After beating Atlanta 8-3 on Monday night, the Cleveland Indians (45-30) have now won 10 straight games – a streak that started the day after the Cavaliers won Game 6 of the NBA Finals.
What is going in Cleveland right now?
“Well, I think there’s a couple things here,” Fox Sports analyst Kevin Burkhardt said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “The Indians have arguably the best pitching staff in the major leagues. Starters 1 through 5 have just been outstanding – I mean, outstanding, especially now that Trevor Bauer has kind of come into his own and he’s had a great June since being reinserted in the rotation. So that’s No. 1.
“No. 2, Terry Francona has done a masterful job,” Burkhardt continued. “The Indians, for 95 percent of this year, have been without their best player. Michael Brantley has been out. He only came back for a cup of coffee. He’s been out the whole year, don’t know when he’s coming back, and if he does, don’t know if he’s going to be effective or not – and for a team that isn’t loaded top to bottom with unbelievable offensive players, that’s a big deal.”
In Brantley’s absence, the Indians have gotten huge lifts from Francisco Lindor and Tyler Naquin, who are hitting .311 and .322, respectively. Lindor is also fourth on the team in RBIs (39) behind Mike Napoli (51), Jason Kipnis (41) and Carlos Santana (40).
“They’ve gotten a tremendous spark from Lindor,” Burkhardt said. “He’s awesome. He’s a star. He’s an absolute star. So they’ve gotten that, and I think Terry Francona has really been masterful at working lineups and rotating guys and platooning guys and getting things out of guys like Tyler Naquin and people like that. People around baseball are like, ‘Who?’ But Terry has done a good job of finding time for these guys, and they’re delivering. So I think it’s been a good combination for the Indians.”
The Indians – thanks to Bauer, Danny Salazar, Josh Tomlin and Corey Kluber, among others – have allowed the fewest runs in the American League. Still, they’ll need more offensively if they want to be a true threat to win the World Series.
“I think in the grand scheme of things, you’d love to see them go and get another bat or go and get a big bat to make them more of a threat,” Burkhardt said. “But with their pitching, they’re like the Mets a lot last year in that way. One through 5, you don’t get a break, they’ve been dominant and that’s why they’ve built themselves a five-game lead (in the AL Central).”