Last Season Look-Back

[During the offseason, The Inside Pitch will provide a month-by-month look-back at the historic 2013 season. Beginning with a review of April this October, fans can relive each month, including the playoffs, leading up to Opening Day of the 2014 campaign.]

August in Review

IMG_8976 EN PHOTO JOE TERRITO

Down the season’s stretch drive, the Indianapolis Indians found themselves locked in a three-way battle atop the International League’s West Division during the final full month of the campaign. And, true to form of the entirety of the year, the Tribe adapted to the an influx of personnel changes that included sluggers Andrew Lambo and Tony Sanchez, and pitching ace Kris Johnson.

With just 31 games remaining in the year, Indianapolis and the Victory Field faithful kept their eyes on the calendar as the Tribe chipped away at its Magic Number to clinch its second straight division title and playoff berth.

As the dust settled for Manager Dean Treanor and his resilient Indians squad, August proved to be a month for the ages for the historic Indianapolis franchise.

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To help shoulder the load in August’s playoff hunt, the Tribe relied on much-needed reinforcements who joined/rejoined the roster during the month. From infielder Robert Andino to now-top pitching prospect Jameson Taillon, and even Pirates-Indians swingman Brandon Cumpton, the Indians enjoyed standout individual efforts throughout the season’s final full month –

Beginning with the recently acquired Andino.

After he was picked up from the Seattle organization (for a player to be named later) and assigned to the Indians, the slugging Andino immediately made himself at home with Indianapolis by notching the team’s first 10-game hitting streak of the season. From Aug. 6-17, the former Mariner knocked 17 total hits, including four for extra-bases, to string together the franchise’s first double-digit hitting streak Starling Marte hit safely in 15 straight from June 25 – July 12, 2012.

“‘I’ve  tried to get the barrel on the ball and I’ve been finding good pitches to hit,” Andino said. “I’ve been staying patient, and sometimes you just tell yourself that you have to find a way to get the job done.”

And Andino’s dominance at the plate didn’t stop with simply producing countless base knocks.

Along with tallying at least one hit in 18 of his 24 total games, the infielder also reached base safely in 20 of  24 to post a .330 OBP in August. Andino finished the month ranked first among in batting average among qualified Indians hitters.

While Andino continued his tear at the plate, the Tribe found itself reaping the benefits of a “friendly battle” between its shortstop and recently optioned outfielder Alex Presley. Much like the red-hot Andino, Presley also waited until the final month of the season to notch his own double-digit hitting streak, producing base knocks in 10 straight games from Aug. 16-28.

Continuing the back-and-forth battle at the plate, Presley’s hits in 10 straight games were also just a portion of an even more impressive 12-game on-base streak that saw the outfielder reach safely in every game in August.

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Presley paced the IL with a .420 average (21-for-50) while also ranking second in hits and tied for fourth in OBP (.473) in that span.

Behind the pair of sluggers’ hot bats, the Tribe won seven of its first 14 games during the month. Their .500 record featured a bounce-back from a tough 1-6 stretch to start the month, and included a pair of three-game winning streaks from Aug. 7-9 and Aug. 11-14. The sets of three-game triumphs nearly stretched through seven contests, but a lone, 5-4 walk-off loss to Toledo on Aug. 10 was sandwiched between the two win streaks.

However, the Tribe found a silver lining in the walk-off defeat through a standout effort from top prospect Taillon, whose solid outing marked the turning point for his adjustment to the Triple-A level.

Taillon’s start – a no-decision with eight strikeouts and four earned runs through a season high-tying 7.0 IP – marked the final outing of the season in which he allowed more than three earned runs for the Indians. The righty had previously recorded a 5.25 ERA in his first two outings (including Toledo), but followed his appearance against the Mud hens with four straight quality starts to end the season.

Taillon helped anchor the Indians’ rotation during that span with his stellar 3.24 ERA (9 ER in 25.0 IP) from Aug. 16 – Sept. 1.

“At Triple-A, development is not as significant, it’s time to show what you’ve got,”  Taillon, who concluded the season ranked second in IL in strikeouts (36) and fifth in innings ( 37.0) since his debut on Aug. 5, said.

