Stats & Info: Cleveland Indians

Top stats to know: Royals at Indians

September, 24, 2014

Jason Miller/Getty ImagesManager Ned Yost has the Royals on the verge of their first postseason berth since 1985.
The Kansas City Royals and Cleveland Indians wrap up their season series tonight (7 ET on ESPN/WatchESPN). The teams have split 18 meetings so far, but the Royals have won two straight and with a win tonight can eliminate the Indians from playoff contention.

Let’s take a look at some stats to know heading into tonight’s game.

On the road again
The Royals are playing their final two series of the season on the road (after tonight’s game they finish with a four-game series at the White Sox), which is good news for them.

The Royals are one of the better road teams in baseball this season, posting a 44-32 mark away from Kauffman Stadium. This ties them with the Orioles for the third-best road mark in the majors, behind only the Dodgers (49-32) and Angels (45-32).

Offensively challenged
The Royals have a very distinct offensive profile: they don’t walk, they don’t hit home runs, but they also don’t strike out.

It would follow, obviously, that no team in baseball has a larger percentage of its swings turn into balls in play (43 percent). For context, the MLB average is 40 percent.

As mentioned, the Royals currently rank last in the majors in both walks and home runs. No team has finished last in baseball in both walks and home runs and still made the playoffs.

Late-game magic
The Indians have 11 walk-off wins this season, tied with the Marlins and Padres for the most in all of baseball.

In addition, Cleveland has won 20 games in their last at-bat, behind only the Athletics (22) and Marlins (21). Their 38 comeback wins trail only the Angels (45), Pirates (41), Orioles (40), Tigers (40) and Yankees (39).

Quick hitters
• Alex Gordon is typically the measuring stick for the Royals offense. As he goes, so does the team. In wins this season, Gordon is hitting .292 with 15 home runs and 55 RBIs. In losses, he’s hitting .229 with four home runs and 18 RBIs.

• Ned Yost will manage his 771st game with the Royals tonight, passing the late Dick Howser for most games ever as Royals manager. Of the 15 who managed at least 100 games with the Royals, Yost's win percentage of .481 is ninth-best.

• The Indians have three players with at least 20 homers this season (Michael Brantley, Yan Gomes and Carlos Santana). It’s the first time they’ve had three 20-HR hitters since 2008 (Jhonny Peralta, Kelly Shoppach and Grady Sizemore).

• Michael Brantley will look to record his second 15-game hitting streak of the season tonight. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the only Indians player over the last 20 seasons to record two different hitting streaks of at least 15 games is Roberto Alomar, who did so in 2000.

Top stats to know: Price vs Kluber

September, 1, 2014

AP Photo/Mark DuncanCorey Kluber ranks third in the AL in strikeouts this season.
The Detroit Tigers visit the Cleveland Indians on ESPN at 4 ET in a matchup of two of the American League’s best starters this season. Corey Kluber is having a career year on the mound while David Price has been an ace all season aside from his last start.

Kluber may not yet be a household name, but he’s been every bit as good as Price this season. His ERA is nearly a run better than Price, while he’s maintained the same strikeout rate and thrown one more quality start. Each hurler ranks among the top three in the American League in terms of strikeouts as well.

Career year for Kluber

Kluber has really taken a significant leap this season. His numbers are up across the board. With 13 wins, Kluber has matched his win total from his first two seasons as a starter combined. From 2012-13, Kluber’s 4.24 ERA is over a run-and-a-half higher than his 2.52 ERA this season, which ranks fourth in the AL.

According to Wins Above Replacement, only two pitchers in baseball have been more valuable than Kluber (5.8) this season: Clayton Kershaw and Felix Hernandez. By comparison, Price ranks 28th with a 3.2 WAR. Kluber gets hitters to expand the strike zone often. In fact, his 33.6 chase percentage is third-best in the American League behind Hernandez and Phil Hughes.

The difference maker for Kluber this season has been his curveball, which he’s taken to an entirely new level. Kluber leads the majors with 101 strikeouts via curveball this season. He’s throwing the curve a career-high 16 percent of the time, with opposing batters hitting just .083 against it. Opposing batters are chasing his curveball 45 percent of the time.

Bounce-back start for Price?

Price is coming off of what may very well be the worst start of his career. The Yankees recorded nine straight hits off him in the third inning last Wednesday. It marked his most career hits (9) and runs allowed (8) in a single inning. Price never got out an out in the third inning, the second-shortest start of career.

But he's still dominant in the big picture. Price has the fifth-most strikeouts over the last five seasons. Two of the players ahead of him on the list are currently his teammates (Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander).

Price’s control is a great strength. He has walked only 3.6 percent of the hitters he’s faced this year, on pace to be a career best and good for fourth-best in the majors. Price has a career-high 224 strikeouts this season, his third career 200-strikeout season.

