Tribe Notes – Carrasco's big night, Mercado and Puig's hot streak and Ramírez's potential return

The Indians are in the hunt going into the final week of the season

James Rapien
September 23, 2019 - 12:39 am
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CLEVELAND, OH – The Indians beat the Phillies on Sunday night to move into a tie with Tampa Bay for the second American League wild card spot.

They’ve dealt with plenty of adversity this season with injuries and trades, but they’re right where they hoped to be going into the final week of the season: in the playoff hunt. 

“We’re playing meaningful baseball games at the end of September for a chance to get to the postseason. If we can’t enjoy that, then we’re not in the right business,” Indians President Chris Antonetti said on Saturday.

With Sunday’s victory, the 2019 Indians have more wins (92) than the 2018 team (91). It’s hard to believe that’s the case. An offseason of salary cutting and a youth movement at multiple positions usually means a team is going to take a step back in the win department. This organization has found a way to overcome its’ roster flaws to put together a great season.

If they don't make it to the playoffs, no one will talk about how much this team overcame to win 90+ games for a fourth straight season. This team won't be discussed a decade from now. The Indians have a clubhouse full of team-oriented guys, who have done whatever it takes to win.

What Carlos Carrasco did on Sunday night is just one of the many examples of the team-first mentality the Indians have had all season long. Carrasco had made at least 25 starts in each of the last four seasons prior to 2019.

The 32-year-old was diagnosed with leukemia in June. He could’ve shut it down for the season. He didn’t. Instead, he went through treatments and continued to workout. Carrasco threw when he was cleared and made it known that he wanted to play again this season.

He was able to accomplish his goal and return to the big leagues earlier this month. He wouldn’t start like he had in recent seasons. Instead, he would be a weapon Terry Francona could call upon in critical moments.

Carrasco came through on Sunday night in a sequence that could’ve changed the outcome of the game.

The Phillies had runners at first and third with one out in the fifth inning and the game tied 1-1. Carrasco entered the game to face All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto. On the fifth pitch of the at-bat, Realmuto sent a bouncer to shortstop that Francisco Lindor fielded and flipped to Mike Freeman at second. Freeman’s relay throw got Realmuto at first for an inning-ending double play.

“To come in at that point in the game and get that double play, and then to go two-plus (innings), that was the hope, but that’s a big ask,” Francona said. “He did a great job.”

Carrasco allowed one hit in 2⅔ scoreless innings, finishing with four strikeouts. He looked like the weapon the Indians hoped he would become when they activated him earlier this month.

“You see his velocity creep back up,” Francona said. “He’s got both his breaking ball and change-up that he can go to. That was the idea. He’s done a really good job of that.”

Help is on the Way

José Ramírez went through an extensive workout on Saturday. Everything checked out well and the Indians are hopeful that he’ll be in the lineup on Tuesday against Chicago.

“He’s doing good,” manager Terry Francona said on Sunday. “He’ll hit in the cage today [Sunday>. I’m not sure if he’ll take an off day tomorrow like the other guys or maybe come in and do something. The hope is – and again, it’s not in stone – that he plays on Tuesday. I think it’s realistic.”

Ramírez broke the hamate bone in his right hand on Aug. 24. The 27-year-old posted a .321/.372/.705 slash line with six home runs and 20 RBI in the month of August (22 games) prior to his injury.

Even if the two-time All-Star isn't at 100 percent, he'll likely be an upgrade from rookie Yu Chang or journeyman Ryan Flaherty – both players have filled in at third base since Ramírez's injury. 

The Rookie and the Vet

Oscar Mercado and Yasiel Puig have been crucial to the Indians’ success in the month of September. Mercado is hitting .325 with four home runs and 16 RBI. His 3-run homer on Sunday night broke a 1-1 tie and gave the Indians the momentum they needed to get the win.

“That’s what’s made it so much fun, this journey, is guys like him that haven’t been through it before yet are making huge contributions to what we’re doing,” Francona said. “That makes it more fun, more fulfilling.”

When the Indians traded for Puig in July, they hoped he would be able to add some juice to a lineup that desperately needed it. Puig is hitting .366 with six doubles and 11 RBI in the month of September.

“He’s been heating up,” Francona said. “He’s gotten some real big hits and they haven’t just been singles.”

Puig’s bases-clearing double off the wall put the game out of reach on Sunday night. He’s been dealing with various ailments, but always finds his way onto the field.

The Indians’ lineup has the potential to be scary with Ramírez’s return imminent, as long as Mercado and Puig can continue to have success at the plate.