1. The Cleveland Indians just did something the Cavaliers didn't do. OK, sure, the Cavs won the NBA title. But they didn't win 11 in a row like the Indians have done after their 5-3 win over the Braves that included three runs in the ninth to break a 2-2 tie. It's the longest winning streak for the Indians since the 1982 team of Andre Thornton and Toby Harrah also won 11 straight. Amazingly, none of those powerhouse teams in the late '90s ever did it, so in some regards this is the best stretch of Cleveland baseball in 34 years.
We have to start asking: Is this a good team hitting its stride or a mediocre team on a hot stretch? I definitely lean toward a good team starting to run over its competition, primarily on the strength of the best starting rotation in the American League. Corey Kluber followed up his three-hit complete-game shutout last Tuesday by allowing three hits in eight innings -- and, yes, those two games came against the Rays and Braves -- but his season numbers are still impressive: .209 average allowed, 110 K's and 23 walks in 110 2/3 innings. He's second in the AL to Marco Estrada in OBP allowed and fourth in slugging percentage allowed. With those numbers, why is his ERA at 3.50? Of 49 qualified AL starters, he's 49th in strand rate, at 62.8 percent. In fact, of the 98 qualified MLB starters, only Aaron Nola is worse.
That ERA is likely to improve -- even given that Kluber doesn't seem to pitch quite as well with runners on base -- and that means the Cleveland rotation may only get better, especially with Carlos Carrasco back off the disabled list. Given Trevor Bauer's improvement, the Indians have, what, four of the top 20 starters in the AL? Four of the top 15? Given the overall mediocre state of the other AL rotations, this is why Indians fans can dream of another big victory parade.
The offense has been better than anticipated, ranking sixth in the AL in wOBA. They've gotten some attention for their stolen bases -- they're second in the AL -- but the steals have been a little overhyped. Nobody runs much, so if you have one guy who does run like Rajai Davis (21 steals), that's going to significantly boost your team total. That said, the Indians have been good overall on the bases, ranking second to the Padres in team baserunning runs at plus-10.1 runs above average, according to FanGraphs (entering Tuesday). Compare that to division-rival Detroit at minus-8.8 runs and the Indians we're talking about added two wins in value so far.
Mostly, however, the Indians are scoring runs with depth more than anything, as Francisco Lindor, the team's best hitter so far, ranks a mere 51st in the majors in wOBA. Catcher Yan Gomes is the only obvious weak spot, but that doesn't mean they won't consider a trade, especially depending on what happens with Michael Brantley's health. If Brantley returns, they could slide Jose Ramirez over to third base in a time share with Juan Uribe. They could hedge against possible regression from Davis and Tyler Naquin and trade for another outfielder. I wouldn't discount the idea of the Indians digging into the potential Aroldis Chapman/Andrew Miller sweepstakes.
Bottom line: The Indians are absolutely legit.
2. Remember when the Orioles wanted to dump Hyun Soo Kim? Kim looked so bad in spring training the Orioles reportedly tried to sell him back to Korea. They wanted to send him down to Triple-A, but Kim had a clause in his contract giving him the right to refuse a demotion and he exercised it. So the O's reluctantly kept him and began the season with Rule 5 pick Joey Rickard in left field. Well, after another big night against the Padres, including his second home run, Kim is hitting .347/.434/.466 in over 100 plate appearances. He looks like he can hit. It looked like a signing with some good upside when it was made, and now Kim is justifying the Orioles' original assessment of him. Reminder: THIS IS WHY YOU DON'T MAKE DECISIONS BASED ON SPRING TRAINING!
3. Zack Greinke exits after two innings. On a day when Clayton Kershaw flew back to L.A. to have his sore back examined, Greinke left his start for the Diamondbacks with tightness in his left oblique. Stay tuned for updates.
4. The kids are all right. Julio Urias won his first major league game, 6-5, and got his first hit and RBI, although he did walk six Brewers. Lucas Giolito pitched four scoreless innings (one hit, two walks, one strikeout) before a rain delay knocked him out in the Nationals' 5-0 win over the Mets. Kind of fun to see the preseason's top two pitching prospects going on the same night.
Lots of firsts for the kid tonight. ¡Felicidades Julio!— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) June 29, 2016
5. Melvin Upton Jr. is the best Upton brother. When's the last time we could say that? Probably 2012, Melvin's final year with the Rays, when he out-WARed his baby brother 2.8 to 2.5. Upton is having a solid season with the Padres. He homered -- a mammoth 462-foot blast that was the longest at Petco Park since 2009 -- and then did this, his MLB-leading third home run robbery: