Indians 13, Reds 0
After two consecutive shutouts against the Cincinnati Reds, the Cleveland Indians won the Ohio Cup. The Indians have had possession of the cup since 2014. The only exception was the 2017 season when both teams tied.
Cleveland came away from the four-game series with a 3-1 record and were able to completely shut down Cincinnati’s offense during the final two games in “The Land.” The biggest highlight of the four-game series occurred Thursday when the Indians scored 13 runs. That was a big step forward for a team that has struggled with scoring runs as of late.
Here are some key takeaways from the last four games for the Cleveland Indians.
The top storyline throughout the series was a lack of offense for the Indians. That is with the exception of Thursday’s game as mentioned previously. While the Indians lineup exploded on Thursday, they still have an offense near the bottom of the league in many categories.
One of those categories is OPS with the Indians team OPS currently .586. That ranks last in the American League and second to last in all of baseball ahead of only the Pittsburgh Pirates. Additionally, the Indians .192 batting average is only ahead of the Pirates as well.
Although, Thursday some of those struggles started to subside somewhat. The Indians recorded a total of nine walks collectively as a team against the Reds. That shows that they are starting to exercise plate discipline and work the counts into their favor. There was one key player who stood out during the series finale. More on that below.
Jose Ramirez the Hero on Thursday
Cleveland Indians third baseman Jose Ramirez had himself quite a game on Thursday. Ramirez went 3-for-5 at the plate with two home runs and four RBI. He has raised his batting average to .308 and is showing signs of turning into the hitter that the Indians expect him to be with shortstop Francisco Lindor in the three-hole.
Although Ramirez is hitting .125/.276/.125 over the last seven days, he has done extremely well against lefties so far this season. Ramirez is hitting .444/.500/1.000 against left-handers with four hits, two doubles, one home run, one RBI, one walk, and one strikeout. Granted, it’s a small sample size (10 plate appearances), but it builds on the success he had against left-handers in 2019.
Last season, Ramirez recorded 175 plate appearances against lefties. In that span, he hit .269/.326/.462 with a .252 Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP). Furthermore, he tagged lefties for 42 hits, nine doubles, seven home runs, 24 RBI, 15 walks, and 14 strikeouts.
Over the last few seasons, Ramirez has always been a second-half hitter. Given the length of this season, there obviously won’t be two parts to the season. However, as the calendar progresses forward, Ramirez should only turn into more of an offensive force at the plate which will benefit the top of the Indians lineup significantly.
Starting Pitching Continued to Reign
Pitching continues to be the hallmark of the Cleveland Indians in 2020. At the conclusion of play Thursday, Cleveland has the best overall ERA (2.05) in all of baseball. Beyond that, the Indians have recorded the most strikeouts in baseball (150) and the lowest Opponent Batting Average Against (.184) so far.
Both Zach Plesac and Shane Bieber were the starters on Monday and Tuesday when the series was in Cincinnati. Both right-handers combined for five earned runs, four home runs, three walks, and 16 strikeouts over 14 2/3 innings. Bieber continued to prove why he is the current favorite to win the American League Cy Young Award, while Plesac provided some valuable innings for Cleveland – throwing seven strong.
Wednesday, right-hander Mike Clevinger got the start and threw 103 pitches over 5 2/3 innings. 57 of those were strikes and Clevinger issued two hits along with five walks while striking out four before the night was over. One notable takeaway from his start was the introduction of a new pitch. That pitch was a cutter that the righty threw 17 times. Clevinger reached an average velocity of 88.6 miles per hour with the pitch and it could become a fixture in the four-pitch repertoire that he currently relies on.
While those three performances were strong, the biggest impact was felt during the series finale Thursday with Carlos Carrasco on the mound. Carrasco completed six innings while allowing one hit along with four walks and struck out eight Reds hitters. Carrasco averaged 88 miles per hour velocity all night and relied heavily on his mid-80’s slider. It resulted in 17 swinging strikes and eight whiffs overall.
The Indians now start to prepare for a three-game series against the Chicago White Sox starting Friday. Going into play Friday, Cleveland currently sits in third place in the American League Central. First pitch between the Indians and White Sox takes place at 7:10 Eastern with Aaron Civale (1-1, 3.75 ERA) getting the start for Cleveland and Dylan Cease (1-1, 6.48 ERA) getting the ball for Chicago.
Embed from Getty Images