Since coming over from the Rays at the trade deadline, Price has thrown his changeup at a career-high pace for good reason. Opposing hitters are batting 140 points lower against his changeup since Price joined the Tigers. No wonder why he’s throwing it once every five pitches.

Efficient Kluber spoils the King's record

July, 30, 2014
Ken Blaze/USA TODAY SportsCorey Kluber has now thrown back-to-back shutouts, facing 28 batters in each game.
Corey Kluber needed just 85 pitches to shut out the Seattle Mariners, striking out eight hitters and issuing no walks. He's just the fourth pitcher to do that against an American League team in the past 20 seasons.

He's the first Cleveland Indians pitcher to throw a shutout with no more than 90 pitches since Charles Nagy on June 12, 1992.

Kluber faced only 28 batters, his second straight shutout in which he faced only 28 batters. He's the first pitcher with consecutive starts of nine innings and 28 or fewer batters faced since Jim Scott, who had two straight starts of that variety (with a relief appearance in-between) for the 1914 Chicago White Sox.

More than half of Kluber's pitches were breaking balls and the Mariners didn't stand a chance against those pitches. They went 1-for-15 with eight strikeouts and only one hard-hit ball in at-bats ending with a curveball or slider.

Overall, hitters chased 51.3 percent of Kluber's pitches out of the strike zone, the highest rate of his career.

Tough-Luck Loss For The King

Félix Hernández may have gotten the loss, but he broke a record in the process. He now has 14 straight starts of at least seven innings allowing two or fewer runs, breaking a tie with Tom Sever for the longest such single-season streak in the modern era (since 1900).

Hernández threw his changeup on 41.8 percent of his pitches, his second-highest rate in any start in the past six seasons. Indians hitters went 1-for-12 with no hard-hit balls in at-bats ending with the King's changeup.

This continued a trend for Hernández. He has thrown his changeup on 30.8 percent of his pitches this season, the highest rate in his career. Hitters have a .118 batting average against his changeup, good for second best in the majors (minimum 100 plate appearances).

Hernández has recorded 98 punch-outs with his changeup this season, up from 69 last season. It's already the most strikeouts he has had with his changeup in the past six seasons.

Kluber dominant in no-decision

July, 25, 2014

Ed Zurga/Getty Images Corey Kluber took a perfect game into the seventh against the Royals but left with a no-decision.

Corey Kluber had a perfect game bid of 6 ⅓ innings Thursday, the longest of his career, eclipsing his previous career-long of 4 ⅓ innings which he set on May 14 of this season.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he is the first Indians player to take a perfect game into the seventh inning since Charles Nagy in 1991, and the first Indian to take one 6 ⅓ innings since Len Barker threw a perfect game on May 15, 1981.

The Barker perfect game is the last no-hitter thrown by the Indians, a drought of over 33 years. The only team with a longer active drought is the Padres, who have yet to throw a no-hitter in their 45-year history.

Kluber has enjoyed facing Kansas City this season, he has a 2-1 record with a 1.15 ERA and 0.57 WHIP in four starts against the Royals. In three of those games, including Thursday,
Kluber struck out 10 or more batters. He is the only pitcher this season with a double-digit strikeout game against the Royals, who entered the day with a 15.6 strikeout rate, by far the lowest in the major leagues.

All of Kluber’s pitches were working on Thursday, but he had the most success with his breaking pitches. Royals hitters were 0 for 16 in at-bats ending with his breaking balls, including eight of his 10 strikeouts.

He also kept the ball away from Royals hitters, throwing 57 of his 107 pitches to the outer third or farther away. The Royals were 0 for 14 in at-bats ending with a pitch in that location.

Kluber’s night ended after nine innings, allowing no earned runs, striking out 10 and walking none, making him just the fourth pitcher in the last 20 seasons to reach all of those marks in a no-decision. He is the first Indians pitcher since Pedro Ramos in 1963 to get a no-decision while pitching nine innings with 10 strikeouts and no walks.

The unearned run allowed by Kluber came on a defensive misplay by left fielder Ryan Raburn in the bottom of the eighth inning. The Indians entered Thursday with -58 Defensive Runs Saved, 16 fewer than any other team in baseball.

Top stats to know: Yankees at Indians

July, 7, 2014

AP Photo/Kyndell HarknessNext week, Derek Jeter will make his ninth All-Star start at shortstop for the American League.
The New York Yankees take on the Cleveland Indians on Monday night as both clubs look to make up ground in their divisional races heading into the All-Star break.

Here's a look at some of the top storylines for both teams entering the day, including All-Star selections, a recent trade and an absent offense.

