The Cleveland Indians snapped their three-game losing streak, routing the Texas Rangers on Friday night, 12-1.
This column features my takeaways from Friday’s game. If you want more baseball coverage, you can follow me on Twitter (@TJZuppe).
1. Corey Kluber gave his ballclub the type of performance they needed.
And it typically falls on the ace of the staff to shut down losing streaks. That’s precisely what the righty did on Friday night, winning his sixth consecutive decision, snapping the Tribe’s three-game losing skid and adding more to his potential candidacy for another American League Cy Young Award.
Texas made Kluber work for it, but the Indians’ no. 1 starter posted six innings of one-run ball, scattering five hits and walking one, striking out seven in the victory. The right-handed hurler now owns a 1.75 ERA over his last nine starts (12 earned runs, 61 2/3 innings), which has lowered his season earned run average to 3.07.
On the heels of another rough outing by Josh Tomlin and with uncertainty still tied to the status of Danny Salazar, who will start the four-game series finale on Sunday, Kluber’s performance served as an excellent reminder that there’s nothing wrong at the top of the Indians’ rotation. Carlos Carrasco will get a chance to keep that thought rolling on Saturday.
2. Some recent struggles by Mike Napoli have been at the center for Cleveland’s quiet offense, but he was a big part of the Tribe’s breakout on Friday.
The right-handed slugger entered Friday’s game with a .111 batting average and .219 on-base percentage with nine strikeouts over his past 27 at-bats (eight games), but Napoli helped fuel some of the Indians’ assault on Friday with a pair of base hits and a sacrifice fly, scoring twice.
Cleveland had scored just three runs over the past four games, but they managed 12 runs and 17 hits against Texas starter Martin Perez and the Rangers bullpen on Friday night, looking far more like the top 10 offensive club they’ve been for most of the campaign.
Of course, contributions by Napoli will continue to be — just as they’ve been all season — one of the most crucial elements to the Indians’ offense. After an off day on Sunday and three straight days at DH, the state of Napoli’s legs were a possible concern, but the 34-year-old was back at first base over the last two games, making the recent stretch off his feet look more proactive than reactive by manager Terry Francona.
How they’ve handled Napoli this year — mixing in DH duties along the way — has been as vital as any factor leading to the right-handed hitter’s success this season.
3. Brandon Guyer was hit by two pitches on Friday night, upping his MLB-leading total to 27.
Over the past two years, Guyer has been drilled more than anyone in the game, reaching base 51 times via the HBP, seven more than the second-place hitter, Anthony Rizzo of the Chicago Cubs.
Guyer, who was acquired by the Indians at the MLB Trade Deadline, also contributed a hit and scored four runs, continuing to provide some valuable production against left-handed pitching this season.
Meanwhile, one hitter who was reportedly linked to the Indians just prior to the Aug. 1 trade deadline, Carlos Beltran, saw his recent hitless streak reach 32 at-bats after an 0-for-4 on Friday night.
4. Roberto Perez contributed four hits to the attack.
The four base knocks collected by Perez on Friday night were as many as he’s had over his last 13 games (11 starts). The 4-for-5 night raised his batting average 42 points (.104-.146) and marked the first game with at least three hits by an Indians catcher this season since Yan Gomes collected a trio on April 23.
A check-swing infield single and seeing-eye grounder up the middle helped pad Perez’s total on Friday night, but the BABIP gods certainly owe him a few. And they look like rocket shots in the box score.
5. The Indians are still the only team in baseball to avoid a four-game losing streak this season.
Good starting pitching generally keeps losing streaks from getting out of hand, and Kluber was the perfect hurler to help Cleveland snap their three-game skid.
The Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals each won on Friday night as well, keeping the Indians’ lead in the AL Central at a respectable 4.5 games over Detroit and 6.5 over Kansas City.