CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – The Indians won their sixth straight game and swept the Reds in the three-game weekend series, beating Cincinnati on Sunday at Progressive Field, 5-2.
Here are six things to take away from the Tribe’s victory:
1. Bauer’s big adjustment — Indians starter Trevor Bauer struggled a bit with his command in the early going, particularly in the first inning when he was having trouble locating and the Reds were logging some traffic on the base paths.
While he emerged unscathed in the first few frames, an adjustment he made in the middle portion of the game enabled him to retire 12 straight Cincinnati batters in a stretch between the third and seventh innings.
What did he change? Only he can explain:
“My back hip was pushing so my torso wasn’t stacking well and I didn’t really have any linear distraction from my hips and my shoulder line,” Bauer said. “So there wasn’t really much room for my elbow to spiral in and everything was coming out early. My curveball was terrible, it was up. My offspeed was either bounced way in front of the plate or up. My two-seam was flat. I made that adjustment, though. I started stacking better and by the fifth inning I was able to actually get some offspeed pitches down in the zone and locate the ball better.”
Oh, that’s all?
Whatever he did (I won’t pretend to understand it) appeared to work well for Bauer, who worked 7 2/3 innings, yielding five hits and one run to pick up his fourth win of the season. He struck out four and did not walk a batter on Sunday.
“I love the fact, no walks,” manager Terry Francona said. “Again, there’s gonna be times when you have a walk or two, maybe by design to try and stay away from somebody, but if the way he’s improved at holding runners, he’s not walking people, certainly gives him a lot more chances of having success because he’s not that easy to hit. So, I think that’s great.”
2. The return of Gomes — Following a six-week hiatus due to the MCL sprain suffered on April 11, Yan Gomes was activated prior to the game and logged his first playing time behind the plate since suffering the injury.
It was just like riding a bike for Gomes… sort of.
“Bumpy ride,” he joked. “Yeah, as soon as that first pitch went by it was kind of back to normal and letting all those jitters go away, being back.”
Gomes went hitless in four at bats, striking out in his first two plate appearances on Sunday, but did manage to reach on an error by Reds pitcher J.J. Hoover in the sixth inning.
He was tested early by Bauer, who spiked a number of pitches in the dirt as he struggled to find his rhythm. Gomes managed to block them all.
“Shoot, I beat him up,” Bauer joked. “I threw a couple of 40-footers. I should probably go apologize to him for that.”
Gomes did not mind being tested — at least this time.
“Those are the times where you’ll like, I’ll let that slide because I want to feel that,” Gomes said. “I want to get that feeling of reacting to pitches and not get too comfortable back there.”
3. Catching breaks — Defensively, typically it is the Indians’ poor leatherwork leading to losses. However, Cleveland was on the other end of some defensive miscues on Sunday.
Four of the Tribe’s five runs scored due to some defensive lapse by Cincinnati, including a huge two-run throwing error by Joey Votto and a mishandled grounder by Brandon Phillips which enabled Nick Swisher to reach second after driving in a run.
Votto was also unable to handle a hard shot off the bat of David Murphy, who went 2-for-4 with an RBI in the ballgame, plating the Tribe’s first run of the game in the third inning. Overall, the Reds committed three errors.
“We’ll take them because there’s been games when we’ve done that and it makes it harder to win,” Francona said. “I thought our guys hustled. If you don’t, sometimes those things don’t happen, but we’ll take it. We’ll take anything. We want to win any way we can.”
Maybe it’s luck. Maybe it’s the baseball gods evening the score for all of the times Cleveland has given chances to other clubs through poor defense. Or maybe sometimes it comes down to creating your own opportunities, which the Indians did on Sunday.
“For one thing offensively, you need to put the ball in play,” Murphy said. “If you have runners in scoring position, you’re continually striking out, you’re not giving yourself a chance. It’s going to happen at times. But we were able to put the ball in play and put the pressure on their defense.
“Things are starting to go well for us offensively and we just need to take advantage when we get opportunities like that and the other team makes mistakes. We were able to do that today.”
4. Another break — Perhaps the Indians’ biggest break of the day came when the Reds scratched Johnny Cueto from Sunday’s start due to “general stiffness.” Cueto is one of the best in the National League, but with the righty unable to go, Cincinnati turned to Raisel Iglesias in a spot-start situation.
While he wasn’t exactly beat up by Cleveland, the Indians still managed to pick up two runs in the third and forced the right-hander’s pitch count up. He exited after three, tossing 84 pitches and yielding four hits, two runs, walking three and striking out six.
The Reds bullpen certainly wasn’t horrible over the final five innings (two of the three runs they allowed were unearned) but Iglesias and Cincinnati’s relievers don’t equal Cueto.
“I laugh when people say, ‘Yea, we want to beat the best.’ No, we don’t,” Francona said. “We want to win and I don’t care who we beat.”
5. Keep it rolling — The Indians have now won six consecutive games for the first time since May 30-June 4, 2014 and are now just three games below .500 after a rough month of April.
The sweep of the Reds was the Tribe’s first three-game sweep of the season.
“I’ve heard it said that every team is going to win 60 and lose 60, it’s what you do with the other 42 that’s going to make a difference,” Murphy said. “We’ve got ourselves in a little bit of a hole early. We knew that we were bound to hit a streak like this. We just wanted it to be sooner than later. And we can’t go back and undue the way that we started. But there’s no reason to focus on anything but how we’re playing right now. It feels good playing with a lot of confidence and we’re having a lot of fun.”
Through the tough first month, several Indians players maintained it was only a matter of time until they started playing better baseball. Perhaps that is a credit to Francona, who does a very good job keeping an upbeat disposition even when things look bleak.
“Shoot, I wouldn’t be a very fun person to play for if I came and said, ‘we suck,” Francona said. “It was a tough month, there’s no getting around it, but the only way I thought we could get better is by working hard and trying to play the game right. You don’t want to punish guys for having a bad record. If it would make our record better, I would have done it.
“I just think that there’s a way to play the game and the best way to do that is trying to enjoy doing it right. Sometimes that means extra work. Sometimes that means extra hitting, but it’s not as a punishment.”
6. On Deck — Cleveland will open up a three-game series with the Texas Rangers at Progressive Field on Monday.
Shaun Marcum will take the ball in his second start for the Indians after posting 6 2/3 innings for Cleveland on May 20 against Chicago. In that outing, he allowed four hits and just two runs in his first start in the Majors since 2013.
Texas will counter with righty Phil Klein (1-0, 4.50). First pitch on Monday is set for 4:10 p.m.