Jeter an All-Star again

Fans elected Derek Jeter a starter in next week’s All-Star Game. It will be his ninth career All-Star start at shortstop. Only Mickey Mantle (13) and Yogi Berra (11) will have started more All-Star Games as a Yankee. (Joe DiMaggio also has nine starts.)

Jeter hit his 2,542nd single Sunday, which moved him into fourth place in MLB history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Pete Rose leads the league with 3,215 singles all time.

Yankees bring in McCarthy

On Sunday, the Yankees traded Vidal Nuno to the Diamondbacks for Brandon McCarthy. McCarthy entered Sunday with a 1.22 run difference between his ERA (5.01) and fielding independent pitching (3.79), the largest of any pitcher who was qualified for the ERA title. FIP is an ERA estimator based on strikeouts, walks and home runs allowed.

With McCarthy arriving, the Yankees designated Alfonso Soriano for assignment. Soriano ranked 1,020th out of 1,022 position players in wins above replacement this season.

Offense Absent for Free Agents

When New York brought in Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran, it added proven veterans who had delivered consistently over their careers. However, both have struggled this season.

McCann is hitting line drives at a higher rate, up to 23 percent from 21 percent this past season. But he’s not hitting the ball as hard as he did in 2013, and his hard-hit average has fallen from .209 to .155. McCann's lack of power has led to one of the worst offensive seasons of his career.

For Beltran, his power has also disappeared. Dips in his line-drive rate (19 percent) and hard-hit average (.170) have Beltran on pace for career lows in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.

Beltran's offensive difficulties have the new Yankee on pace for his first season with negative wins above replacement (minus-0.6).

Masterson's ups and downs

Since shifting to primarily a starter role in 2010, Justin Masterson has seen his year-to-year ERA fluctuate wildly.

Masterson has especially struggled against left-handed batters this season and has seen his opponents' batting average jump from .248 in 2013 to .315 this year.

But Masterson has been remarkably steady for the Indians at home since 2010. His home ERA has been between 3.09 and 3.62 in each of his past four seasons.

Top stats to know: Tigers at Indians

May, 19, 2014
The Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians begin a three-game series tonight (7 ET on ESPN) at Progressive Field.

The Tigers dominated the Indians last year, winning 15 of 19 games, their most wins against the Indians in a season since 1960.

Can anyone tame the Tigers?
The Tigers once again are atop the AL Central, leading by seven games, the largest division lead in the majors. They have the best record in the AL and only the Oakland Athletics (+95) have a better run differential than the Tigers (+55).

Detroit has reached the ALCS in each of the last three seasons yet has zero World Series wins in that span.

This year they'll try to become just the fourth team to make four consecutive ALCS appearances and the first since the Yankees from 1998-2001.

The Tigers have also been nearly unbeatable on the road this season with a MLB-best 14-4 record and wins in each of their last 11 games away from home, their longest road win streak since 1983-84.

Cabrera rounding into form
Miguel Cabrera started the season cold but has been on a tear over the past month. Through April 21, he was hitting just .206 with one homer. In 23 games since then he has hit six home runs and a .389 batting average in that span.

As you can see in the chart on the right, his numbers for the season are now on par or better than what he did in his first 39 games in 2012, when he won the MVP and Triple Crown.

What are some of the keys to his turnaround so far?

From 2011-13, no AL player had a higher batting average vs. off-speed pitches than Cabrera. Yet he started this season just 4 for 23 (.174) against soft stuff in his first 16 games. Since then he has been crushing those offerings, hitting .533 with three homers in at-bats ending in an off-speed pitch.

Cabrera is also hitting the ball with authority to all fields now. Through April 21, he had just one hit to right field, a double against the Royals on April 19.

In 23 games since then he is 14 for 30 when putting the ball in play to the opposite field, and four of his six homers in that span have gone over the right field fence. Over the last five seasons, only Joey Votto (47) has more opposite field homers than Cabrera (42).

Indians defensive problems
The Indians rank 26th in runs allowed so it’s no surprise that they are arguably the worst defensive team in the majors this year.

They have the fewest Defensive Runs Saved, the most errors, the lowest defensive efficiency, and have allowed the most unearned runs.

The Indians have negative Defensive Runs Saved at every position except pitcher and catcher this season, meaning every other position has cost them at least a run on defense.

The Carlos Santana experiment at third base has not worked well for the Indians on defense this season. He has played the majority of the team's games at the hot corner and has cost the team four runs, the third-most of any third baseman in the majors.

Top stats to know: Top 2013 managers

November, 12, 2013

Awards season continued on Tuesday with Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle and Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona taking Manager of the Year honors. Though each has had a considerable amount of success in the past, it marked the first time winning the award for both of them.

And both shared the common thread of coaxing major improvement from their teams to get them into the playoffs in 2013.

