CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – There was a lot to write home about as the Indians began their eight-game road trip with a sweep of the Minnesota Twins, namely that the team now sits two games up in the AL Central at 36-31.
The last four-game sweep for the Indians was August 11-14, 2016 against the Angels, and it was the first such sweep on the road since June 29-July 2, 2015 at Tampa Bay. The last four-game sweep at Minnesota was Sept. 26-29, 2013.
The 2016 Indians were just a game ahead of the 2017 version’s current pace, though last year’s bunch would rattle off 12 more consecutive wins to get to 49-30.
Let’s look at the good, great, and greatest parts of the Tribe’s big weekend.
Rookie Bradley Zimmer continues to demonstrate his wide array of tools, making a game-changing play almost any time he plays.
Lately, it’s the 24-year old’s arm that has been most impressive, and it was his latest weapon of choice on Sunday.
Scoreless in the bottom of the 2nd inning, Zimmer was able to cut down Twins OF Max Kepler at the plate after a single by Eddie Rosario. Starter Trevor Bauer called the play a “turning point in the game.”
Not only did the throw potentially save the day for Trevor Bauer and the Indians, but the assist was the fastest recorded by MLB this season. Zimmer’s throw was clocked at 101.5 mph, eclipsing Bryce Harper’s 99.7 mph throw on May 9.
“He gets really good jumps, he pays attention and… he keeps the ball down,” Manager Terry Francona said. “It was a great throw anyway, but if it’s not, runners aren’t moving up. You don’t see a lot of guys get thrown out from center field on base hits. He’s got plenty on it where he can keep it down and keep the mound out of it, and accurate.”
The Twins opened their own scoring in the 7th, score two runs off of Bauer, but on the RBI single from Rosario, Zimmer delivered another strike that was cut off by Carlos Santana at first, leading to the final out of the inning. Minnesota would not score again.
The Indians rotation has struggled, relatively speaking, in 2017, but even without ace Corey Kluber pitching over the weekend, the team got great efforts from their starters.
Carlos Carrasco opened the four-game set with a 6 1/3 inning effort, allowing one earned on four hits and three walks. Ryan Merritt was called up to make his 2017 debut after one start in 2016, albeit a classic outing in the playoffs, and allowed just two earned despite seven hits through four.
Mike Clevinger was cruising before rain ended his Saturday after four innings of his own, allowing just one on two hits and a walk.
Bauer finished the weekend by building on arguably his best start of the season last time out, allowing two earned on four hits and two walks through seven. He also struck out eight and retired 14 straight hitters. The righty agreed it was perhaps his best game, and his manager agreed.
“I thought today was far and away his best outing,” Francona said. “Everything, the intent to attack the strike zone, his stuff was good, he worked ahead, he just filled up the strike zone with a bunch of quality pitches.”
The idea that Edwin Encarnacion is a slow starter has been beaten into the ground through the first two weeks of the season, because it is true and continued to be so. But as the weather as heated up, Encarnacion has elevated from cold to hot, and now hot to scalding.
Francona, who had preached patience with the team’s big signing, cashed in on his sermons on this particular Sunday.
“I know I’m not the smartest, but I did know that,” he said. “On days where today could have been a frustrating day, we got the line moving, which we like, but man we weren’t doing much with runners in scoring position.”
The game’s biggest standout almost did not make an appearance.
“Eddie just had one of those days where, thank goodness he showed up,” Francona added. “We had told him last night he could take the day off. I’m glad he didn’t.”
Edwin accounted for all five RBI for the Indians on Sunday, including two home runs, an RBI single and a sacrifice fly. It was his 27th career multi-HR game.
Encarnacion is the first Indians player with 5+ RBI while accounting for all of the team’s runs in a victory since Ben Broussard did so on Sept. 13, 2005 in a 5-2 win over Oakland, and the first to do so on the road since Ellis Burks in a 5-3 win over the Royals on July 20, 2002.
He finishes the series 5-of-14 with three home runs and eight RBIs. Since his average dipped below .200 on May 20, he has reached base 44 times in 98 plate appearances, and racked up a slugging percentage of .738 in that stretch.
Encarnacion extends his lead for the most multi-homer games since 2014 to 16, leading five players tied at 12.
Jose Ramirez has not slumped at all in 2017, but what he has done recently is bordering on unhuman.
The infielder turned in his sixth-consecutive multi-hit game on Sunday, and his fourth three-hit game in four tries. He doubled twice, his seventh and eighth two-baggers in six games. In that six game stretch, Ramirez is 16-of-27 (.593) with a slugging percentage of 1.037.