Last season as the Cleveland Indians were making their run to the postseason, there was one area on the team that seemed to step up more than others, that being their starting pitching. Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir were three big throwers in the rotation who made an impact as the team clinched a playoff spot for the first time since 2007.
This season, Jimenez and Kazmir have moved on, but again the club seems to have a solid starting five that while it took a while to solidify, the team can now count on. With the addition of Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer and the sudden dominance of Corey Kluber, it will be the starters who the club needs to be good to reach the playoffs.
Tomlin has been very good since coming up from Triple-A Columbus, and Saturday was good against the Texas Rangers, going eight innings allowing three runs on seven hits in an 8-3 win. Tomlin’s ERA is just 3.12, and in winning four of six starts, opposing batters are hitting just .214 against him. He’s as good as he ever was before going down with Tommy John surgery two years ago.
Bauer has tons of upside, and while he’s 1-2 with an ERA over four, the team is willing to give him time and starts at the major-league level to start to see the potential that they saw when they traded for him. Bauer has struck out 35 batters in just five starts, a solid seven Ks per outing. Don’t count Bauer out as a player that will have an impact on the Indians the last three months of the season.
The other three pitchers in the rotation, Masterson, Kluber and whoever sits in the spot that was occupied by Zach McAllister, will also have to make sure they are at the top of their game for the team to repeat as a playoff club. At home, the pitching has been dominant, as the club has won nine straight at Progressive Field, led by great starts by the rotation.
The team will have time to figure out what to do with McAllister, who started 3-0 but was awful before finally going down with a back injury. They have T.J. House starting for now, but it will be interesting to see if there’s a market for the Indians in July for a starting pitcher.
For now, the rotation is getting better, which is a huge sign for the team as they are back to .500 at 31-31 and suddenly challenging the Detroit Tigers for the top spot in the AL Central. If the rotation can stay as good as it’s been the last few weeks, this team is set to be a contender the final three and a half months of the 2014 season.
Matt Loede has covered the Cleveland Indians for 20 years for National Networks like AP Radio, Metro Networks and other local and national stations. Follow him on twitter @mattloede.