If, at the beginning of the season, you would’ve told Cleveland Indians fans their team would be in first place by 6.5 games at the All-Star break, I doubt you’d hear any complaints. The team started the last two seasons painfully slow, so grabbing that big of a lead in the AL Central at the halfway point is a major surprise
That said, the way the Tribe played heading into the break is hardly encouraging. After going on a franchise-record 14-game winning streak, the Indians went a little cold. They still have a healthy lead in first, but they hit the break in desperate need of a breather.
Cleveland ended the first half of the year by wrapping up a four-game set with the struggling New York Yankees. The team had just taken two out of three games against the rival Detroit Tigers, and this series seemed to be one it could take advantage of.
Instead, the Tribe lost three of four. Issues that seemed to be solved a couple weeks ago – a lack of offense, inconsistent pitching – reared their ugly heads once again. Outside of Friday night’s 10-2 romp, there really wasn’t too much Cleveland did right this weekend.
For one, there seemed to be a lack of clutch hitting. No, the Indians didn’t get shut out or get held to minimal runs in any of the losses from the weekend. Still, the team had plenty of opportunities to score when desperately needing to take the lead, and only rarely actually cashed in.
Over the final two games of the series, Cleveland batters left a combined 19 runners on base. The team had men in scoring position for a whopping 35 at-bats, but only actually generated a hit in ten of those chances. Staring down a deficit with a chance to build momentum, the Indians instead choked on numerous golden opportunities.
Defense, an area of the game the Tribe had truly improved at, was also sub-par at best this weekend. Cleveland collected five errors across the past two games, looking uncharacteristically shaky in the field. Today, a fifth inning throwing error by Francisco Lindor opened up the floodgates, as the Yankees poured in six runs when they could’ve been held to two.
The most concerning issue with the Indians, though, was the sudden drop-off in starting pitching.
While last minute All-Star Corey Kluber returned to form in Friday’s win, every other starter heads into the break coming off an appearance to forget.
Josh Tomlin, the rotation’s biggest surprise, got shelled by the Tigers Wednesday afternoon. Trevor Bauer’s streak of solid starts came to an end after giving up five runs in 5.2 innings against New York. Danny Salazar, who’s in the middle of a breakout season, put in one of his worst performances of the season yesterday, giving up six runs for the first time all season.
Top it off with Carlos Carrasco’s brief three-inning appearance in today’s 11-7 defeat, and you have a rotation in desperate need of some rest.
Luckily for Cleveland, Detroit and the Kansas City Royals were unable to take much advantage of this weekend’s struggles. That the Tribe can play so poorly and still have a strong hold on first place is something the players can definitely take solace in.
That said, a lot went wrong for the Indians this weekend, much of it seemed to be problems they appeared to have left behind. A four-game breather before their next series is definitely just what the doctor ordered.
Here’s hoping these issues were just a result of fatigue, otherwise the second half of the year could get off to a rough start.