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The Indians defeated the Braves on Wednesday, wrapping up a sweep to maintain their six-game lead in the AL Central over the Royals. That victory was also the 12th in a row for Cleveland, who suddenly looks great in a way that the other division leaders, the Rangers and Orioles, do not. Texas and Baltimore are good teams and worthy leaders, of course, but the Rangers have had a whole lot of luck in one-run games that overstate their greatness. The O’s have many of the same issues as the Red Sox and Blue Jays — they just happen to be the one thriving in the division at the moment.
The Indians, though, are 12-11 in one-run games, so there’s no weird inflation there, and have a run differential of +91 that’s based both on a solid offense and an incredible pitching staff. That lineup isn’t perfect — Yan Gomes is having a miserable season, Juan Uribe isn’t helping at the plate or at third, and Mike Napoli has been a league-average hitter at first — but it’s certainly good enough in conjunction with the league’s top rotation. The worst ERA+ among Indians’ starters is 132, and that’s from their ace, Corey Kluber. Who, by the way, dropped his ERA from 4.15 to 3.50 during June, so he’s starting to feel it, too.
Will the Indians finish the season as the AL’s best? There’s far too much baseball left to know that for sure, but they might have a better at shot at the claim than the Rangers or Orioles simply by being the more complete team. The offense is weak in comparison, sure, but Michael Brantley will be back eventually now that we know he’s only dealing with biceps tendinitis and not a shoulder injury, and they don’t need any of what everyone else will be looking for this deadline: pitching. Even without a healthy Brantley or an upgrade at the hot corner, the Indians could be well on their way to a division title.
- Don’t let all that make you think we’re underrating the Orioles, however: they just tied MLB’s home run record for June, and can take it for themselves with one more dinger on Thursday.
- How dumb should the success of the Indians, O’s, and Rangers make Grant Brisbee feel? Hey, that’s his article tagline, not mine.
- The Sonoma Stompers, professional baseball team and subject of a recent book by Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller, made a historic move by signing two women to play for them.
- Game 3 of the College World Series was postponed due to the weather conditions, but the decisive game will be played on Thursday afternoon.
- When will the Andrew Benintendi era begin in Boston? He’s hit .317/.375/.545 with just 12 strikeouts in June after a promotion to Double-A.
- The Indians do have one weak spot, and it’s their bullpen. The rotation has helped them gloss over that, but the Diamondbacks could help even more if the two were to make a swap this deadline.
- Congress has proposed a law that is 100 percent BS in order to "save our national pastime."
- The Angels believe they can still contend in 2016. Halos Heaven doesn’t seem too convinced.
- The Giants are lucky, unlucky, or historically great. Somewhere-ish in there.