Clint Hurdle
Hurdle became the second Pirates manager to win the award, joining Jim Leyland who won in 1990 and 1992, the latter being the last time the Pirates made the postseason prior to 2013.

As the image above notes, the Pirates have increased their win total (and win percentage) in each of Hurdle’s three seasons. That’s their longest streak since a three-year run from 1986 to 1988.

The Pirates outscored their opponents this season, 634-577. The difference in their runs scored/runs allowed is typical of an 88-win team, historically speaking (by what's known in the sabermetric world as “Pythagorean Win-Loss record”). The Pirates exceeded their Pythagorean expectation by six wins, tied with the Yankees for the second-best in the majors. Only the Phillies (who had 73 wins when their Pythagorean expectation was 66) exceeded their expectation by more wins.

The Pirates won this season on the strength of their pitching and defense. Their pitching staff ranked third in the majors in ERA and first in fewest home runs allowed, and their defense third in Defensive Runs Saved. The Pirates improved in the latter stat from -25 Defensive Runs Saved in 2012 (which rated 24th) to 77 in 2013.

Terry Francona
Francona became the third manager to win the AL award in his first season with a team, joining Joe Torre (1996 Yankees) and Jim Leyland (2006 Tigers). He is the second Indians manager to win the award, along with Eric Wedge in 2007. Coincidentally, Francona was then the manager of the Red Sox, who beat Wedge’s Indians in the ALCS that season.

The Elias Sports Bureau notes that Francona has had a winning record in his last nine seasons as a manager. He joined Bobby Cox (15 straight) and Torre (14 straight) as the only managers with such a streak in the last 25 seasons.

The Indians' 24-win improvement from 2012 to 2013 ranked second best in the American League, trailing only the Red Sox (who improved by 28 wins). Boston's manager, John Farrell, finished second in the voting.

The Indians won with offense, scoring half a run more per game than in 2012.

They went from 13th in the American League in that stat to 4th.

Their pitching staff, which ranked last in the AL with a 4.78 ERA in 2012 dropped that by nearly a full run to 3.82 (which ranked seventh).

Did You Know?
Farrell not winning the award extended a streak of eight straight years in which the World Series-winning manager did not win his league’s manager of the year award. The last to win both in a season was Ozzie Guillen with the White Sox in 2005.

Rays, Cobb find a way to escape

October, 3, 2013
The Tampa Bay Rays continued their survive-and-advance run this week by beating the Cleveland Indians 4-0 to advance to the ALDS against the Boston Red Sox.

The Rays have won on the road in Toronto, Texas and now Cleveland to keep their season going. The past two wins have been fueled by great work from their starting pitchers.

This marked the second time in Rays history that they won a win-or-go-home postseason game. The other was Game 7 of the 2008 ALCS when they beat the Red Sox, a team managed by current Indians manager Terry Francona.

The Indians have now been eliminated from postseason play at home four times. This was the first time since 1999, when they lost to the Red Sox in Game 5 of the ALDS when Pedro Martinez beat them with six hitless innings of relief.

How Cobb won
Rays starter Alex Cobb became the third Rays pitcher to throw at least six scoreless innings in a postseason start, joining Scott Kazmir (2008 ALCS) and Matt Moore (2011 ALDS). Moore pitched in the only other Rays postseason shutout -- Game 1 against the Texas Rangers.

He’s the fifth starter or reliever on any team to do so in a winner-take-all postseason game since baseball went to three rounds of playoffs in 1995. The others are Tom Glavine (1996 Braves), Martinez (1999 Red Sox against the Indians), Chris Carpenter (2011 Cardinals) and Justin Verlander (2012 Tigers).

But it wasn’t easy.

Cobb escaped jam after jam by getting outs with two pitches -- a curveball that he threw 35 times, more than any other start in his career, and a changeup that got him four inning-ending outs.

Cobb made 20 pitches with a man on third base and did not allow the ball to be hit in the air. He got groundouts from Asdrubal Cabrera, Nick Swisher and Jason Kipnis and struck out Michael Bourn.

Cobb ranked third in the majors with a 57 percent ground ball rate this season.

Cobb is now 6-1 with a 2.17 ERA in 10 starts since returning from the disabled list on Aug. 15.

Inside the at-bat: Delmon Young’s home run
Delmon Young’s home run against Danny Salazar accounted for the Rays’ first run.

Young has nine postseason home runs over the past three seasons, the most of anyone in the majors.

Of Young's nine career postseason home runs, five have now come on the first pitch.

Young has the highest career first-pitch swing rate (45 percent) of any active player.

He's a career .350 hitter on the first pitch (.267 on all other counts).

Remember, too, that Young has the game-winning RBI in each of his team’s past five postseason wins. He had the game-winning RBI in all four games against the Yankees in last year's ALCS.

