CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – The Cleveland Indians completed the three-game sweep, topping the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday night, 8-4.
Here are my takeaways from Wednesday’s game at Progressive Field. For more baseball analysis, follow me on Twitter @TJZuppe.
During Corey Kluber’s run to the American League Cy Young in 2014, it almost seemed like the Tribe’s ace was getting better as the season progressed. And in a lot of ways, the numbers indicated reflected that, as Kluber posted a 2.89 ERA in June, a 1.54 ERA in July, a 2.10 ERA in August and a 2.10 ERA in the final month of the campaign.
Many believe it was his strong finish to the season that swayed a lot of voters to pick him over Seattle’s Felix Hernandez that season. Well, it seems to be happening again.
Kluber continued the dominance on Wednesday, striking out a season-high 11 batters over eight solid frames, holding the Twins to just three runs in the strong outing.
Since the All-Star Break, the righty has posted a 2.04 ERA over 61 2/3 innings. So, how does Kluber keep getting better when other guys’ arms are starting to fade?
“I think that it comes back to his work ethic and his routines and how consistent he is,” manager Terry Francona said. “This is the time of year, I think he’s at 183 innings and he looks every bit as fresh as he did on opening day and that’s not easy to do.”
As for his Cy Young case goes, Kluber continues to find his name at the top of quite a few leaderboards. Among AL pitchers, the righty is tied for first in WAR (4.6), ranks fifth in ERA (3.09), first in FIP (3.16), third in innings pitched, third in strikeouts (189) and is tied for third in wins (15).
2. THE K’S
Of Kluber’s 11 strikeouts on Wednesday night, six came on sinkers and five came on curveballs, keeping Twins off-balance for most of the game. The only runs the righty allowed came on homers, one on a pretty good pitch to Max Kepler and another, a two-run shot, courtesy of Brian Dozier.
Here were Kluber’s strikeout victims on Wednesday night: Dozier (1), Joe Mauer (1), Trevor Plouffe (1), Miguel Sano (3), Eddie Rosario (2), Juan Centeno (2), Logan Schafer (1).
3. FRIENDS AND FAMILY
27-year-old reliever Perci Garner made his Major League debut in front of roughly 50 friends and family at Progressive Field on Wednesday, getting the call to the big leagues prior to the series finale against the Twins.
As many Major League debuts go, it was far from perfect for Garner, allowing two hits and a walk, leaving with the bases loaded and two outs in the final frame, but the righty did record his first strikeout with a whiff of Max Kepler in the bottom of the ninth. And after completing the punchout, catcher Roberto Perez tossed the ball into the Tribe’s dugout for safe keeping.
“They actually kept a lot of balls for me,” Garner said. “They kept my first walk. No, I’m joking.”
Cleveland’s newest reliever then let out a giant laugh, which was certainly not surprising after spending a small amount of time talking to the right-handed hurler. Earlier in the day, manager Terry Francona said Garner may already lead in the American League in smiles. Cheesy line, of course, but he may be right.
4. THE FOURTH
Perhaps the coolest moment for the native of Dover, Ohio and graduate of Dover High School was having his son, Perci IV, in attendance for the game. The three-year-old boy joined his father in the locker room after the game.
“It’s special because he doesn’t really understand that I’m a big leaguer and that this has been my lifetime goal,” Garner said. “At the same time, his eyes are still lighting up, no matter where I was pitching. He definitely enjoyed this.”
As for young Perci’s favorite part of his dad’s big day? Meeting his father’s new teammates.
Garner explained: “That’s the first thing he said. ‘I want to meet your teammates!’ I was like, ‘You don’t care about me?’ He’s like, ‘Ehh, I don’t know.’ I try not to ask him whether he likes me or the teammates better. He chose the teammates.”
5. IT’S A START
Roberto Perez clubbed one of the Tribe’s two homers on Wednesday, smacking a solo bomb to right-center field off Twins starter Pat Dean in the fifth inning. Perez finished the day with his second homer of the season and also reached base once via a walk.
For as much heat as the Indians’ catchers have received this season for a lack of production at the plate — and rightfully so — Perez and Chris Gimenez have managed to add some production over the past few days.
Over their past 22 combined at bats, the duo has contributed nine hits (.409 batting average), five runs, one homer, five RBI and five walks to Cleveland’s offensive attack. And as for Perez’s batting average, it has climbed from .096 to .154 over the past seven games.
“You look at all of his hits lately, they’ve all been in the middle of the field and there is something to that,” Francona said of Perez. “When he stays on the ball, he can be dangerous.”
Of course, it’s quite possible that Perez’s huge struggles at the dish since his return from the disabled list last month were because of how quickly he was forced to complete his rehab assignment. Yan Gomes was injured in mid-July, and Cleveland didn’t have much of a choice when it came to activating Perez to take Gomes’ spot.
Maybe, at least on some level, we’re starting to see more of the real Roberto Perez.
“That’s what I’ve been doing the last couple of days, trying to hit the ball to second base,” he said. “And it’s working. I think I’m driving the ball now. As you can see today, I hit a ball dead center. But, I’ve just got to keep working and take it day by day, at-bat by at-bat, not trying to do too much.”