Indians rout Tigers to extend winning streak to 19 games

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The Indians didn’t leave any doubt that their winning streak would extend to 19 games on Monday evening against the Tigers, winning 11-0. The Tribe put its first five batters on base in the bottom of the second inning and sent them all home to take an early 5-0 lead that would prove to be more than enough run support. Starter Carlos Carrasco went six strong innings, leaving the Tigers no chance to play spoilers on this particular night.

In the second, Carlos Santana led off with a walk. Yandy Diaz singled and Yan Gomes followed up with a single of his own to bring Santana home. Greg Allen reached on a bunt single that was misplayed by starter Myles Jaye. Francisco Lindor cleared the bases with a triple to right-center to make it 4-0. With one out, Jose Ramirez lifted a sacrifice fly to center field to bring Lindor home.

Ramirez added two more runs in the fourth with a no-doubt two-run home run, his 26th round-tripper of the year. Lindor knocked in another run in the fifth with an RBI ground out. Diaz made it 9-0 in the sixth with an RBI ground out. The Indians loaded the bases with no outs in the eighth and brought home two runs on a wild pitch and a Brandon Guyer sacrifice fly to make it 11-0.

Carrasco kept the Tigers off the board, yielding seven hits and a walk while striking out nine in his six innings of work. He lowered his ERA on the season to 3.41. Those nine strikeouts brought him up to 201 on the season. The 200-strikeout club also includes teammate Corey Kluber (235). Trevor Bauer isn’t far away at 177. Since 1901, only three teams have had three pitchers accrue 200 or more strikeouts: the 2013 Tigers (Anibal Sanchez, Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander), the 1969 Astros (Larry Dierker, Don Wilson, Tom Griffin), and the 1967 Twins (Jim Kaat, Dean Chance, Dave Boswell).

Danny Salazar took over in the seventh, making his first appearance out of the bullpen since his recent demotion. He pitched two scoreless innings before making way for Zach McAllister in the ninth, who finished the game.

The Indians will go for their 20th consecutive win on Tuesday as Corey Kluber takes on the Tigers. If they win, they’ll match the 2002 Athletics’ American League record.

Nats’ success shouldn’t be about Bryce Harper

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Bryce Harper turns 27 years old today. As an early birthday present, he got to watch his former team reach the World Series for the first time in franchise history. His new team finished exactly at .500 in fourth place, missing the playoffs. These were facts that did not go unnoticed as the Nationals completed an NLCS sweep of the Cardinals at home last night.

Harper spent seven seasons with the Nationals before hitting free agency and ultimately signing with the Phillies on a 13-million, $330 million contract. The Nationals offered Harper a 10-year, $300 million contract at the end of the 2018 regular season, but about $100 million of that was deferred until he was 65 which lowered the present-day value of the offer. The Nats’ offer wasn’t even in the same ballpark, really.

Nevertheless, Nationals fans were upset that their prodigy jilted them to go to the Phillies. He was mercilessly booed whenever the Phillies played in D.C. Nats fans’ Harper jerseys were destroyed, or at least taped over.

Harper, of course, was phenomenal with the Nationals. He won the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 2012, then won the NL MVP Award several years later with an historically outstanding 1.109 OPS while leading the league with 42 homers and 118 runs scored. Overall, as a National, he had a .900 OPS. Pretty good. He was also productive in the postseason, posting an .801 OPS across 19 games, mostly against playoff teams’ best starters and best relievers. Furthermore, if the Nats had Harper this year, he would have been in right field in lieu of Adam Eaton. Harper out OPS’d Eaton by 90 points and posted 2.5 more WAR in a similar amount of playing time. The Nationals would have been even better if they had Harper this year.

The Nationals lost all four Division Series they appeared in during the Harper era. 3-2 to the Cardinals in 2012, 3-1 to the Giants in ’14, 3-2 to the Dodgers in ’16, and 3-2 to the Cubs in ’17. They finally get over the hump the first year they’re without Harper, that’s the difference, right? I saw the phrase “addition by subtraction” repeatedly last night, referring to Harper and the Nats’ subsequent success without him.

Harper, though, didn’t fork over four runs to the Cardinals in the top of the ninth inning in Game 5 in 2012. He didn’t allow the Dodgers to rally for four runs in the seventh inning of Game 5 in ’16 before ultimately losing 4-3. He didn’t use a gassed Max Scherzer in relief in 2017’s Game 5, when he allowed five of the seven Cubs he faced to reach base, leading to three runs which loomed large in a 9-8 loss. If certain rolls of the dice in those years had gone the Nationals’ way, they would have appeared in the NLCS. They might’ve even been able to win a World Series.

The Nationals saw how that looks this year. It was the opposing manager this time, Dave Roberts, who mismanaged his bullpen. Howie Kendrick then hit a tie-breaking grand slam in the 10th inning off of Joe Kelly to win the NLDS for the Nats. The playoffs are random. Sometimes a ball bounces your way, sometimes an umpire’s call goes your way, and sometimes the opposing manager makes several unforced errors to throw Game 5 in your lap.

Reaching the World Series, then thumbing your nose while sticking out your tongue at Harper feels like a guy tagging his ex-girlfriend on his new wedding photos. It’s time to move on.