By Bob Hurst
Cleveland Indians’ closer Chris Perez was right: No one saw this coming.
The Indians were in first place in the American League Central to begin the week after winning their sixth straight game, improving baseball’s best record to 19-8. They had won 13 consecutive home games after getting blown out in their first two by a combined 23-13 to the Chicago White Sox.
Cleveland is 13-2 at home for the first time since 1941.
“I don’t think anybody could see this coming,” Perez said after Sunday’s win over Detroit to complete a three-game sweep. “Everything is coming together. This is a lot of fun.”
Perez, who has seven saves as the team’s closer, is part of a pitching staff that has exceeded expectations. The Indians are ninth in the majors with a 3.48 ERA. Justin Masterson is 5-0 with a 2.25 ERA and Josh Tomlin is 4-0 with a 2.45 ERA.
In 25 games through Sunday, Cleveland’s starters went 13-3 with a 2.92 ERA. They have stayed in the game at least six innings in 21 of 27 games and seven innings in 12 games.
“They’re a year older and wiser and better, and they’re showing it,” second-year pitching coach Tim Belcher said. “The other thing that’s happened too is we’ve played much better defense on the infield and we’ve probably scored a few more runs in April than we did a year ago, so that helps.”
The Indians rank third in runs in the major leagues with 146. They also are tied for third in batting with a .272 average and are fourth in home runs with 34.
Travis Hafner leads the team with a .342 average while Orlando Cabrera and Asdrubal Cabrera top the club with 17 RBIs.
Cleveland went into this week’s road trip leading Kansas City by 4 ½ games.
“Winning breeds confidence and these kids right now are feeling pretty good,” Indians manager Manny Acta said.
The Indians are currently on a six-game road trip to play the Oakland A’s and the Los Angeles Angels.
“We’ll try to take some home cooking on the road,” Acta said.
Ethier stays hot: During Andre Ethier’s hitting streak, which was extended to 28 games on Monday night, a little luck hasn’t hurt. In Sunday’s loss to San Diego, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ right-fielder reached on a single when his hit went off of Padres’ first baseman Brad Hawpe’s glove. Hawpe tried to backhand it behind the bag.
Then on Monday, Ethier hit a deep ground ball to short, but the Chicago Cubs’ Starlin Castro was unable to make a play on it. That pulled Ethier to within three hits of tying the franchise record set by Willie Davis, when he hit in 31 consecutive games in 1969.
It also put him halfway to tying the major league record of 56 set by Joe DiMaggio in 1941.
“Only halfway? It’s nothing to get too caught up in or excited about right now,” Ethier said after the Dodgers 5-2 win over the Cubs. “There’s still a long way to go. I’m more happy about (Clayton) Kershaw getting back on track and us bouncing back after two tough losses to San Diego.”
Ethier has already moved into second place on the Dodgers all-time longest hitting streak list. He recently passed Paul Lo Duca, who hit in 25 straight in 2003 and Steve Sax, who also hit in 25 straight in 1986. Davis also had a 25-game hitting streak in 1971.
During his streak (through Monday), Ethier hit .393 with three home runs and 17 RBIs while the Dodgers went 13-15.
“It’s neat to be a part of this and keep it going,” Ethier said. “But I’m not going up there every at-bat just to extend the streak.”
StatsWatch: Here are the best teams with runners in scoring position –
- Braves – .332 average.
- Cardinals – .315 avg.; 125 runs.
- Indians – .319 avg.; 105 runs.
- Rangers – .317 avg.; 104 runs.
- Royals – 113 runs.
- Astros – .300 avg.
- Reds – 104 runs.