Whoa, where did that month go? I've been absent from the blog these past four weeks, and sadly I don't always get the time to write on here as much as I would like. Y'know, life and all that.
In my time away from England Tribe, our Cleveland ball club have had mixed experiences. Win one, lose one, win one, lose one, repeat. The bullpen have taken the brunt of the blame, and that big Bryan Shaw sized hole has been harder to fill than perhaps anticipated.
Nevertheless, the Indians have just completed an eight game road trip, going 4-4, and topped it off with a nice series win against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Let's take a quick look at some of the talking points from their trip to north side of Chicago.
Michael Brantley Is The Hero You Don't Deserve
Have I mentioned how much I love Michael Brantley? It's ridiculous that a man closer to 30 years-old than 20 still has such a thing as a "favorite player" but I do, I really do. Brantley has been my favorite guy on the Indians for most of this decade and I was overjoyed when the team picked up his option for 2018. It was frustrating to see fellow fans deride and dismiss him on Twitter, criticizing the Indians for apparently making the mistake of resigning him (but what else should I expect on that hellish platform).
Despite all his issues with injuries in the past, I have always been a firm believer in his ability. I still think he's the best all-around hitter on the team, and that's quite a statement when the Indians are carrying All Stars like Lindor, Ramirez and Encarnacion. He's undoubtedly the best outfielder at the very least.
Recently, Brantley has been proving me right, performing like the Brantley of old. Currently he leads the team in batting average at .338, he's second in RBI with 30, third in OPS at .937, third in runs scored with 23, third in total hits with 51, and he has the least strikeouts among guys with over fifty at-bats, with just 12 in 163 plate appearances. That's an incredible statistic, and he's actually fifth-best in the entire league, and second-best in the AL, only behind the Angels' Andrelton Simmons.
As the Tribe roll out of Chicago and head home, Brantley carries a 12-game hitting streak and he was absolutely key to the Indians' success in the Windy City.
During Tuesday night's demolition of the Cubs, a 10-1 rout for our boys, Brantley had 2 hits and scored 2 runs but it was on Wednesday night he really proved his worth.
With the sun setting on the lush green of Wrigley Field, Brantley stepped to the plate in the third inning with Rajai Davis stationed at second base, with two outs already recorded. Cubs starter Jon Lester fell behind 2-0 to Brantley, and on the next pitch the veteran outfielder laced a single into right-center field, dropping just over the outstretched arm of Javier Baez. It was enough to get the speedy Davis around third and heading home, and put the Tribe on top 1-0. It was all the Indians needed in the end, as they held on to record the win and the series sweep.
I'm realistic and appreciate we haven't even started June yet. The dog days of summer are yet to come, so perhaps it is too early to start believing in Brantley's health. But all the signs so far have been positive, and with a healthy Brantley in the lineup these Indians are a much more potent and dangerous team.
Here a few other scraps of note:
- Jose Ramirez has really made up for his slow start to the season, and has been on an absolute tear of late. He had 2 hits in the series, one of which was a 3-run homer in Tuesday's win, and he recorded 3 walks that day as well. Ramirez currently leads the club in home runs with 14, and leads the team in RBI (34), walks (27), OPS (1.000), SLG (.609), and OBP (.391) as well. He's a force of nature at the moment.
- Trevor Bauer and Adam Plutko were the Tribe's starters for the series and both had seriously impressive outings. Bauer pitched on Tuesday night and lasted 6 innings, scattering 7 hits and 2 walks over the course of the night with 6 strikeouts, to collect his fourth win of the year. Plutko, in just his second spot-start of 2018, was outstanding and carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning. He ended up with a very respectable pitching line of 6 innings, 2 hits, 4 walks and 4 strikeouts. Plutko's performance was good enough to earn him permanent residence in the rotation (for the foreseeable future), as he replaces Josh Tomlin as the fifth starter, with Tomlin joining the bullpen.
The Tribe now begin a lengthy homestand, welcoming the reigning champs to town. The Indians are currently 24-23 and will play the 32-18 Astros over a four game series, with both teams set to start their aces in Thursday's opener. Corey Kluber will face off against Dallas Keuchel in a hotly anticipated matchup.