The Cleveland Indians won for the 14th consecutive time on Wednesday night, as Carlos Carrasco tossed a complete game to push aside the cellar-dwelling Chicago White Sox by a 5-1 score. The team will attempt to set a new franchise record with 15 consecutive victories on Thursday, which would break a tie the defending American League champions set last year. So how have they been doing it?
Well, baseball is a fairly simply game when you break it all down. Pitching and hitting win ball games, and the Indians are getting an awful lot of both lately. Carrasco continues to be red hot, going 4-1 with a 1.69 ERA over his past six starts, but he is not the only pitcher on cruise control. Corey Kluber is making a case for his second American League Cy Young Award with a 14-4 record, 2.56 ERA and 0.90 WHIP across 24 starts with four complete games and two shutouts. The Klubot has a stellar .194 opponent batting average while striking out 222 batters with just 33 walks across 168 2/3 innings. If Boston's Chris Sale continues to fall off, Kluber could close the gap and move into a favorite role for the award.
Very quietly, Trevor Bauer has moved into the team lead for victories, too. He has 15 wins, one ahead of both Carrasco and Kluber. He is 8-1 with a 3.05 ERA across 10 starts since the All-Star break, and he has piled up 170 strikeouts over 151 2/3 innings. Bauer isn't exactly in the same neighborhood as Kluber and Carrasco, as far as pure dominance, but he gives the team a huge improvement for a third starting option heading into the postseason, something the team did not necessarily have last season. As long as he stays away from fixing his drone during the playoffs this year, he'll be a high impact pitcher.
It isn't all pitching, however, and All-Star Jose Ramirez has quietly emerged as a legitimate MVP candidate. He has a solid .309 batting average with 47 doubles, six triples, 25 home runs and 69 RBI while swiping 15 bases. But it is his hustle and defense which do not show up in the box score, but make a huge difference getting this team going. For instance, it goes down as simply a run scored in Wednesday's game, but he motored around to score from second on a fielder's choice in the ninth inning to give Carrasco an insurance run. It made the score 5-0 at the time, and Carrasco had all he needed, but that's the kind of selfless play and hustle that is winning everyone over.
And the Indians are doing it without key members, too. Jason Kipnis has been sidelined with a strained right hamstring, while Michael Brantley has been dealing with a sprained right ankle. Recent newcomer Jay Bruce missed his fifth consecutive contest due to a sore neck, too, as he was scratched an hour before the game due to lingering symptoms. Bradley Zimmer was also out of the lineup after suffering a head injury in Saturday's game, although he did make a pinch-running appearance in the eighth inning and appears close to a return. Still, with all of those key contributors sidelined, it speaks to the depth of manager Terry Francona's bunch. A lot of fans were up in arms when the team didn't pull off a giant deal at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, but apparently they didn't need one.
Carlos Santana is also starting to hit his stride. He entered the month of July hitting just .225, but he is hitting .306 with 13 homers, 28 RBI, 30 walks and just 32 strikeouts with a .417 on-base percentage, .595 slugging percentage and 1.012 OPS since the All-Star break across just 173 at-bats. His pre-break numbers pale in comparison, as he was slashing .238/.340/.409 with just 10 homers across 320 at-bats. Another big bat is just what the American League doesn't want to see from a Cleveland lineup that includes Edwin Encarnacion, Francisco Lindor and the surprisingly effective Austin Jackson. It looks like the Indians are on target for another long postseason run, even if they're not 100 percent healthy.
Oakland's Khris Davis continues to mash the ball, and he swapped his 39th home run in Wednesday's game to take over the American League lead with 39 big flies. His homer Wednesday gives him clouts in consecutive games for the eighth time this season, and fantasy owners love when guys start racking numbers up in bunches. More importantly, he has been doing work in the average department since flipping the calendar from August. He has pieced together three straight multi-hit games, giving him a .417 average (10-for-24) with three doubles, three homers and eight RBI in six games in September with a 1.398 OPS.
Davis can be a bit of an albatross in rotisserie leagues due to his mediocre batting average and high rate of strikeouts. Despite the impressive September run he is still hitting just .241 overall while striking out a ridiculous 182 times across 502 at-bats. But oh, that power. He broke a tie with Aaron Judge of the Yankees for the AL lead, and he is two clear of Texas' Joey Gallo and Toronto's Justin Smoak, while being three clear of Kansas City's Mike Moustakas and Tampa Bay's Logan Morrison. It's even more impressive considering he plays half of his games at Oakland Coliseum, a place not exactly known as a hitter's park over the years.