Stat of the Day
The Indians managed nine hits in being shut out. That’s one hit shy of the most by a team that didn’t score in a nine-inning postseason elimination game.

The only other instance happened 70 years ago, when the Cardinals managed 10 hits but were shut out while being knocked out in the World Series by the Yankees.

Stats to know: Rays vs Indians

October, 2, 2013

The Tampa Bay Rays and Cleveland Indians, two of the hottest teams in the majors the last two weeks, will go head-to-head tonight in the AL Wild Card Game (8 p.m. ET, ESPN Radio), with the winner advancing to face the Boston Red Sox in the American League Division Series.

The matchup
The Rays won four of the six meetings during the regular season. All six of the games had a similar theme -- one team both pitched and hit great.

Each of the six games were decided by four runs or more, with four of the games ending in shutouts (two for each team).

The hitter that fared best for the Indians was Carlos Santana, who was 9-for-22 with a homer and two doubles. He has a .333/.438/.515 slashline in 80 plate appearances against the Rays over the last three seasons, and is 3-for-7 with a walk against Rays starter Alex Cobb.

The Rays best hitter, Evan Longoria, doesn’t have a great history in Cleveland. He’s hitting .175 with 21 strikeouts in 63 at-bats in his career there, his worst batting average at any American League ballpark. But his teammate Ben Zobrist has been good there. He has a .288/.389/.559 slashline in 72 plate appearances in that park over the same span.

Indians asking a rookie to come up big
The Indians will start Danny Salazar, whose career consists of 10 major-league starts, only one of which involved him throwing 90 pitches or more.

Salazar’s strength is his swing-and-miss capability, particularly with a fastball that averages 96 mph, best among AL pitchers who started at least 10 games this season.

Salazar induced misses on 31 percent of the swings against him and struck out 31 percent of the hitters he faced, the second-best rates in the majors in both of those stats (Yu Darvish edged him out).

The one issue that could lead to a brief outing is that 25 percent of the balls that were put in play against him were line drives. That’s the highest rate of any pitcher with at least 10 starts in 2013.

Cobb’s comeback continues
Cobb missed two months after getting hit in the head with a line drive, but since he’s returned to the majors he’s been one of baseball’s best pitchers.

Cobb is 5-1 with a 2.41 ERA since his return.

The key for Cobb since his return is a curveball that has been an impact pitch.

In his last four starts, Cobb has averaged about 28 curveballs per game. The pitch has netted him 21 outs and yielded only four baserunners.

That could come into play against a hitter like Nick Swisher, who misses offspeed pitches from right-handed pitchers more frequently than any other left-handed hitter.

Defensive players to watch: Yan Gomes and Michael Bourn
Indians catcher Yan Gomes is capable of thwarting any potential baserunning attempts by the Rays. He caught 18 of 47 runners attempting to steal during the regular seasons, a 38 percent caught-stealing rate that ranked third-best in the majors, trailing only Yadier Molina and A.J. Ellis. Gomes also picked off four baserunners, one shy of the major-league lead (Chris Iannetta).

Gomes has also proven himself to be a very capable hitter. He hit .294 with an .826 OPS for the season. The Indians were 51-34 when he started behind the plate, and 41-36 when he didn’t.

The other key for the Indians up the middle is whether Michael Bourn, who has been hampered by injuries, starts in centerfield. Bourn has 30 defensive runs saved over the last three seasons (though only three in 2013). His potential replacement, Drew Stubbs, has -5 defensive runs saved in center field in that same time period.

Elias Sports Bureau Stat of the Day
The Indians won 10 straight games to close the regular season. They are the sixth team to win 10 or more in a row to close the season since 1900. But only one of those went on to win the World Series -- the 1970 Baltimore Orioles.

Breaking down chances for AL wild card

September, 23, 2013

Jason Miller/Getty Images
The Indians enter the season's final week with a 1 1/2-game lead for the second AL wild card spot.

All together, six teams are still mathematically in the mix for the two American League wild card spots. The Tampa Bay Rays and Cleveland Indians sit atop the bunch, with the Rays a half-game ahead of the Indians for the top spot.

Here’s a reason to be optimistic, and not so optimistic, about those six clubs down the stretch. Also included is their percentages to make the postseason based on mathematical modeling by

Tampa Bay Rays (86-69) – 87% chance to make playoffs
• Reason to feel good: The Rays close with a pair of three-game series against the Yankees and Blue Jays. Rays starting pitchers have an ERA under 3.00 against five teams this season, and the Yankees and Jays are among those teams.

• Reason to feel nervous: Each of the Rays' final six games are on the road. Tampa is 36-39 on the road this season, 16th in all of the MLB and third-worst among teams currently with a winning record.

