The Indians have won three-straight series, but that streak is now in jeopardy after a 3-0 defeat to the Cincinnati Reds last night. That loss also snapped a five-game winning streak for Cleveland. Even though the winning streak is over, the Indians can still salvage their series winning streak. It has to start tonight, however, with it being a three-game series against Cincinnati. So what does the Tribe need to do to ensure their streak stays alive?
Offense, Offense, Offense
It could probably be said again and again, but three times is enough for this article. It is not a secret that the Indians’ offense has been lackluster this year, to say the least. They currently rank 29th in batting average at .206 through 31 games this season. This is not one of those stats that teams can hide from. At times this season, the offense has been unbearable to watch. In fact, they just became the 18th team in MLB history to be no-hit in two games in a single season. Yes, it took this long to mention the fact that the Indians were held to zero hits last night. The worst part is that, once again, they have been no-hit twice in just a 31-game span. That is just over 19% of their regular-season games to be played in 2021, so there is a lot of season left to turn it around. Despite the offense starting the season slowly, the Indians are still currently second in the AL Central and are only a half a game back of the White Sox. One reason because of this is Cleveland’s power. While they are second to last in batting average, they have hit 40 home runs and are in the top half of the league in walks. That is exactly what they are going to have to do against the Reds in the next two days. If they can get back to hitting home runs and getting on base without having to get hits, the Indians should be able to take care of the Reds and keep the series streak alive. Or you know, just get a hit.
What makes this series difficult is that their ace, Shane Bieber will not make an appearance in this three-game series. However, they had Zach Plesac on the mound yesterday who pitched a gem. Plesac had seven strikeouts and only allowed three hits through eight innings pitched. Up today is Aaron Civale. He currently owns a 3.20 ERA and is looking for a career-high in wins in a season. He will face Luis Castillo, who has had a down year. If Civale can pitch how Indians fans know that he can, Cleveland should be able to get some run support on Castillo. Sunday gets a little tougher going against Tyler Mahle. Sam Hentges will get his first start of the season after striking out eight and having a 1-0 record so far in 2021. The home runs have provided a spark to the Indians’ offense and those will need to come in these next two games, but the pitching really separated the Tribe in 2021. They are currently ranked eighth in the MLB with a 3.56 ERA and are tied for second in batting average allowed at .212. The Reds offense has been on fire this season, so it will be on Civale and Hentges to win the series.
Even with Plesac pitching eight innings of no-run ball, the bullpen came in and gave up three runs in the top of the ninth. That is an outlier, however, to the Indians’ season. The bullpen has been outstanding and spots a 2.68 ERA, which is good for first in the MLB. They are also tied for fourth in saves with 10, so if the Indians’ young bullpen can get back on track, they should secure any lead that they gain throughout the remainder of the series. Closing out games is one of the toughest things to do in all of sports and baseball is no different. The Reds have been a bit of a surprise team this year at .500, but it is all because of their offensive capabilities. They are in better shape playing with a DH now in interleague play, so getting all 27 outs efficiently is important. It will not be easy, but the Indians have shown that they are still a playoff-capable team despite the offensive woes. They need to come together and play two complete baseball games to bring it to four-straight series wins.