jason Kipnis
Jason Kipnis went 5-28 on the roadtrip
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"The only thing that makes it easier is that Detroit lost, to be honest. We want these games. We want the wins. As it comes down to the home stretch, and to getting into the playoffs, it all comes down to winning games. And we need to start doing more of that." - Kipnis
"Some of the guys, you can tip the caps to their side for certain at-bats. But, there were definitely at-bats we didn't make the adjustments on, at least not quick enough. We'll just have to go back up there with a better game plan. I know a bunch of guys are looking forward to going back home right now." - Kipnis
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The good news for Cleveland - The Indians are now about to start a ten game homestand at Progressive Field, where they are 39-23, as opposed to 34-33 on the road. Every aspect of the Indians team has been so much better at home, and with their need to get hot again so obvious, the homestand couldn't come at a better time. Detroit is also on a two game losing streak, which helped the awful week Cleveland had not do the damage that it maybe could have done.
The bad news for Cleveland - The homestand for Cleveland begins with the Minnesota Twins, the only AL Central team Cleveland has had trouble with this season. Cleveland is 33-17 against the AL Central this season, but are 5-8 against the last place Twins. The other bad news for the Indians is that their struggles have lasted much longer than this roadtrip, despite the fact that the standings don't show it. After their 14 game winning streak came to an end July 2nd (They were 49-31 at the time), Cleveland has gone 24-25. The rest of the AL Central has struggled enough to mask this alarming number, but with the Royals and Tigers heating up, the time is now for the Cleveland Indians to prove they are legitimate.
Before coming to Cleveland, Abraham Almonte had gone through a below average career with some below average teams (Seattle Mariners in 2013, Seattle and the San Diego Padres in 2014, San Diego and Cleveland in 2015). After being moved to Cleveland in exchange for lefty swingman Marc Rzepczynski, Almonte impressed in Cleveland by hitting .264 with 5 HR, 20 RBI, and 6 steals. However, not only was this a small sample size, but Almonte was suspended in February of 2016 for violating baseball's joint drug and prevention program and it seemed as if Almonte's impact was maybe something Cleveland would move on without. However, after being activated in July, Almonte has made some key impact for a team trying to win the AL Central.
Due to the 80 game suspension Almonte served, he will be ineligible for the MLB playoffs should Cleveland make it to that point, but he is currently doing all he can to ensure his team reaches that goal.
"There's nothing I can do about that, I've never been to the postseason. So it won't be good if we make it because I won't be playing, but if we win that will be good. I just want to help my teammates have the opportunity to experience being in the playoffs." - Almonte on playoff ineligibility.
While many fans have complained and argued, "If he can't play in October, why play him now?', but he has continued to play well and do his part. Cleveland is currently in the middle of a crucial four game set with the Texas Rangers, and while the series has not gone well the Indians lone win so far was aided by a 3-5 4 RBI night from Almonte. Almonte has also hit .302 since the All-star break, and has also masked the second half struggles of Rajai Davis (.237 since the break).
Every year bad moves are made in the offseason, it is one-hundred percent unavoidable; yet somehow it always seems to be the big moves that go south and the small moves that have positive results. Example? The Boston Red Sox made David Price the highest paid pitcher in baseball history, thus far in his first season with them he has posted an ERA of 4.00. The Detroit Tigers thought Justin Upton was worthy of a six year, $132 million dollar contract; Upton has returned that favor with his worst year by far in the big leagues (.231/15 HR). While both of these deals are long term deals and could quite possibly work out better in the future, it's been the smaller moves that have paid huge dividends this year. For less than a third of what the Tigers are paying Justin Upton in this year alone, Mike Napoli has hit .260 with 29 HR and 87 RBI for the Cleveland Indians. David Freese was signed by the Pirates a mere $3 million dollar contract, yet has played so well he just earned himself a two year extension. You could argue about what the best and worst moves of the offseason were for a long time, but one that was undeniably great was the Baltimore Orioles acquisition of Mark Trumbo.
If you sit down and look at the Orioles roster, record, and statistics, it's very clear that their offense is the only thing that is keeping them in contention with their horrendous starting pitching around. If you take a deeper look you see that their main piece in the offense has been Mark Trumbo, a guy they got almost free this offseason. Trumbo leads all of baseball in homeruns, ranks 5th in RBI, and ranks second on the Orioles in slugging percentage and OPS. Not only is Trumbo making just $9 million dollars this year, the Orioles acquired him from the Seattle Mariners for 30 year old catcher Steve Clevenger. While Trumbo had not put up his best years the last few seasons, he had hit .263 with 13 HR and 41 RBI in 96 games with Seattle the previous year (2015). Nonetheless, Seattle elected to move him and got almost nothing in return for him. Clevenger has played in only 22 games for the Mariners, and has hit just .221 with 1 HR and 7 RBI. The Mariners could not have expected much more out of him either, considering his best career year was 2015 where he played in only 30 games and hit .287 with 2 HR and 15 RBI. The Mariners could have had reasons to trade Trumbo such as he was coming off some down years, Safeco Field isn't really the ideal venue for a slugger of his caliber, or they just simply felt they didn't need him; however, prior to this year Trumbo's career highs were 34 HR and 100 RBI (both in 2013), numbers that any team in baseball would be more than happy to have in their lineup. No matter what angle you look at this from, this move never made sense for Seattle and for Baltimore it's like a gift that just keeps on giving.