Cleveland Indians: Three Takeaways from a Rejuvenating Win Over KC

Sep 30, 2016; Kansas City, MO, USA; Cleveland Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor (12) celebrates after scoring against the Kansas City Royals during the third inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 30, 2016; Kansas City, MO, USA; Cleveland Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor (12) celebrates after scoring against the Kansas City Royals during the third inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports /

The Cleveland Indians got back in the win column on Friday night for the first time since clinching the division championship with plenty of offense against the Kansas City Royals.

Rejuvenation was the name of the game for the Cleveland Indians on Friday night, as they beat the Kansas City Royals by a score of 7-2 at Kauffman Stadium. It was the Tribe’s first win since clinching the American League Central Division title on Monday, which was directly followed by a hangover loss, a rain-shortened defeat, and a total washout in the Motor City.

Rookie Ryan Merritt made the first start of his major league career, and after ironing out a few bumps, he performed well. The lefty tossed five innings of three-hit, one-run ball, striking out four and not issuing a walk to secure his first big league win.

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At the plate, Cleveland put up one big inning against KC starter Yordano Ventura, and another against reliever Brian Flynn, scoring all seven of its runs in just two frames, which was more than enough for a bullpen that has quickly solidified into one of the most dominant in baseball.

Carlos Santana closed out one of the finest months of his career at the plate with a 3-for-5 effort that included a triple, a double, two runs batted in, and two runs scored to pace the offensive attack. The game gave the Indians’ first baseman/designated hitter a .327/.446/.612 slash line for the month, with eight doubles, six home runs, 21 RBIs, and an OPS+ of 186.

The four-headed bullpen monster of Dan Otero, Bryan Shaw, Andrew Miller, and Cody Allen gave up a run on two hits with five strikeouts over the final four innings to close things out.

The Tribe was officially eliminated from the running for the best record in the American League due to a win by the Texas Rangers, but remained a half a game behind the Boston Red Sox, who came from behind to win on Friday night, for the second seed in the league and home-field advantage.

Welcome to the Show

Merritt had come into the game with a grand total of six major league innings under his belt, and after a first frame in which he allowed a run on three hits, it was looking early as though the Cleveland bullpen would be getting a workout.

To the 24-year old lefty’s credit, he beared down after that shaky start and turned in the kind of outing that the club needed. Merritt retired the final 13 batters he faced, getting all four of his punchouts, and allowing the Indians’ relief corps to do their job with a lead.

Despite the RBI triple yielded by Miller in the eighth, the Tribe’s bullpen looked every bit as sharp as it has over the past two months, and seems primed to be the focal point of the pitching staff once the postseason gets underway.

Slump Busting

Shortstop Francisco Lindor has had one impressive beginning to his career. He was Rookie of the Year runner-up a season ago, and in 2016 has been an all-star and among the league’s leading hitters. That he has slumped so tenaciously in the month of September would seem absolutely normal for most guys in their first full seasons, but Lindor’s success up to this point has made it jump out.

Friday night’s 2-for-2 performance, which included a three-run home run (his first since August 10th), came on the day that Lindor’s teammates presented him with a “slump buster” t-shirt, and could not have come at a better time. The reaction from his teammates to his third inning double, breaking an 0-for-29 streak, really said it all.

Fast Healer

Lost in the celebration of the division title, the washout in Detroit, and the looking ahead to the postseason has been the relentless progress that catcher Yan Gomes has made from a broken wrist suffered during a rehab assignment with the Double-A Akron Rubberducks.

Just two weeks to the day that Gomes suffered the injury on a hit by pitch during the Eastern League playoffs, he was activated by Cleveland from the disabled list and made his first appearance behind the plate since July 17th. While currently limited to being a defensive replacement, this simple act shows just how much the 29-year old Brazilian wants to help the team, and the elation of his teammates displayed how much they look to him for leadership.

Next: Encouraging News for the Tribe on the Injury Front

While Gomes may not be far enough along in his rehab by the time the ALDS begins next Thursday, his never-say-die attitude and perseverance are exactly what the Indians have thrived on all season long. That says a lot about a club that no one would have thought could achieve what they have given what they’ve lost throughout this season.