The Tribe was down and out, with Jose Ramirez in a near year-long slump, Francisco Lindor only just returning from injury, and Corey Kluber and Mike Clevinger both sitting idle on the IL with long-term ailments, from which the former has yet to return.
Well, instead of waving the white flag, Cleveland went out and changed things up, filling their most desperate need -- outfielders capable of parking a ball in the seats -- while also offloading a player who was looking to be a possible liability in Trevor Bauer. The blockbuster deal that saw the Indians acquire both Yasiel Puig and Franmil Reyes has helped morph this team into true contenders, providing pop and further depth to the lineup.
After Carlos Santana's dramatic walk-off home run on Monday, his second in as many nights, the Indians overthrew the Twins to finally take sole possession of the AL Central lead for the first time in 114 days.
And it doesn't look like they'll be slowing down any time soon.
Indians started the season 29-30.— Aaron Gleeman (@AaronGleeman) August 13, 2019
Since then they're 43-17.
That's the best record in baseball during that time.
Cleveland gained 12.0 games on Minnesota while the Twins played above .500, going 31-29.
The Tribe got out the gates at 29-30, but since then they've been a whole new ball club, winning 43 of their last 60 games.
While the Twins have stayed par for the course over the past couple of months, Cleveland has been surging. Jose Ramirez re-discovered what it means to be a baseball player and is looking more like the MVP candidate we saw most of last season and less like Cleveland's version of Chris Davis.
JoRam hit just five home runs across his first 80 games of the season, but began to heat up, clubbing nine bombs in July. He brought his season tally to 17 with a round-tripper in Cleveland's Monday night win over the Red Sox.
Jose Ramirez, March/April/May/June: 5 home runs— Zack Meisel (@ZackMeisel) August 13, 2019
Jose Ramirez, July/August: 12 home runs
Meanwhile, Lindor missing the first 20 games of the season didn't help, but he has played like his usual self since returning, slashing .300/.356/.522 with 20 home runs, 48 RBI and 18 steals, typically acting as Cleveland's leadoff hitter. He's already produced the second highest WAR on the team with 3.8, despite missing the first month of action.
Shane Bieber is the only player with a higher WAR than Lindor on the team, and the All-Star Game MVP's emergence has also been critical to the team's success. The 24-year-old has struck out an incredible 193 batters this season across 156.1 innings, logging a 12-4 record and holding a sub-1.00 WHIP.
The Astros starting rotation is ridiculous. But if anyone can keep up with them in a playoff series, it's the Indians, because Shane Bieber, Mike Clevinger and Zach Plesac have been lights out, too, ... and Kluber is coming. https://t.co/3pHRmRYkag— Doug Lesmerises (@DougLesmerises) August 12, 2019
Pairing him with Mike Clevinger has resulted in a lights out tandem at the head of the rotation, as Clev has been a stud since coming off the IL. On the year he owns 7-2 record with a 3.02 ERA and 89 strikeouts in 62.2 innings. He's been dominant while on the mound, and now that he's healthy, he's been a major contributor to the Indians' late run.
There is perhaps no greater threat in the AL than the Indians, considering the way they've been playing. If they can carry this insane hot streak into the postseason, they may be dark horses to win the World Series when it's all said and done, especially if Corey Kluber can contribute down the stretch. There's also a chance Carlos Carrasco could return as well, which could provide further inspiration for an October run.
From a team fighting to stay above even, to sitting at an impressive 72-47, 25 games above .500, the Tribe's run to the top has been nothing short of jaw-dropping, and they've fully put the league on notice with their latest walk-off win.