Covering the Bases: Game 160

bauerkcSome notes and quotes from Saturday’s 6-3 win over the Royals.

FIRST: There was a typo on the clubhouse video board that displayed the starting lineups for the Indians’ game against the Royals on Saturday.

The date was listed as Sept. 31.

Perhaps that was a bit fitting, considering Kansas City won’t be playing “October” baseball this year. Cleveland now wears the American League Central crown and is planning for a Division Series clash with the Red Sox, beginning Thursday.

But first, let me take you through what’s on the line Sunday.

Through Saturday’s action, Cleveland (93-67) has a half-game lead on Boston (93-68). That means, if the postseason started today, the Indians would open the ALDS on Thursday at Progressive Field. But, guess what? The playoffs don’t start today! There’s one more day of regular-season baseball, and maybe two for the Indians.

As you may recall, Cleveland’s game against the Tigers was postponed by rain on Thursday. With the Indians fighting for home-field in their ALDS pairing with Boston, and Detroit clinging to Wild Card hope, a makeup game may be needed on Monday. If that game impacts the Indians or Tigers in any way, it will be played. So…

Here’s what’s at stake on Sunday for Cleveland:

  • If the Indians win and the Red Sox lose, Cleveland will have a 1.5-game lead. That would clinch home-field for the Indians in the ALDS. That would make Monday’s game unnecessary for the Tribe.
  • If the Indians win and the Red Sox win, or the Indians lose and the Red Sox lose, that would preserve the half-game lead for Cleveland. Under that scenario, the Monday game is necessary for the Indians, who would need to beat Detroit to end with a one-game lead on Boston. If Cleveland loses in Detroit, ending in a tie with Boston, the Red Sox have the tiebreaker and would open at Fenway Park.
  • If the Indians lose on Sunday and the Red Sox win, Boston would move a half-game ahead again, and Monday’s game wouldn’t be needed for the Tribe.

Even if Monday’s game isn’t needed for the Indians, it may be needed for the Tigers (86-74). The Orioles and Blue Jays are each 88-73, tied atop the AL Wild Card standings. With a loss Saturday, Detroit is now 1.5 back of both teams. So…

Here’s what’s at stake on Sunday for Detroit:

  • If Detroit loses on Sunday, it is eliminated from the postseason picture.
  • If Detroit wins, but both the Orioles and Blue Jays also win, the Tigers are eliminated from the postseason picture.
  • If Detroit wins, and Toronto and Baltimore both lose, or one of Baltimore or Toronto lose, then the Tigers would move a half-game back of the second Wild Card spot. That would make Monday’s game necessary for Detroit, because a win over the Indians would pull the Tigers even with the second Wild Card team. That would initiate a tiebreaker game scenario before the AL Wild Card Game.

Got all that? Let’s just say I’ve got hotels booked for Wednesday through Tuesday in Boston. Nothing is settled, and it may still not be settled when the smoke clears on Sunday’s games. So, buckle up and stay tuned.

SECOND: Trevor Bauer began this season in the bullpen. Now, the right-hander will be starting for Cleveland in its first postseason game since 2013. That’s how we all predicted the storyline would play out, right?

After the righty’s six-inning performance against the Royals, Indians manager Terry Francona delivered the good news: Bauer will start Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday. Francona’s timing needs a little work, though.

“When he came out of the game,” Francona said, “I told him why I was taking him out, because he was going to start Game 1. But, he was kind of in the middle of beating up the dugout.”

Francona smiled.

“So much for that feel-good moment,” he quipped.

Bauer was still fuming over the sixth inning, when he allowed a couple extra-base hits and a pair of runs to let the Royals back into the game. Overall, though, it was a solid showing from the right-hander. He was charged with three runs on six hits and ended with nine strikeouts against two walks. The first run he allowed came via three singles — one off his glove and two of the seeing-eye variety.

“I thought again I threw the ball better than the results show,” Bauer said. “So, I guess at some point, things will start going my way and the results will match how I pitch. Hopefully, that’s next outing.”

Going with Bauer for Game 1 was probably the right move for Cleveland. Had Kluber ended his Cy Young-caliber campaign healthy and on a high note, the ace would — without question — be the Game 1 starter. But, he didn’t. Kluber left his Monday start after four innings due to a mild quadriceps strain.

With Cleveland using a three-man rotation for the DS round, the Game 1 starter would be required to pitch on three-days’ rest for Game 4, if necessary. As detailed on Friday on Indians, Bauer is not only willing to tackle that possibility, but looks to be better situated to handle it right now. Kluber is coming off a injury, albeit a minor one, and this would put him on a normal routine for Game 2 and Game 5, if needed.

Kluber can now work off the mound Sunday, and again Tuesday, to prepare at a good pace for Game 2.

“Klubes really wanted to pitch Thursday,” Francona said. “We’ve been talking about it for three or four days. I just kind of overruled him. I think, in fact, I know it’s the right thing for everybody. I didn’t think it was fair to Kluber to have him sit for 10 days and then pitch two games in four days. He certainly wanted to. And it’s not just me. Kind of [after] talking to everybody, I kind of took it out of his hands. So, now he can prepare for Game 2 and he doesn’t have the anxiety of worrying about rushing.”

Here would be the probable pitchers:

Game 1 (Thursday): Bauer
Game 2 (Friday): Kluber
Game 3 (Oct. 9): Josh Tomlin
Game 4 (Oct. 10): Bauer
Game 5 (Oct. 12): Kluber

THIRD: When Rajai Davis draws a walk, he wants to make sure the pitcher knows he just made a mistake. There have been times where Davis almost does a bat flip on a free pass. In the eighth on Saturday, he went with the dramatic bat drop.

After lefty Matt Strahm missed inside, Davis took the pitch and let the bat drop from his hands about the same time the baseball popped into the catcher’s glove. The Indians outfielder was removing his elbow protector before Drew Butera even had a chance to grab the ball from his mitt.

When that happens, the scoreboard might as well put in big letters: “Rajai’s going to steal a base now.”

“That’s kind of why I [pimp it] when I walk, when I do walk,” Davis said with a grin. “Because everybody knows what’s coming. Might as well let everybody know, ‘Here it comes.'”

For the 43rd time this season, Davis pulled off a successful steal. He swiped second With Coco Crisp batting, and then scored when Royals second baseman Whit Merrifield bobbled a grounder from Abe Almonte. That gave the Tribe a 4-3 lead that it would not relinquish.

“Raj can change the game,” Francona said. “That’s a situation where they know he’s running, but he still has the ability [to pull it off]. We don’t even have Coco bunting, because we think he can steal it. That doesn’t happen very often. He’s just that good a base stealer.”

Davis is a big reason behind Cleveland being the best baserunning team in the American League this season.

The Indians rank first in BsR (17.1), stolen bases (134), steals of second (104) and steals of third (29). And, entering Saturday, they were first in extra-bases taken rate (45%), bases taken (182) and stolen base success rate (81%). Cleveland’s run-scoring rate of 32% was second to only Boston (34%).

Davis leads the AL in steals and BsR (10.0).

“When I get on base,” Davis said, “I just kind of feel like I’m at home.”

HOME: Rookie Mike Clevinger will not be in the ALDS rotation, but the right-hander looks like a sure bet to be in the postseason bullpen.

In the seventh inning on Saturday, Francona found a great spot to give Clevinger a solid audition, too. With one out, Kansas City put runners on first and second base against Jeff Manship. At that point, Francona called upon Clevinger. He induced a fielder’s choice groundout and then recorded a strikeout to escape the game, preserving a 3-3 tie.

“That’s exactly why we put him in. We wanted to see,” Francona said. “Just because a guy gives up runs maybe as a starter doesn’t mean [he can’t have success]. I don’t think you put him in the penalty box, if you think he can help you somewhere. That’s exactly whey we pitched him and he did a really good job.”

Oh, and closer Cody Allen made Butera look foolish…

Stay tuned for more…


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