Cleveland Indians (86-70) – 81% chance to make playoffs
• Reason to feel good: The Indians' final six games are against the White Sox and Twins, teams they’ve beaten up on this year. They are 23-8 against those two opponents and 63-62 against all other teams.

• Reason to feel nervous: The power has disappeared for the Indians lately. In their last seven games, they’ve hit just four home runs (no more than one in a game) while slugging just .380.

Texas Rangers (84-71) – 30% chance to make playoffs
• Reason to feel good: Much like the Indians, the schedule sets up well for Texas. Their remaining seven games are against the Astros and Angels, who they are 25-6 against this year. Against all other teams, they’re under .500 (59-65).

• Reason to feel nervous: The Rangers are 5-15 in September, the second-worst mark in the MLB behind only the White Sox, who have the third-worst overall record in the majors.

Kansas City Royals (82-73) – 1% chance to make playoffs
• Reason to feel good: Although a long shot to make the playoffs, the Royals can lean on their bullpen down the stretch. Their 2.54 bullpen ERA is the best in the American League, and second-best in the majors behind the Braves (2.46).

• Reason to feel nervous: K.C. closes the season with a three-game road series against the White Sox. The Royals have averaged just 2.6 runs per game with a .215 batting average against the Pale Hose this season.

New York Yankees (82-74) - <1% chance to make playoffs
• Reason to feel good: If the Yankees can stay alive, they’ll close the season with three against the team with the worst record in the majors: the Astros. This season, the Astros have played 12 teams that currently have winning records, and have losing records against all 12, with an 18-70 combined record.

• Reason to feel nervous: With an elimination number of three, the Yankees will have to survive a three-game series with the Rays starting Tuesday. In their last seven games against the Rays, Yankees starting pitching has gone 0-5, with a 6.05 ERA and a .311 opponents’ batting average.

Baltimore Orioles (81-74) - <1% chance to make playoffs
• Reason to feel good: The Baltimore bullpen has been solid against their final two opponents. They allowed no runs in 7.2 IP in their last series against the Blue Jays, and no runs in their last four games (13.1 IP) against the Red Sox.

• Reason to feel nervous: If the Orioles stay alive, they close with three against the Red Sox. In their last eight games vs Boston, they’ve hit just .183, scoring 2.5 runs per game.

AL Wild Card race heating up in final stretch

September, 21, 2013
With nine days left in the regular season, the American League wild-card race is heating up.

The Tampa Bay Rays lead the Cleveland Indians by a half-game for the first wild card, while the Indians lead the Texas Rangers by a half-game for the second wild card. Those three teams have separated themselves from the rest of the pack, as the Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Royals are 2˝ games behind the Indians, and the New York Yankees are a half-game behind the Orioles and Royals.

What have you done for me lately?
After losing 13 of 17 from August 25 to September 11, the Rays righted the ship and have won six of their last nine games. That includes a pair of walk-off wins in extra innings in their last three games.

The Indians have been trending in the right direction in September. They’re 13-6 this month after trailing the second wild card -– the Rays at the time -– by 4˝ games entering September. The Indians are trying to reach the postseason for the first time since 2007, when they lost in seven games to the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS.

Entering September, the Rangers were two games ahead of the Oakland Athletics in the AL West. The Rangers were 3˝ games ahead of the next-closest wild card team –- the Rays. But the Rangers are 4-14 in September, on the verge of a potential collapse. They haven’t strung together consecutive wins since August 26-28. The Rangers are trying to reach the playoffs in four straight seasons for the first time in franchise history.

What’s ahead?
The Rays have three home games left against the Orioles, followed by a pair of three-game road series against the Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays.

The Indians certainly have the easiest schedule remaining based on opponent win percentage. The Indians, who face a pair of last-place teams and a fourth-place team, have two home games against the Houston Astros, followed by two home games against the Chicago White Sox, and then a four-game road series with the Minnesota Twins.

The Rangers have two more crucial road games at Kansas City, a three-game home series with the Astros, and they end the season with a four-game home stand against the Los Angeles Angels.

Other MLB notes from Friday
Alex Rodriguez hit his 24th career grand slam, breaking a tie with Lou Gehrig for the most grand slams in Major League history.

Alfonso Soriano is the third player in Major League history with at least 16 home runs for an American League team and a National League team in the same season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The others were Manny Ramirez in 2008 and Mark McGwire in 1997.

The Pittsburgh Pirates had won 163 straight games when leading by three or more runs in the ninth inning or later. They hadn’t lost a game in that situation since July 2009, according to Elias. But the Pirates blew a three-run lead in the ninth inning against the Cincinnati Reds, snapping their streak.

Indians offense struggles in sweep

August, 30, 2013
The Atlanta Braves completed a three-game sweep of the Cleveland Indians on Thursday, dropping Cleveland to 12-14 for the month of August. This is a quick look inside the sweep, followed by a look at the Indians playoff chances after getting swept.