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“I was excited to go up [to Indianapolis] at the end of last season. It was definitely a jump, more about winning and the proper club atmosphere. I feel like I’ve hit every level, and learned a lot. I’ve come a long way, become a more complete pitcher.”

While Taillon came into his own midway through August, Cumpton remained dialed in on the mound throughout the entirety of the month. The right-hander posted an unbeaten 2-0 record with a phenomenal 2.15 ERA (7 ER in 29.1 IP) in his five starts. He also limited opponents to two runs or fewer in four of his five outings, and put the exclamation mark on his standout month with a pair of starts in which he held the opposition without an earned run: Aug. 17 at SYR (8.0 IP, 0 ER, 1 R); Aug. 28 at TOL (7.0 IP).

Perhaps even more impressive, after surrendering six of his seven total earned runs in his first two starts in August, Cumpton allowed just one total earned run through his final three appearances (18.1 IP) for a fantastic 0.49 ERA.

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However, for the Indians, their right-hander’s gem on Aug. 17 at Syracuse provided the lone highlight during a skid that included five losses in six games from Aug. 15-20. Simply defined by “tough-luck,” the stretch included four defeats by three runs or fewer, two of which were even one-run losses.

By Aug. 20, Indianapolis suddenly found itself with an 8-11 record through the first 19 games of the month —

And its once-insurmountable divisional lead had fallen to single digits.

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With their backs against the wall, but a second straight division crown still in site, the Indians mounted a late-month comeback when they traveled to Frontier Park to face the Red Wings.

The reigning IL West champs would waste little time narrowing their Magic Number to clinch the division upon arriving in Rochester. The Indians’s offense, which had failed to eclipse the five-run mark in seven straight games, erupted for six or more scores in all four contests against the ‘Wings to help pace a crucial four-game series sweep.

A crucial sweep featuring:

1. A series-opening win that effectively halted Indianapolis’ three-game losing streak.

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2. An improbable, six-run, ninth-inning comeback that was capped by a grand slam from Lucas May.

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3. A thrilling victory in Game 4 to complete the full series sweep.

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4. And above all, a Game 3 triumph that put the 2013 Indians team in the franchise’s record books.

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On Aug. 24, the Indianapolis Indians jumped to a 5-2 lead in the third inning and never looked back. Behind 4.2 scoreless frames from right-handed reliever Graham Godfrey, the Tribe clinched the IL West Division for the second straight season, marking the first time in team history Indianapolis has won back-to-back IL division titles.

The win also gave the Indians just their fourth consecutive division crowns in franchise history (1961-1963 three-peat titles; 1988-1989, American Association East Division; 1994-1995, A.A. East) and first since skipper Marc Bombard led the team to back-to-back American Association East Division championships during the 1994-95 seasons.

IMG_8972 EN PHOTO JOE TERRITO

“It’s hard to believe that this is the first time (the team has won back-to-back IL division titles),” Treanor said after the win. “So there is no better feeling to be able to do that and be the first.”

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Team MVP Matt Hague shared Treanor’s excitement.

“It’s fun, especially going through all the ups and downs this year,” Hague said. “We were able to grind it out and get to the playoffs for the second year in a row.”

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After locking up a  berth in the 2013 Governors’ Cup Playoffs, the Tribe split its final six games of the month to finish August with an above-.500 record of 15-14.

And more importantly, a renewed vigor with postseason play on the horizon.

AUGUST PLAYER OF THE MONTH:

Pimentel

INF Robert Andino

August Stats:
AVG:  .302 (29-for-96)
OBP:  .330
XBH:  8 (8 2B)
RBI: 9
FLD %: .965

Andino hit safely in 17 of his first 23 games with Indianapolis and reached base in 19 of those same 23 contests. He also notched the team’s first 10-game hitting streak of the season in just his 13th appearance with the Indians, and later recorded a 12-game on-base streak from Aug. 4-18 (19 H, 2 BB, .396 OBP).

In addition, the slick-fielding shortstop made several highlight-reel plays in the field while committing just four errors in 24 games. Andino’s .965 fielding percentage was the second-highest among Indians shortstops who appeared in at least 24 games in 2013 (Josh Harrison, .978 in 30 games).

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