The Coliseum ranks 16th in terms of Ballpark Factors, at least in terms of home runs. That ranking is likely up a few spots because of Davis and his prodigious power. That's rather mediocre overall, so it really speaks volumes about what Davis has been doing at the dish. Oakland isn't exactly a launching pad like Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, the new Yankee Stadium, Arizona's Chase Field or Colorado's Coors Field. But Davis has swatted 23 homers with 60 RBI and a .937 OPS across 257 at-bats at home, as opposed to just 16 homers in 245 at-bats on the road.
Paul Goldschmidt missed his third consecutive game due to a sore right elbow, and the injury was serious enough to require an MRI. It turns out the tests did not reveal and structural damage, which would have been a huge blow to the playoff-bound Snakes if tests showed otherwise. As such you can expect to see Goldie return to the lineup sooner rather than later. Arizona apparently didn't need him, winning a 13th consecutive game on Wednesday to complete the sweep of the first-place Dodgers. The versatile Daniel Descalso continues to hold down the fort at first base in his stead.
Like Cleveland above, Arizona is working in rare territory these days, posting a franchise-best win streak. They also have four straight series sweeps and seven wins in a row on the road to set new club records. They continue to win, even with key members on the mend, as others continue to step up and fill the void. Patrick Corbin has stepped up his pitching lately, too, posting a 7-2 record with a 2.43 ERA and .244 opponent batting average in 10 starts since the All-Star break. That's a complete turnaround after managing a 6-9 mark with a 4.71 ERA and .296 opponent average through his first 18 outings.
National League Quick Hits: Luis Castillo closed out his 2017 season with a bang. It was announced earlier that this would be the youngster's final start, as the team limits his workload. He allowed just run with four hits, no walks and 10 strikeouts over eight innings to finish 3-7 with a 3.12 ERA. … Billy Hamilton suffered a fractured thumb while laying down a bunt, and he was immediately placed on the 10-day disabled list after the game. … Matt Garza hasn't had a quality start since July 5, going 5 1/3 innings or less in nine straight outings while losing each of his past three decisions. … Jose Quintana twirled six scoreless innings, whiffing six in a quality start and no-decision. … Gerrit Cole deserved a better fate against the Cubs, allowing two hits and four walks over eight scoreless innings with eight strikeouts in a no-decision. … Gio Gonzalez picked off the Marlins again, tossing five scoreless innings to improve to 14-6. A large part of his success is thanks to the Marlins, as he is 4-0 with a 1.09 ERA across five outings against his hometown team. … Ryan Zimmerman belted his 31st homer of the season. He combined for 31 homers across 873 at-bats combined during the 2015 and 2016 seasons. … Joe Panik collected five hits, giving him 12 knocks in the three-game set in Colorado. He is the first player with 12 or more hits in a three-game series since Jerry Remy turned the trick in 1981. … Odubel Herrera was given a day off to rest despite the fact he has the longest active hitting streak in the majors at 19 games.
American League Quick Hits: Nick Delmonico tweaked his left shoulder and left the game against the Indians early, but manager Rick Renteria expects him to be fine. … Eduardo Escobar finished 3-for-5 with a triple, two runs scored and three RBI in a victory in Tampa Bay. He has three multi-hit games over his past five outings. … Elvis Andrus finished with four hits, including his 38th double and 20th home run, in a win in Atlanta. Prior to 2017, Andrus had managed just 35 homers across 1,221 major league games, but he has 20 clouts this season in 135 outings. … Doug Fister allowed just one run, four hits and three walks with a season-high nine strikeouts, winning for the second straight start and third time over the past four outings. He has lasted seven or more innings in each of the past four starts. … Whit Merrifield posted three doubles, two runs scored and three RBI in the team's rout of the Tigers at Comerica. … Alcides Escobar collected four hits to push his average to .243. He is hitting .275 with a .307 OBP since the All-Star break after batting just .226 with a .548 OPS prior. … Salvador Perez left the yard twice in Wednesday's win, giving the catcher 24 homers. He is second behind Gary Sanchez of the Yankees for homers by a catcher. … C.J. Cron stayed hot with two more hits, pushing his hitting streak to 10 games. He is 14-for-40 (.350) with four home runs, six runs scored and 15 RBI during the impressive span.