Considering the hole the Indians dug themselves in the first six weeks of the season, Terry Francona has uttered something that has been a familiar refrain the past couple years — they aren’t going to get above ground all in one shot.
However, winning six of seven and getting the first series sweep of the season helps bring a little bit of daylight at the end of the tunnel.
After Sunday’s win over Cincinnati, the Indians are 20-23, which is one win better than where they were after 43 games last year.
"Every team is going to go through good and bad every single year. 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," David 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."
The only thing that didn’t go right for the Indians last week was shaving more games off the deficit in the AL Central. Cleveland is eight games back due to the Royals winning five straight.
SECOND (Dominant Rotation): A big key to the Indians winning 10 of their last 14 has been the rotation. This past week the starters were 6-0 with a 1.42 ERA and held opposing hitters to a .199 average, 51 strikeouts and only nine walks.
Over the past two weeks, the rotation is 8-2 with a 2.57 ERA and 111 strikeouts. It is starting to resemble the form they had over August and September last season.
"Our starting staff is doing kind of what we expected from ourselves coming out of the gates," said Trevor Bauer, who had two wins last week. "It’s kind of like the roll we got on at the end of last year, so it’s good to see that we’re getting going a little earlier this year on that side."
THIRD (Aviles’ Return): Mike Aviles rejoined the Indians last Monday in Chicago after being away for 10 days to care for his daughter, who is being treated for leukemia at the Cleveland Clinic.
Aviles saw action in six games last week and went 7-for-16 with two RBI. He also had a home run last Thursday as the Tribe took three of four from the White Sox.
With Aviles’ versatility in the infield, it does give Francona more versatility especially with Jose Ramirez and Lonnie Chisenhall struggling at times.
David Murphy also had a good week at the plate, going 6-for-15 and Jason Kipnis was 9-for-27.
CLEANUP (Success Against Southpaws): When fans saw that the White Sox were throwing four straight left-handers last week, there had to be some feelings of dread, especially since the Indians had dropped nine of their first 13 games when facing southpaws.
But the Indians were able to take three of four at U.S. Cellular Field and by the end of the week had drawn even with the White Sox for fourth in the division. Ramirez, who saw a couple games in the No. 2 spot in the order, went 5-for-11 with three RBI against lefties.
"That’s good. You have to start somewhere. We have a long way to go and play better baseball but hopefully that can continue the rest of the year," said Francona about the series.
FIFTH (About the Second Spot): Ramirez had one of his best stretches of the season as he batted second in four games, going 5 for 10. He is a career .302 hitter when batting second which has made many wonder why not leave Ramirez there and move Carlos Santana to fifth or sixth? Santana, who missed three games due to a back strain, once again leads the American League in drawing walks, but he can do that from any spot in the order.
SIXTH (The Great Mystery): Corey Kluber’s 2.20 run support average is the second-lowest in the Majors. In his 10 starts, the Indians have scored two runs or fewer eight times and have never scored more than three.
"I remember last year someone asked and I felt the same way. We scored more runs for him than any starter and it didn’t seem that way to me. Anyway, no," said Francona when asked if there was any explanation. "A lot of times he is matching up against a team’s best pitcher."
SEVENTH (Training Kudos): Yan Gomes gets a large amount of credit for being able to come back from a moderate MCL sprain in his right knee in six weeks, but trainer James Quinlan also deserves a large amount of credit for making sure Gomes was ready to come back.
Francona and Gomes were really hoping he could have caught last Saturday’s game when Kluber was on the mound, but Quinlan wanted to make sure Gomes caught a full nine innings in Columbus first.
Said Francona of Quinlan: "I think I went a little overboard with Kluber pitching and catch a wave of momentum. He stuck to his guns and had a reason. It wasn’t just stubbornness but why he feels this way. I didn’t want it to make sense but it did. There are times when we want to question things, if we want to be able to move things up we want to. His answers were always spot on and he had a reason for it."
EIGHTH (No Ohio Cup Fever): Even though the Indians did sweep the Reds, there weren’t any extra feelings of elation in the clubhouse over beating a state rival.
"It’s an interesting series because it is a weekend where we’ve had good crowds. Other than that, no," said Franona when asked if there was anything extra to playing the Reds.
AND FINALLY (Crowd Surfing): The three-game series against the Reds drew 74,814 with Saturday’s crowd of 27,315 being the second-largest of the season.
After 21 home games the Indians were averaging 16,883 fans, which is a large jump over the 14,151 at this point last season.