(CLEVELAND) – The Cleveland Indians used a powerful offensive surge to avoid being swept by the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday afternoon at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. winning 13-0.
Tribe slugger Mark Reynolds homered twice to lead the charge on Sunday, while Carlos Santana recorded five hits and Justin Masterson outdueled last year’s Cy Young Award winner David Price pitching seven shutout innings, only allowing two hits while striking out eight.
Here are five quick thoughts from the Indians series with the Rays:
1. Masterson encouraging again: How about this stat? Last year’s reigning Cy Young Award winners vs. Tribe right-hander Justin Masterson: 0-2. Yep. Through his first two starts the Indians ace has out-pitched both R.A. Dickey (last year’s N.L. Cy Young) and David Price (last year’s A.L. Cy Young) improving to 2-0 on the season. Masterson was solid in his first outing at the Rogers Centre, but the big right-hander dominated on Sunday at Tropicana Field going seven shutout innings, only allowing two hits while striking out eight and walking three. After wiggling out of a bases-loaded first inning jam, Masterson cruised past the Rays showing great command of his slider and dominating with his sinker. With so many question marks surrounding the starting pitching heading into this 2013 season, the two performances the Indians received from their big horse at the top of the rotation has helped put an ease to some of those concerns. Masterson had a much better spring than a year ago, now Tribe fans hope that continues to translate into the regular season.
2. Offensive pop: This is something I have not been able to put in the same sentence as Cleveland Indians the past several seasons, but this year it has certainly changed. New DH Mark Reynolds already has four home runs (two on Sunday) and he also happens to hit from the right-side of the plate…something the Indians have not had in quite some time. Couple in Reynolds with Swisher, Santana, Chisenhall and even Raburn and you begin to see why this lineup can boast some pop and change the game with one swing of the bat. Even Drew Stubbs can be added to that mix. Similar to Stubbs, Reynolds will strikeout…but these two can also change the complexion of a baseball game with one swing of the bat. With the Indians clinging to a one-run lead against last year’s reigning Cy Young Award winner, Reynolds belted a three-run homer which blew the gates wide open and gave the Tribe the boost they have been needing for quite some time. Just four innings later Reynolds added a solo-bomb.
Carlos Santana is one of a couple Indians players that will benefit from having new faces in the Tribe's lineup.
3. Familiar faces succeeding: No, I am not Nostradamus…but I did project early on in spring training that Indians players already here a year ago would benefit and potentially be recipients of bringing in new pieces offensively. There is no doubt, Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher and Mark Reynolds are already impacting this lineup by their own play, but just their presence is also helping players fans already know. To name two, Carlos Santana and Lonnie Chisenhall. Both “CSan” and “The Chiz Kid” homered on Sunday and it just showed how differently these two guys are being pitched two near the bottom of the lineup. With Santana in the 6-hole and Chisenhall in the 8-hole, both of them can simply relax and focus on their at-bats without having to feel like they are in a run-producing spot but still having men on-base. A year ago both Santana and Chisenhall were in spots in the lineup where they probably felt pressure to produce and there was nobody else in the order to protect them. That has certainly changed and it has been evident early on due to the additions the front office made.
4. Lacking consistency early: As fun as the Indians 13-0 win over the Rays was on Sunday, this club has lacked some consistency early on offensively. Check out these scores: 4-1, 3-2, 10-8, 4-0, 6-0, 13-0. Yes, it has only been six games, but it appears this improved offense is lacking some consistency early on. For the first two games in St. Petersburg the Indians were shut down by Matt Moore, Alex Cobb and a cast of relievers, only to be followed up with an impressive offensive onslaught in a 13-0 drubbing of Tampa Bay in the series-finale. 13 runs is great, but getting shutout two games prior to that in unacceptable. Until Drew Stubbs delivered an RBI-single in the second inning on Sunday the Tribe had gone scoreless for 20-straight innings. The same thing happened in Toronto; a combined seven runs the first two games following by an eight-run series-finale. Nobody will complain about this 3-3 start (see final thought below), but over the next few weeks the hope is this lineup can boast more offensive consistency.
New Indians slugger Mark Reynolds is off to a scorching start already belting four homers and driving in seven runs. The powerful right-handed hitter is hitting .300 through the first six games. AP Photo
5. Great start: Despite dropping 2-of-3 in their recent series with the Rays, the Indians were able to avoid a sweep beating last year’s Cy Young Award winner David Price and at the same time preserved a .500 opening road trip. When the Indians left spring training in Goodyear, Ariz. I felt that if they could go 3-3 through their first six games that would be a fine start to the 2013 season before returning to Progressive Field for their home opener against the New York Yankees. Unlike previous seasons, it isn’t the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox that are favored in the always-tough AL-East division. This season it appears that both the Toronto Blue Jays and Rays could be near the top of that rugged division come the end of September. Well…the Tribe just went 3-3 after six games with the ‘Jays and Rays winning the series at the Rogers Centre in Toronto; I’d say that’s a great start to what feels like it could be a fun 2013 season.
- Nick Camino