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Cleveland Indians: Recapping a Sweep of the Angels

CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 04: Starting pitcher Shane Bieber #57 of the Cleveland Indians and Roberto Perez #55 celebrate a 6-2 victory over the Los Angeles Angels at Progressive Field on August 4, 2019 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 04: Starting pitcher Shane Bieber #57 of the Cleveland Indians and Roberto Perez #55 celebrate a 6-2 victory over the Los Angeles Angels at Progressive Field on August 4, 2019 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images) /

Shane Bieber capped off a sweep of the Angels with his third complete game of the season. His individual achievement aside, it was very much a team effort.

Mike Trout blasted a solo home run off of Cleveland Indians starter Mike Clevinger in the first inning of Friday night’s series opener. It was the last time all weekend that the Angels looked like they might win a game, let alone the series.

The Indians answered with authority in the home half of that first inning, plating four runs en route to what would finish as a 7-3 victory on Friday night. The Tribe’s first-inning resiliency paved the way for a series sweep that never looked to be in doubt thanks to some incredible starting pitching and just the right amount of timely hitting.

The Indians’ three-game felling of the Angels was precisely what the club needed following a rough mid-week series against the Astros. Let’s discuss a few of the noteworthy takeaways from the weekend.

Starting Pitching Rules the Day

The final scores of these three contests won’t indicate just how convincing the wins were. Clevinger calmed whatever storm might have been brewing in the Angels dugout after Trout’s home run, as it was the only run he would allow in 6.1 innings of work on Friday.

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Adam Plutko picked up right where Clevinger and the Indians bullpen left off, tossing 5.1 innings and allowing one earned run of his own. Not all 5.1-inning starts are created equal; Plutko’s ability to work his way through a tough Angels lineup featuring two of the better hitters in the American League and give the Indians a chance to win is commendable.

The bullpen also brought its best shutdown stuff in this series, with Adam Cimber’s inconsequential two-run ninth inning on Friday being the staff’s only blemish.

Shane Bieber decided to reward the relief corps with a day off on Sunday, pitching his third complete game of the season and never looking like he might not make it to the finish line. For style points, he set Trout, Shohei Ohtani, and Albert Pujols down in order to seal the game in the ninth.

It is about high time that Bieber’s name becomes a regular inclusion in any AL Cy Young discussion.

Together, the Indians’ three starters in this series posted the following line: 20.2 IP, 4 ER, 20 K.

Puig Settling in Just Fine

Yasiel Puig does not appear to be going through any nervous adjustment period with his new team. With runners on the corners, he tattooed a 3-0 pitch to left field for a single in his first plate appearance on Friday night, plating Oscar Mercado for the go-ahead run and giving the Indians a lead they’d never relinquish.

It takes quite a bit of confidence to swing on a 3-0 pitch, and a guy in the getting-to-know-everyone phase might be inclined to let strike one go down the middle of the plate for fear of hitting a lazy pop-up or grounding into a rally-killing double play. Not Puig, though.

The Indians’ new right fielder possesses just enough pizzazz in his game to give the team that intangible yet evident extra buzz. He already has–and will continue to–fit in well with the rest of the team.

Contributions Up and Down

The Indians scored 20 runs in the series, and every hitter played a role. On Friday night it was the top of the order that got things going in a four-run first inning, and then struck again for two more runs in the second. Roberto Perez blasted a home run in the third to give the Tribe a 7-1 lead.

The bulk of the scoring in Game 2 came in the fifth inning–first on a two-run blast off the bat of Jason Kipnis, then followed by a three-run dagger from Francisco Lindor. Carlos Santana would pile on a solo shot of his own for good measure in the eighth inning.

Mercado kicked things off with a solo shot in the first inning of Sunday’s series finale, with Lindor and Kipnis later adding to the total with their own solo bombs. Kipnis would later drive in two more runs with a single in the fifth.

It can’t be overstated how important it is for the Indians to keep getting these efforts and contributions from all nine guys in the order. There are going to be days when the big guns don’t have it, and it’s reassuring to know that on those days, guys like Kipnis and Perez have what it takes to pick up the slack at the bottom of the lineup.

An All-Around Encouraging Series

The Angels’ record, which now sits at 56-57, does not tell the story of what they are capable of offensively. To hold this team to seven runs in three games is an accomplishment, and should not be taken for granted.

The Indians asserted their will against one of the better-hitting teams in the league, and reminded the rest of the AL what they’re capable of when they put it all together.

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This series may be remembered as The Time Baker Mayfield Shotgunned a Beer, but don’t let that uplifting moment distract you from what really happened at Progressive Field this weekend: The Indians combined a nearly flawless effort from their pitching staff with an impressive, all-hands-on-deck offensive performance to sweep a good baseball team.