Indians lost on offense
The Indians managed just three runs over the three-game series against the Braves. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Indians had not scored 3 runs over the course of a three-game series since August 20-22, 2010.

This is indicative of a larger trend for the Indians, who have scored an American League-worst 3.4 runs per game in the month of August. The struggles for the Tribe only begin there, as they also rank last in the AL in batting average and slugging percentage in August.

Nick Swisher epitomized the Indians lineup this series, going 2-12 including 0-4 with three strikeouts on Thursday. Swisher struck out looking on a fastball over the plate in his third at-bat, his 32nd strikeout looking this season. He had 35 strikeouts looking all of last season.

Effect of sweep on playoff chances
The Indians missed out on a chance to gain ground on the Oakland Athletics, who lost Thursday and currently hold the second Wild Card spot in the American League. As a result of the sweep, Cleveland dropped two games in the Wild Card standings and got leapfrogged by the Orioles as well.

The Indians have not made the playoffs since 2007 and will need to finish strong in September in order to make it this season. This may not bode well for them, as they are under .500 in September since they last made the playoffs.

Fernandez keeps Indians off balance

August, 3, 2013
Hector Gabino/El Nuevo Herald/Getty ImagesJose Fernandez has 27 strikeouts in his last two starts.
Jose Fernandez is quickly emerging as one of the most impressive young pitchers in Major League Baseball.

After striking out 13 batters with no walks in eight innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates in his previous start, Fernandez struck out 14 batters with one walk in eight innings against the Cleveland Indians on Friday.

Fernandez is the first pitcher with consecutive 13-strikeout games since Randy Johnson in 2004. He’s the first pitcher age 21 or younger with multiple 13-strikeout games in a season since Kerry Wood had five such games in 1998.

Not only is Fernandez striking out batters at a high rate, but he’s doing so without walking many batters. He’s the first pitcher with consecutive games of at least 13 strikeouts and one or fewer walks since Curt Schilling in 2002.

Fernandez is the fifth pitcher age 21 or younger with consecutive 13-strikeout games in the modern era (since 1900), according to the Elias Sports Bureau. He’s the fourth-youngest pitcher with consecutive 13-strikeout games. Only Dwight Gooden in 1984, Kerry Wood in 1998 and Jose Rijo in 1986 were younger.

How did Fernandez dominate the Indians?

• Fernandez registered 22 of his 24 outs via strikeout (14) or ground ball (8). He's the first pitcher in the last two seasons to go at least eight innings and get just two or fewer of his outs in the air.

• Despite his fastball averaging 95.5 mph (his second-fastest this season), Fernandez threw a season-high 50 percent offspeed pitches. He recorded a season-best 18 outs on those offspeed pitches, including 13 strikeouts.

• Fernandez's breaking balls, in particular, were dominant. Twelve of his 14 strikeouts came on his curveball or slider, tied for the most by any pitcher in the last five seasons.

• Fernandez had success getting Indians hitters to expand their strike zone, particularly with two strikes. He threw 13 two-strike pitches out of the zone and Indians hitters missed on all nine they swung at. His nine strikeouts out of the zone were one shy of the most in baseball this season.

How the Indians are creeping up on Tigers

July, 5, 2013

US PresswireJason Kipnis and the Indians have been the AL's best team the last few weeks
The Cleveland Indians host the Detroit Tigers on Friday in the opener of a four-game series at Progressive Field. Earlier this week, the Indians took over sole possession of first place in the AL Central for the first time since early May. But thanks to three straight Tigers wins and back-to-back losses by the Tribe, Detroit comes in with a 1.5-game lead in the division.

Of course, it’s still just a fraction of the 5.5-game lead Tigers held on June 11. How have the Indians been able to go an AL-best 15-7 since that day and close the gap in the Central?

The Indians have scored nearly 41 percent of their runs with two outs this season. Their 169 runs scored with two outs are the most in the American League and second-most league wide (Cardinals - 174). The Tribe leads MLB in two-out slugging percentage (.433) and ranks second in two-out OPS (.767).

Offseason additions like Michael Bourn and Drew Stubbs were meant to improve overall team speed, and it’s paid off. The Indians’ 64 stolen bases are tied for fourth in MLB and no team has more than their 20 stolen bases since June 11. It’s a dramatic improvement for a team that ranked 12th in stolen bases in 2012. Cleveland baserunners have also gone first to third or scored on a single 61 times this season, most in MLB.

The Indians are 18-8 (.750) in one-run games (best in baseball), and are the only team that has yet to lose an extra-inning game (5-0). Meanwhile, the Tigers are just 9-12 in one-run games and have gone 2-9 in extra innings, the most extra-inning losses in baseball.

