Today we’ll talk about two division leaders, one of which leads their division by almost 20 games.
Cleveland Indians (72-47, T-1st AL Central)
The Cleveland Indians are putting together a great stretch as of recent. 8-2 in their last ten games, the Tribe made a big move at the deadline shipping Trevor Bauer to the southern part of the state in Cincinnati. In return, the Indians were able to bring in Yasiel Puig as well as Franmil Reyes from the Padres as part of a three-team deal. Although the Tribe lost Bauer, they were able to get two big pieces in Puig and Reyes.
Puig is putting together a pretty good year thus far. While his OBP is not great standing at .313, his power has been there slugging 23 homers on the year. Franmil Reyes on the other hand is having a breakout season. Hitting just .241, he has 27 round trippers on the year with a slugging percentage of .499. With the departure of Bauer and the talent in the Cleveland rotation, I think they got a great return.
The Tribe took to the Twin Cities on Thursday for a four-game series against the, at the time division leaders, Minnesota Twins. The talented Mike Clevinger took the mound for Cleveland on Thursday. He continued his strong season pitching seven frames while allowing one run and punching out nine. Jose Ramirez, who has been hot of late after an incredibly slow first half of the season, continued his strong second half performance going 2-3 with 3 RBI’s and a run scored. Jason Kipnis went 2-4 on the evening driving in two runs. Kyle Gibson struggles on the mound for the Twins. He gave up five earned while walking six over 4.1 innings. Tyler Naquin’s solo homer in the top of the 9th capped off the game as the Tribe took game one, 7-5.
Shane Bieber took the bump for game two coming off a very impressive stretch. With a WHIP of 1.00 on the season, he may be the Indians ace for the future. His 193 strikeouts over 156.1 IP also stick out as one of the more impressive k/9 ratios in the league. On Friday night Bieber continued his trend on the season striking out 11 over seven innings. He did allow two runs on seven hits, but his start was nothing short of efficient.
He got plenty of run support as the Tribe plated six runs on the night on 14 hits. Everyone scored a hit in the Indians lineup except for Jason Kipnis. Six different players registered an RBI on the evening, including Jose Ramirez who went 3-4 with two runs scored. Yasiel Puig was effective in the clean-up spot going 3-5 with an RBI and a run scored. The Tribe were able to walk to a win, 6-2.
Jake Odorizzi shut down the Cleveland offense on Saturday pitching 5.2 innings and striking out six, all without giving up a run. The only run from Cleveland on the night came off the bat of Yasiel Puig, who crushed a ball to the upper deck in left field for a solo homer. For the Twins, Max Kepler and Marwin Gonzalez both hit solo homers off of Adam Plutko. Luis Arraez brought in a run on an RBI triple while CJ Cron drove in a run on a single. Taylor Rogers would complete the two-out save as the Twins took game three 4-1.
Aaron Civale started his third game of the season for the Indians on Sunday as they looked to take three out of four from the Twins and secure a tie for first place in the division. After having two very productive starts on the season before this, he would pitch six innings while punching out five and giving up just one earned. His counterpart, Jose Berrios, pitched decent as well pitching six frames while allowing three runs. Greg Allen got the offense started in the first inning for the Indians as he poked a solo homer. Yasiel Puig drove in a run on his RBI double in the first frame as well.
For the Twins, Luis Arraez picked up two RBI’s in the afternoon with a two-hit performance. The game would be tied after nine frames. In the top of the 10th, Carlos Santana stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded and hit a go-ahead grand slam to seal the victory for the Indians.
The Indians now share the division lead with the Twins as they face the Boston Red Sox at home Monday night. Zach Plesac (6-3, 3.13 ERA) seeks to continue his sharp rookie season as he faces Eduardo Rodriguez (13-5, 4.17 ERA) and the underwhelming Red Sox for a three-game series.
Los Angeles Dodgers (70-41, 1st Place NL West, 19 Game Lead)
The Dodgers have all but secured the NL West. With the D-Backs being the second-place team and 19 games back, I do not see them having even a slim chance at taking the division. LA has been one of the best, if not THE best team in baseball this entire year. Flooded with young talent and depth, this team is the favorite to make it to the World Series on the NL side. After making the World Series the past two seasons only to lose both times, things may be different this year out on the West Coast.
Los Angeles has one of the best pitching staffs in the league that consists of Hyun-Jin Ryu, Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler. All with ERA’s under 3.10, this staff is backed by an incredible batting order as well. MVP candidate Cody Bellinger has been having a career year with his 1.077 OPS and 38 homers. Max Muncy, Justin Turner, and Alex Verdugo are all having productive seasons as well filling out the top of the order for LA.
The Dodgers hosted the D-Backs over the weekend for a divisional matchup. The Dodgers were limited to just two hits on Friday as Robbie Ray and the Arizona bullpen dominated. Walker Buehler pitched great in his six innings of work as he struck out eight and didn’t allow a run. LA had the 2-0 lead going into the 9th inning after RBI’s from AJ Pollock and Will Smith in the 3rd inning. Carson Kelly drilled a game-tying two-run homer off of Kenley Jansen in the 9th inning to send the game to extras. Carson Kelly stepped up to the plate again in the 11th inning and this time hit a go-ahead homer to seal the victory for the D-Backs, 3-2.
Kenta Maeda got the nod for the Dodgers on Saturday. He’s been having a shaky season thus far, but when he’s pitching well, he’s incredibly hard to get a hit off of. In his seven innings of work he struck out six while surrendering just three hits. Both offenses were limited to just 10 total hits on the evening, six of which came from the Dodgers. Max Muncy kicked off the scoring in the 2nd inning with a solo homer to give LA the 1-0 lead. Kenta Maeda backed himself up with an RBI sacrifice squeeze in the fourth inning. The Dodgers would go on to win the game and blank the Diamondbacks, 4-0.
Game three on Sunday provided a great show on behalf of the Dodgers. Hyun Jin Ryu was outstanding. He continued his Cy Young campaign with seven shutout innings and four k’s. The Dodgers launched four homers on the afternoon, including two from Justin Turner. He would finish the afternoon 2-4 with three RBI’s and two runs scored. Cody Bellinger also collected two hits afternoon including a solo homer in the first inning, in which LA plated three runs. Will Smith also hit a long-ball in two-run form, as part of his three-RBI evening. The Dodgers pen would allow three runs after Ryu was pulled, but the Dodgers would win with ease, 9-3.
The Dodgers will travel to the East Coast and take on the Miami Marlins on Tuesday. Clayton Kershaw (11-2, 2.77 ERA) is slated to pitch against Jordan Yamamoto (4-3, 4.17 ERA).
Waiver Wire Targets
Aaron Civale, Cleveland Indians (16.8% owned/ESPN)
I said last week that if Aaron Civale pitched well against the Twins then you should pick him up. Well the man had a stellar outing against Minnesota as I mentioned before. In his three starts on the season, he’s pitches 18 innings while striking out as many batters. More importantly, he’s given up just two runs in his three starts while allowing just nine total hits. He has a 1.00 ERA and a 0.72 WHIP. He’s going to face the Yankees on Friday, but I think it’s a safe bet to plug him into your lineup.
Aristides Aquino, Cincinnati Reds (52% owned/ESPN)
Aquino hit seven homers in his first ten games since being called up, including a three-homer game against the Cubs this weekend. In his first 10 games he has hit seven homers while driving in 14 runs. He is also hitting .452 with ten runs scored. While he’s already claimed in half of ESPN’s fantasy baseball leagues, make sure to pick him up as he begins his career on a hot streak.
Retired Little League baseball utility player.