So many thoughts went through my head as Jose Ramirez crossed the plate last night to wrap up the Cleveland Indians‘ record-breaking 22nd straight victory. I thought about how incredible it was to watch history unfold in such a dramatic, walk-off fashion. How electric the crowd was for a mid-September game. How much fun it’s been to watch Cleveland go on a torrid streak the likes of which we may never see again.
To me, the one thing which stood out from all of this was how you really couldn’t find a more fitting hero than the man who knocked home the winning run and sent the Indians into the record books. With last night’s game-winning single, Jay Bruce proved once again that the Indians’ trading for him just over a month ago may have single-handedly changed the course of their season.
Sure, Bruce isn’t the only reason Cleveland is surging towards the playoffs in record-setting fashion. The Indians have no shortage of standouts on their roster, with the rotation looking more formidable than any in the majors and an offense appearing as well-rounded as ever.
However, all you have to do is look where Cleveland was before trading for Bruce to see the impact of his acquisition.
As of August 9, the Indians were still just keeping their heads above water, hanging on to a tentative lead in the AL Central. They had only generated one inning’s worth of offense in each of the previous four games. On top of this, All-Star outfielder Michael Brantley had just been sidelined with an ankle sprain, from which he still hasn’t recovered.
The trade deadline had passed, with Cleveland only making a small pickup for reliever Joe Smith. Mired in an offensive funk heading into the most daunting month of the schedule, the team looked to be in some trouble.
Out of nowhere, word broke the Tribe had just picked up Bruce from the New York Mets, sending only little-known reliever Ryder Ryan in exchange. There are two ways to describe how things have gone since.
One is simply sharing this tweet.
The other is taking a deeper look at how this move changed everything for the Indians.
For one, the offense has erupted. On the day the trade was made, Cleveland’s run differential was +98, which is certainly decent. Today, it’s +223.
Bruce has certainly played a large role in this, contributing 24 hits and 19 RBIs since joining the Tribe. He’s also eased some of the burden on slugger Edwin Encarnacion, which may or may not have a hand in Cleveland’s cleanup hitter looking better than ever at the plate recently. In general, Bruce has helped turn a once formidable lineup into an offensive powerhouse.
However, you can’t look solely at the field to see the impact this trade made for the Indians. You also have to consider how it affected the clubhouse.
Again, until this acquisition the Indians were struggling with consistency, and no major moves were made at the deadline to try and fix it. It wouldn’t have been surprising for the players to have seen this as the front office being hesitant to increase their chances of winning this year. Houston Astros ace Dallas Keuchel had recently publicly called out his own front office for not being active enough in the trade market. While no Indians players voiced complaints, it wouldn’t be surprising if they felt the same way.
Which is why getting Bruce for a low-level prospect, and the ensuing impact he provided has changed everything. The team in general started hitting the cover off the ball, while the players had to feel ignited by the front office making a big move to help their playoff chances. Bruce himself went from a dreadful Mets team to a Cleveland club that now looks near unbeatable, which had to do wonders for his morale.
While there are many reasons why the Indians are playing some of the best baseball anyone has ever seen, you can’t discount just how much Bruce has to do with all of it. From the day he entered the clubhouse, the Indians went on a warpath and haven’t looked back.
So, if you had to pick someone to play the biggest role in Cleveland’s record-breaking victory, Bruce was the clearest choice. Here’s hoping the impact he’s making carries over into October.