Ever since Terry Francona took over as manager, the Cleveland Indians have been playoff contenders.
This year has been no different, so far — even after the Indians traded their star shortstop.
Cleveland sent Francisco Lindor to the New York Mets during the offseason, yet as of Monday morning, the Indians (41-33) have actually been a half-game better than the Mets (40-33) on the year. Cleveland isn't in first place like Lindor's new team, but the Indians are just 2 1/2 games behind the AL Central-leading White Sox.
Shane Bieber leads the American League in strikeouts, showing that last season's Cy Young Award wasn't some two-month fluke. Aaron Civale leads the league with 10 wins, and José Ramirez has 16 home runs.
The question now is whether the Indians can stay close to the White Sox despite mounting injuries. Bieber, Civale and right-hander Zach Plesac are on the injured list, and in Sunday's game, outfielder Josh Naylor was taken off on a stretcher after a collision with second baseman Ernie Clement.
The Indians did send slugger Franmil Reyes on a rehab assignment this past week, and getting him back from an abdominal injury could help.
Francona, meanwhile, is closing in on some history. He's third on Cleveland's career list with 714 wins, and Mike Hargrove (721) and Lou Boudreau (728) are both within reach.
Tampa Bay Rays infielder Wander Franco made his long-awaited debut in the major leagues Tuesday night, homering and doubling against Boston. Franco was considered the top prospect in the minors.
It was fitting that Tampa Bay brought him up for such an important series. The Rays may need Franco to make a significant contribution if they're going to emerge at the top of a tough AL East. Tampa Bay took two of three from the Red Sox, and the Rays currently trail first-place Boston by a half-game.
Tampa Bay leads the American League in ERA, but Tyler Glasnow was recently diagnosed with a partially torn elbow ligament. The rest of Franco's first week wasn't great, but if he starts hitting like he did in the minors, it could be a well-timed jolt for the Rays.
Francona is trying for his 17th consecutive winning season as a manager. He was above .500 in all eight of his years with Boston and all eight so far with the Indians. Who are the only two managers who have had more than 16 straight winning seasons?
Shohei Ohtani led off the Angels' game at Tampa Bay on Friday night with a home run off the catwalk at Tropicana Field — an estimated 453 feet. It was another spectacular week for Ohtani, who also homered and had three hits in Sunday's game. On Wednesday, he lowered his ERA to 2.58 in his 11th start of the season.
LINE OF THE WEEK
Fernando Tatis Jr. hit three home runs in San Diego's 11-5 win over Arizona on Friday night. Despite missing 19 games so far, Tatis leads the National League in home runs and RBIs and is tied for the lead in stolen bases.
COMEBACK OF THE WEEK
According to Statcast, the Baltimore Orioles had a 1.9% chance to beat Toronto on Friday night when they trailed 5-1 in the bottom of the seventh. Baltimore rallied quickly, however, scoring four runs in the eighth and tying the game on a two-run double by Austin Hays. The Orioles took the lead on a bases-loaded walk in the 10th and won 6-5, snapping their 20-game road losing streak.
Joe McCarthy had a winning record in all 24 of his seasons as a manager. He skippered the Cubs, Yankees and Red Sox from 1926-50. Sparky Anderson had 17 straight winning seasons for the Reds and Tigers from 1972-88.
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