CLEVELAND -- Heading into tonight’s second-half opener against the Oakland Athletics at the Oakland Alameda Coliseum, the Cleveland Indians maintain a 2.5-game lead over the Minnesota Twins and three-game edge over the Kansas City Royals in the American League Central Division standings.
In order to increase that advantage and clinch the Central Division Championship for the second consecutive year, here are four players the Indians (47-40) will need to step up over the second half of the 2017 regular season.
Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor was named an American League All-Star for the second consecutive season, but at times, the 2017 regular season has been a struggle for the reigning AL Gold Glove Award winner.
Through 85 games this season for the reigning AL champions, Lindor had 88 hits, including 41 for extra bases (25 doubles, two triples, 14 home runs), in 349 at-bats with 49 runs scored, 43 driven in and 30 walks against 52 strikeouts.
The .252 batting average, .312 on-base percentage and .768 on-base-plus-slugging percentage are one pace to be the lowest of his three-year career with the Indians.
In 84 games this season, Indians first baseman Carlos Santana had 76 hits with 49 runs scored, 10 home runs and 47 runs batted in. However, Santana is batting just .238, and his on-base percentage (.340) is at a career low.
Although Santana is on base to have more doubles, at-bats, hits and RBI than he did in 2016, he has only one-third as many home runs (10) as he did during the 2016 season (career-best 34 round-trippers).
Prior to the start of spring training in February, Indians manager Terry Francona named Yan Gomes the starting catcher despite the fact that he was coming off of an injury-plagued 2016 season, where Roberto Perez returned early from his own health issues to lead a patchwork pitching staff throughout the playoffs.
Gomes hit just .222 with 42 hits in 189 at-bats over 60 games during the first half of the season. Gomes has 17 extra-base hits (12 doubles, five home runs), but just 21 RBI and 55 strikeouts against 22 free passes.
Indians starter Josh Tomlin struggled his way through the first half of the 2017 regular season, but in his outing against the San Diego Padres at Progressive Field on July 6, the veteran right-hander found something within his game.
Along with 14 hits, including seven for extra bases (three doubles, one triple and three home runs) from the offense, Tomlin went seven strong innings in the 11-2 victory over the Padres, which helped the Indians avoid a second three-game sweep at Progressive Field in the last two weeks.
In 17 starts over the first half of the year, Tomlin registered a 5-9 record with a 5.90 earned run average after allowing 121 hits and 63 runs, 61 of which were earned, in 93.0 innings of work. Despite striking out 70 hitters against only 11 walks, Tomlin gave up 17 home runs.
Tomin’s ERA, home runs, hits, runs and earned runs allowed are the highest of anyone in the Indians’ starting rotation.
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