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How The Indians Have Returned To Relevance


Credit Image: cbssports.com

The Cleveland Indians have 21 games left, if you count the Detroit Tigers game that was postponed on Saturday night. The Tigers and Indians do not play again this season and do not have any mutual off days either. The only way that game gets played, is if the Indians can continue to claw their way back into the wild card race and somehow make game 162 relevant. 

Going into play on Monday, the Tribe are just 4 games behind the Texas Rangers in the loss column, The Rangers currently hold the second wild card spot in the American League. 

Credit Image: MLB.com
The Indians have been playing their best baseball since selling off veteran outfielders Brandon Moss and David Murphy at the trade deadline. The Indians pitching has ranged from quality to dominating all year long. However, a lack of clutch hitting and at times a lack of hitting period, left the Indians in the A.L. Central cellar, after the first four months of the season. 

Youngbloods


The Indians took the opportunity to give their young talent a chance to take center stage and they have responded better than could have been expected. It all starts with the Tribe's prized prospect Franciso Lindor, who has proven to be a much better hitter than most expected and seems to have jolted the Indians back to life. His energy and passion has rejuvenated a club, that appeared ready to pack it in. Along with Lindor came Giovanny Urshela, who flashes a brilliant glove at third base and has provided timely hitting even though he isn't quite Major League ready at the plate. Suddenly, the Indians are sporting a fresh faced highlight factory with the leather, on the left side of the infield.

New Veterans


GM Chris Antonetti lifted a burden off of himself, the team's payroll and what feels like cities collective back, when he was able to unload Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn to the Atlanta Braves. The team took on the bloated contract of 1st baseman, Chris Johnson from the Braves in the process. Since Johnson's arrival, he has been just what the Indians needed at the plate. Johnson's escape from Atlanta, where he was awful after signing a big contract, may have been just what he needed. Since joining the Indians, he is sporting slash line of .348/.362/.435.  

The Indians trade deadline addition that has played the biggest role in their late season surge has been Abraham Almonte. Almonte is a bit of strange case, he has a good deal of Major League experience for a 26 year old. He was signed by the Yankees in 2005 and after struggling with alcohol and addiction issues, he made his Major League debut with Seattle in 2013. He actually won the starting center fielder's job for the Mariners, going into opening day 2014. He didn't produce and was traded to the Padres where he bounced back and forth from AAA to the Majors until the trade deadline this year, when the Indians acquired him in a last minute trade for left handed reliever Marc Rzepczynski. Almonte has be spectacular for the Indians since he was called up from AAA Columbus. He has played an above average Center Field while providing the offense with a huge lift posting a slash line of .287/.345/.537 since joining the big league club. Almonte is in the best shape of his life and may be playing his way into a chance to start in Center Field for the Indians in 2016. 


The Returned

Two major contributors to the Indians poor start this season were the poor performances of Jose Ramirez and Lonnie Chisenhall. They both were so bad early on that they were sent back to AAA. However, with the trade deadline roster shake-up, they both were called back up and they have returned with a vengeance. Lonnie Chisenhall remarkably looks like he has been playing right field his entire life, making spectacular catches and gunning down base runners. Meanwhile, the Jose Ramirez that flashed late last season and won the starting Shortstop position has resurfaced.


The Indians will have to continue to win three out of every four the rest of the way to have a chance but with the Rangers and Astros playing each other seven more times and the Tribe facing the Twins seven more times, they certainly are not out of it yet. They need to keep it rolling but after hitting the .500 mark yesterday, albeit for half a day, they can be seriously considered in contention. If all goes well and the Starting Pitching can continue to be stellar, maybe the Indians will get to play Saturday's rain out versus the Tigers in a meaningful game 162. 


By: Brad Ward
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