Justin Masterson has been one of Cleveland’s best starters during its run and he gets the ball on Friday. In four starts since June 11, Masterson is 2-1 with a 2.83 ERA and the Indians have won three of those four games. In his last start, Masterson shut out the White Sox with eight strikeouts and just one walk. It was his major-league best third shutout of the season

Masterson, primarily a sinker-baller, has thrown 28 percent sliders this season after doing so just 19 percent of the time in 2012. His .091 opponents’ batting average against his slider is the lowest among qualified starting pitchers. He’ll be tested on Friday, however, as Detroit has the highest OPS (.783) and the most home runs (21) against sliders this season.

Jason Kipnis
After hitting .189 through May 1, Jason Kipnis has hit .340 since (sixth in MLB over span) including an AL-best .419 during the month of June. His efforts earned him player of the month honors, the first Indian to win the award since Shin-Soo Choo in September of 2008. He’s riding a career-long 15-game hitting streak and has reached base safely in 35 straight games. It’s the longest on-base streak by a member of the Indians since Victor Martinez reached in 45 straight during a stretch spanning the 2005 and 2006 seasons.

Kernels: Friday fun

June, 30, 2013

Steve Mitchell/Getty Images
Mets Pitcher Matt Harvey is one player who had a good day on Friday.

This week's theme is "Friday."

In the 16-game slate from June 28, all of this happened (and more).

The Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox played a rainout-induced doubleheader starting at 4:10 CT.

• The White Sox opened with five runs off Trevor Bauer, who threw 49 pitches and didn't get out of the inning. It was one shy of the season high (Ian Kennedy threw 50 in an inning on June 6). Bauer was the first pitcher to leave a doubleheader in the first inning of the first game since Rolando Arrojo of Boston on Sept. 21, 2000.

• Seven Indians had at least 2 RBIs, the first time they'd done that in exactly 63 years. Larry Doby, Al Rosen and Ray Boone contributed to an 18-2 blowout of the St. Louis Browns on June 28, 1950.

• Brian Omogrosso surrendered nine runs in 2.1 innings and took the loss. No White Sox reliever had allowed nine in a game since Scott Eyre against the Red Sox on June 26, 1999. They hadn't had a reliever do it in less than three innings since George Payne allowed nine to the Yankees on July 17, 1920.

• Final score of Game 1: 19-10. The 29 combined runs were the most in a game this season. The Indians have scored 19 twice this season, the second such time in their history they've scored 19 or more runs twice in a season (1923).

• Turnabout is fair play. On Sept. 2, 2001, also at Comiskey Park, the White Sox beat the Indians 19-10. Catcher Tim Laker played the role of Casper Wells, pitching a scoreless eighth inning.

• Only one other Cleveland team has played a 19-10 game in MLB history. That also was in Chicago, but it was not the Indians. It was the Cleveland Spiders, who lost by that score to the NL's White Stockings (who later became the Cubs) on Sept. 19, 1889.

• With a brief rain delay between games, the second game, which the Indians won 9-8, didn't end until 1:06 a.m. According to Elias, the combined game times of 7 hours, 53 minutes set a record for the longest 18-inning doubleheader in major-league history.

• The Indians hadn't scored 28 runs in a day since June 18, 1950, when they swept a pair from the Philadelphia Athletics, 7-0 and 21-2.

Elsewhere around the Majors on Friday

The Philadelphia Phillies beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 16-1, their most runs ever at Dodger Stadium. They did win 19-10 – there’s that score again! — in the L.A. Coliseum in 1961.It was their second-largest margin of victory against the Dodgers franchise. The Phillies beat the then-Brooklyn Bridegrooms 22-5 at Eastern Park on April 24, 1894.

Phillies right fielder Delmon Young drove in six runs on two singles, a double and a groundout. Since RBI became an official stat in 1920, only one other Phillies hitter has driven in six runs in a game without a homer: shortstop Granny Hamner, who had two doubles and a single with seven RBI against the Cardinals on July 17, 1948.

A few hours after Bauer’s 49-pitch inning for Cleveland, St. Louis Cardinals starter Trevor Miller threw 51 pitches in the second inning against Oakland -- also only getting two outs before being relieved. Miller’s high-water mark would stand for only one day before Wade Davis of the Royals threw 53 pitches in a five-run first inning against Minnesota on Saturday.

The New York Mets' Matt Harvey struck out 11 Nationals and walked zero. It was his third game this season going seven innings with no walks and double-digit strikeouts. That leads the majors. Harvey hasn’t won any of them. He was in line on Friday until the bullpen gave up five runs. The last pitcher to have three such games in a season without a win was Vida Blue, who had two 11-inning no-decisions and a 1-0 complete-game loss for Oakland in 1971.