After trailing the Minnesota Twins (72-48) by 11.5 games, the hot Cleveland Indians (72-49) rallied back to take over first place in the AL Central after an extra innings victory on Sunday in Minneapolis. The Cleveland Indians are now 20/1 odds to win the World Series and led by their new ace Shane ‘Not Justin’ Bieber, who won the MVP at the most-recent All-Star Game.
Terry Francona’s Indians took three out of four games against the Twins over the weekend. Now, his squad faces an even bigger test with a looming four-game series in the Bronx against the New York Yankees. The Cleveland Indians are 20/1 odds to win the World Series as one of top three favorites from the American League.
Earlier this week, the Indians dropped two straight games at home to the Boston Red Sox. The Twins regained the top spot in the AL Central, yet only hold a half-game lead.
Many prognosticators pegged Cleveland as a lock for the AL Central title over the Twins and their rookie manager Rocco Baldelli. The Twins jumped out to a hot start, while the Indians stumbled out of the gate with a 29-30 record. They went 43-19 since that low point.
“There were a lot of frustrations early,” said pitcher Shane Bieber. “In the back of our minds, everybody trusted that we were going to get here as long as we played our brand of baseball. We picked it up as soon as we could. We wanted to give ourselves a good chance to climb back. Obviously, the job is not done yet.”
Since the All-Star Break, the Indians are 22-11 while the Twins are 16-15. Losing Nelson Cruz with a wrist injury could not have come at a worse time for the Twins. Cruz will not require surgery, but he will not be fully heal when he returns to the lineup.
New Faces: Puig
Cleveland moved Trevor Bauer before the trade deadline in a three-team trade with the Cincinnati Reds and San Diego Padres. The Indians dumped Bauer for much-needed outfield help by adding Yasiel Puig to the mix.
The eccentric Puig has become a huge favorite in the clubhouse. Puig brings a completely different energy to the mix wherever he plays.
“It’s a little different vibe,” said Jason Kipnis. “There’s big team camaraderie here right now.”
In many ways, he’s the opposite in personality compared to Bauer. Bauer is a super-smart dude that’s a top-end pitcher. However, he had problems relating to teammates and he could not restrain himself on social media. The Yankees balked at him because they didn’t think he could handle the pressure in the Big Apple.
Puig survived living in Los Angeles while playing with the LA Dodgers before they shipped him to the Reds. He’s a bit older now and seems the be having fun no matter where he goes. His Reds teammates loved him because he would stand up for any of them during a flare up with the Pirates, especially after he got traded.
New Aces: Bieber and Clevinger
Who needs Bauer, Corey Kluber, and Carlos Carrasco when you have Shane Bieber and Mike Clevinger?
Bieber is the ace this year with a 12-5 record plus a 3/27 ERA and 1.01 WHIP. Beiber recently recorded his 200th strikeout of the season. In 12 starts, Clevinger is 702 with a 3.34 ERA and 1.13 WHIP.
Zach Plesac is 6-3 in 14 starts. The 24-year old rookie boasts a 3.27 ERA and 1.19 WHIP.
It’s only a small sample size, but Aaron Civale has become a new-found weapon for Terry Francona. The 24-year old Civale made the best of his debut in the show during the thick of a division race. In three starts, Civale is 1-1 with a 1.00 ERA and 0.72 WHIP.
“These are games you want to pitch in,” said Civale.
Furthermore, Tyler Clippard is crushing it out of the pen. Clippard has a 2.74 ERA and 0.89 WHIP playing the role of Francona’s henchman. Clippard has been a worthy set-up man for closer Brad Hand (29 saves, 2.74 ERA, 1.14 WHIP).
On Deck: 7 Games in NYC
The Indians face the Yankees (81-40) in the Bronx for a four-game series starting Thursday. The Bronx Bombers hold the best record in the big leagues. The Yanks have been cruising with several replacements stepping in for injured players. The Indians get to see how good they really are with four games on the road against the Yanks.
The Tribe will send rookie Aaron Civale to the mound twice in Gotham. Civale who grew up in Connecticut, will get a chance to pitch in Yankee Stadium this weekend.
On Monday, the Indians head to Queens for a three-game series against the Mets (61-59). The Mets were one of the hottest teams in baseball with a 15-1 run. The Mets made some baffling moves around the trade deadline, which apparently worked. Brodie Van Wagenen’s team became a legit threat to the tight NL Wild Card race. However, the Mets cooled off since then after dropping three straight against NL East foes.
According to William Hill, the Cleveland Indians are 20/1 odds to win the World Series.