The Indians started the second half of the season with an uphill battle to try to win the American League Central Division. They gained ground on the first-place Twins, and knocked six games off Minnesota's lead in the weeks leading into the break. As of Wednesday, the Indians trailed by five games. The two teams will meet 10 more times this season.
WKSU sports commentator Terry Pluto lists three key players that the Indians need to play well to be able to catch the Twins.
1. Third baseman Jose Ramirez
“He’s showing a little life, but when is this guy going to go back to playing at least close to a guy that was an MVP candidate? His defense has gotten better, and he has continued to steal bases. But the bat just hasn’t been there.” As of Wednesday, Ramirez's batting average was .226.
2. Second baseman Jason Kipnis
"He’s hitting a little better but hovering around .240. Kipnis and Ramirez are guys that used to be All-Stars and are not 35-years-old and are not dealing with a serious injury."
3. First baseman Carlos Santana
“[Santana's] having the best year of his career at age 33. So he has to remain hot and hitting home runs and hitting close to .300.”
Pitching and catching
Another highlight for the Indians has been catcher Roberto Perez.
“He’s had 16 homers. I thought he could play 10 years and not do that,” Pluto said.
Pluto said the team needs someone from the minors to get hot, like Bobby Bradley.
“They brought him up, and he’s struggled so far,” he said. On Tuesday, the Indians optioned Bradley back to AAA Columbus to make room for pitcher Zach Plesac.
“They also have to really rely on their pitching to be great,” Pluto said. And that centers on All-Star MVP Shane Bieber.
“When they lost the first two games to the Twins (after the All-Star break), the guy that came out and stopped that was Bieber. With Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco out with injuries and Mike Clevinger coming back from an injury, Bieber is the best player on the staff. It’s not Trevor Bauer.”
As for Bauer, Pluto believes the team will trade him before the deadline at the end of the month.
“They’ll trade him for some young players, one of whom will be able to help them now,” he said.
Pluto also said he thinks the Indians can catch the Twins, if they continue to play well.
“I have a hard time believing the Twins are this good. No one expected it,” he said.