Cleveland is still cleaning up its downtown — and likely will be for some time — following the Cavaliers’ parade to celebrate their NBA championship. But some fans already are looking a few months ahead.
A Facebook page has been started to help plan the victory parade for the baseball Indians. As of Friday afternoon, more than 6.900 fans clicked the box to show that they were interested.
Clevelanders like the taste of winning after 52 years between titles. And they are feeling good about their Indians.
Opponents are feeling something else. Cleveland entered the weekend on six-game winning streak that has lifted the Indians to a three-game lead over the Royals in the AL Central. They are 11-0 at home in June, their best monthly record ever. And, if someone in the division doesn’t do something about it now, the Indians could pull away. Somehow, the Indians are 2-4 against the Twins but 19-6 against the rest of the division.
The one thing many have waited for — or dreaded, depending who you root for — has happened. The starting rotation has become a fearsome fivesome of Corey Kluber, Josh Tomlin, Danny Salazar, Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer. The lowest ERA among the group is 2.23. The highest is 3.59. The Twins would commit crimes to have a starter with a sub-4.00 ERA. Cleveland has five under 3.60! Four of them are listed among the top 18 in the AL in ERA. Carrasco missed six weeks with a hamstring strain, or he would lead the AL.
Collectively, the 3.69 ERA of the starters is the second lowest in the AL entering the weekend. The Indians’ strikeout rate of 8.28 was second best, and their strikeouts-to-walks ratio of 3.48 was the best.
Cleveland is 5-1 against Tampa Bay largely because the Rays have batted .144 in the six games.
“The potential on this staff is really high,” Bauer told Cleveland reporters. “When we get on a roll like this, it’s a lot of fun watching everyone go out there and compete.”
While teams like the Twins worry about wearing their bullpens out because of ineffective starters, Indians manager Terry Francona watched complete games on Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday was an off day.
“If [the relievers] have to shake off a little rust this week, that’s a pleasant thing to figure out,” Francona said, “because they’ll all be used. Believe me.”
Strong starting pitching covers up for deficiencies elsewhere. The Indians are in the market for outfield help since they are unsure about the availability of former All-Star Michael Brantley. But they don’t have to be in a rush, the way the staff is dominating.
The pressure is all on the rest of the division as they contend with a Cleveland pitching staff that is coming into its own.
Juan Uribe (above) is 36 but is not fading away. He hit home runs in four consecutive games from June 18 through Tuesday, the first Cleveland player to do so since Jason Kipnis in 2011. Uribe has played on three playoff teams in a row and is looking to make it four straight with the Indians.
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Paulo Orlando made his MLB debut last year for Kansas City at age 29 but is hitting like a seasoned veteran. He’s improved how he studies opposing pitchers and entered Saturday batting .358. With Alex Gordon recovering from a broken right hand, Orlando has been a revelation at the plate.
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With J.D. Martinez out for another four to six weeks after breaking a bone in his elbow, Detroit needs someone to pick up the offensive slack. And Steven Moya (above) is stepping up. In his first seven games after being called up for Martinez, Moya hit .370 with three home runs and a double. He was an undrafted free agent in 2008.
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Finally, the White Sox saw positive signs from James Shields. The veteran righthander, acquired this month from San Diego, gave up three runs over five-plus innings to the Red Sox on Thursday. Baby steps. Before that, he had a 21.81 ERA through three starts, had given up five home runs and had been booed by Chicago fans.
THE 3-2 PITCH
Three observations …
• With Jonathan Lucroy (above) having a borderline All-Star season, a certain team concerned about long-term catching help should make a phone call to the Brewers.
• The Cubs have hit their first rough patch of the year, but there’s no cause for alarm. They weren’t going to play .650 ball all season.
• The Giants can do no wrong right now. On Thursday, they started five players who spent Opening Day in the minors and won, improving to 20 games over .500.
… and two predictions
• The Dodgers will add at least two new starters before the trade deadline, because they can’t get by on just Clayton Kershaw.
• The AL West race is over. The Rangers are going to win by 15 games.