September 8, 2017
What You Need to Know
The Thursday Takeaway
Last season, Cleveland put together a 14-game winning streak on their way to eventually claiming the American League pennant. If putting together 14-game winning streaks is a good omen, then Cleveland should hope that a 15-game winning streak is a sign of even better things to come. They accomplished the feat after easily brushing the White Sox to the side on Thursday night.
It shouldn’t come as a huge shock that Cleveland was able to beat the White Sox again. Cleveland’s got a winning percentage of .600 or better against the rest of their foes in the AL Central and they’ve done much of their damage against the White Sox. What was impressive about this game is the fact that it was basically Cleveland at their very best.
For starters, Corey Kluber was on the mound and he continued a string of lovely starts by going seven innings against the White Sox. Over those seven innings, he only gave up two runs off three hits and struck out 13. That’s not quite 15, but I’m sure that Cleveland will take it.
The three hits that Kluber gave up were the only hits that Chicago got on the night, as the bullpen neutralized the White Sox offense and closed down the game in efficient fashion.
On the other side of things, Cleveland’s bats showed just how dangerous they can be. Edwin Encarnacion may not be slugging on the same level that he was last season, but he’s still a dangerous hitter and the White Sox can attest to that after his three-run dinger put Cleveland up by four in the first inning.
Meanwhile, one of the most interesting developments of this season has been Francisco Lindor adding a bit of power to his game. He’s got a shot at finishing the season with an ISO above .200 for the first time in his career and he could very well end up with 30 homers. He’s got 27 now after he hit a solo shot in the second inning.
Erik Gonzalez ended up being the top dinger merchant of the day for Cleveland, though. He followed up Lindor’s homer in the second with a homer of his own, and he doubled his career homer tally going into this game from two to four after he capped off the offensive explosion with a solo homer in the ninth inning.
The 15-game win streak for Cleveland is a franchise record and it’s also worth noting that they’ve outscored their opposition 109-28 over this span. They won’t go into the postseason this hot, but they’re showing that their best brand of baseball matches up with anybody else’s across the game. If you had to come up with a list of teams you don’t want to see in October, the current AL pennant holders are at the top of the list.
As hot as the current AL Central leaders are, that’s how cold the current NL West leaders are. The Dodgers lost again on Thursday night, and they’ve now lost 12 of their last 13 games. To put that in perspective, the only teams that have gone on similar runs this season are the Giants, Phillies, Reds, and White Sox. That’s not good company to keep in 2017!
If there was going to be a night for the Dodgers to break out of their funk, this should’ve been it. After all, Clayton Kershaw was set to start and that’s normally a good omen for the Dodgers. Unfortunately, Kershaw didn’t make it out of the fourth inning as the Rockies tagged him for four runs. That included this three-run shot from Nolan Arenado in the first inning.
Colorado didn’t let up once Kershaw left, either. They eventually won the game 9-1, and they’ve now got three games between them and the Brewers for the second Wild Card spot in the NL. Meanwhile, Los Angeles still has a 10-game lead in the West and that has to be the only solace that they can find in this wretched run that they’re currently on.
The Dodgers lead the NL in walk-off wins with eight. I’m going to give you a minute to guess who’s in second place in that department. Congratulations to all four of you who correctly guessed that it’s the Braves. They went into the ninth against the Marlins trailing by a run, but an RBI double from Ozzie Albies tied it, and eventually it came down to Kurt Suzuki to possibly win the game for the Braves.
Speaking of Suzuki, he went into the game with a TAv of .290 and a WARP of 1.6 over 67 games. Combine that with Tyler Flowers’ TAv of .311 and 5.2 WARP and you’ve got yourself a pretty nifty catcher platoon in Atlanta.
If you’re an optimist, then the Twins gave us all a lesson in why you should never give up. If you’re a cynic, then the Royals showed everybody what happens when you snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Either way, the game definitely turned when the Royals turned what should’ve been a simple pop-up out into an adventure.
The Twins proceeded to load the bases, and while Brian Dozier came just short of breaking the game completely open for Minnesota with a grand slam, his fly ball was enough to tie the game. Jorge Polanco ended up getting the plaudits when he grounded one up the middle to plate two Twins, and that ended up being the difference.
The Twins are now a full game ahead of the Angels for the second Wild Card spot in the AL and they’re now 3.5 games ahead of the Royals, who are surely kicking themselves after what happened in the ninth inning.
The aforementioned Ozzie Albies is quickly making a name for himself, but a record that he set for the 2017 season has already been broken. Albies was the youngest player to appear in an MLB game this year, but that was until Victor Robles made his debut for the Nationals. Robles flew out, but that didn’t dampen the excitement for the fans at Nationals Park.
Defensive Play of the Day
The Nationals beat the Phillies 4-3, and Michael Taylor made sure that there wasn’t any late drama when he robbed Andres Blanco of a dinger with one of the more nonchalant jumping catches at the fence that you’ll see.
What to Watch on Friday
Of the six divisional races that are still going on, four of the divisional leaders currently have a double-digit lead in the standings. The only divisions that are still in reasonable doubt at this point are the AL East and NL Central, and the latter will be starting a crucial series this weekend when the Brewers travel to Wrigley Field to take on the Cubs. The two teams still have seven games left to play against each other (with the final four coming later this month in Milwaukee), so each game between these two will be extremely important with just five games separating the Brewers from the division leaders in Chicago.
The Cubs will be sending John Lackey (5.44 DRA, 108 cFIP) to the mound, and the veteran righty did a good job holding the Brewers at bay in their last encounter. Meanwhile, Jimmy Nelson (3.38 DRA, 78 cFIP) will be seeing the Cubs for the first time since they lit him up for seven runs back in April. A lot has changed since then, and the Brewers will surely be hoping that what happened in the first month of the season for Nelson against the Cubs has absolutely no bearing in what happens here in the final month.