They went 6-2 against three last-place-teams — Baltimore, Kansas City and Cincinnati. How they started the trip with consecutive 13-0 losses at Camden Yards is still under investigation
It ended Sunday with a 11-1 win over the Reds at Great American Ball Park. The Indians won the annual Battle of Ohio, 3-1, to keep possession of the Ohio Cup. Trevor Bauer, Sunday’s winning pitcher, was named the Frank Robinson Most Outstanding Player of the series.
The Indians are 22-9 since the start of June and have improved to 12 games over .500 at 50-38. They enter the break trailing the Twins in the AL Central by 5.5 games. They were 11.5 back on June 3.
In the wild card standings they have a two-game lead over Boston and Oakland for the second spot, ome game behind Tampa Bay for the No. 1 position.
Now the baseball world comes to Cleveland for the 90th All-Star Game on Tuesday night. The Indians have four players in the game, but the real focus will be on what this team does coming out of the break. They open with a three-game series against the Twins on Friday to start a 10-game home stand.
“I thought we did an unbelievable job of pushing through on this trip,” said manager Terry Francona. "There were some games where we started out behind and it’s hot. But we kept at it and kept at it and our energy was good.
“Now they get a much deserved break. I want them to get away from the game. But I also want them to be ready when they come back because we have to play our best baseball going forward. Because of where we are it’s actually kind of cool because every game means so much. That’s fun.”
Bauer and the Tribe’s offense was too much for the Reds. Bauer (8-6, 3.61) allowed one run over seven innings. He struck out nine and allowed four hits. The Reds have scored two runs in 14 2/3 innings against Bauer this season.
The Indians finished with 18 hits, including four home runs, to equal a season high. Tyler Naquin, Jake Bauers, Greg Allen and Jason Kipnis homered. Yes, that Greg Allen.
Allen was recalled from Class AAA Columbus on Saturday to give the Tribe an extra position player in this inter-league series where pitchers are required to hit. He started in center field on Sunday and finished with a career-high four hits and a great defensive play to rob Jose Iglesias in the second inning. He had a chance to complete the cycle with a double in the ninth, but grounded out.
“You’re aware of things during the game,” said Allen, when asked about the cycle. “It was more about just trying to put a good at bat together and finish strong.”
The Indians took a 1-0 lead in the fourth on Naquin’s seventh homer of the season. Naquin’s drive to right came with two out against Tyler Mahle (2-9, 4.47).
They extended the lead to 4-0 with a three-run fourth. Allen singled and Carlos Santana walked to start the inning against Mahle. Jared Hughes relieved and Kipnis advanced the runners with a sacrifice bunt. Jose Ramirez lined a sacrifice fly to center to score Allen and Bauers homered to center. Bauers has 11 homers for the season and 14 RBI in his last 19 games.
The Reds made it 4-1 on a pinch-hit double by Josh VanMeter in the fifth. The Indians received a scare at the end of the play when Jose Peraza slid home and hit catcher Roberto Perez’s right foot as he landed after trying to catch a high relay throw.
Perez, in the midst of a career season, stayed down for several minutes. Peraza checked on him as did Francona and James Quinlan, head athletic trainer. Perez stayed in the game and doubled and scored in the Tribe’s six-run eighth inning. Allen and Kipnis hit their home runs in the eighth.
It was their second six-run inning in the last three games.
“He’s all right,” said Francona. “When he jumped and came down he tweaked his ankle a little bit. He’s fine.”
Every starter had at least one hit. That included Bauer, who singled in the fourth following Naquin’s homer. It was the first hit by a Tribe pitcher this season and the second in Bauer’s career. His first one was against Chicago’s Jake Arrietta on May 16, 2015
Santana, who reached base in his first three plate appearances, has now reached base in 29 consecutive games. It’s the longest active streak in the big leagues.
Bauer was at his best in the fifth. He hit Derek Dietrich -- Dietrich has been hit an MLB leading 17 times this year -- to put runners on first and third with one out and the Tribe up, 4-1. Bauer, however, ended the inning with a flurry, striking out Joey Votto on a 95 mph fastball and retiring Eugenio Suarez on a 97 mph heater. Bauer could be heard in the press box grunting on every pitch.
“Mostly I’m just happy to be healthy,” said Bauer. “I’m finally feeling like myself. I’ve been healthy the last three starts. Hopefully, I can roll that over into the second half.”
Francona was impressed with Bauer in the fifth.
“When the game was 4-1 and it’s first and third with one out, he got two huge strikeouts," said Francona. “Then it allowed us to add on and add on and then we broke it (open). That’s a good formula.”
It’s the All-Star break and except for Santana, Francisco Lindor, Shane Bieber and Brad Hand, the Tribe’s players will be looking to get four days of rest. The season resumes Friday when the AL Central-leading Twins come to Progressive Field for a three-game series that should offer a peek on what the second half holds for the Tribe. Mike Clevinger, Bauer and Bieber are aligned to start the series for the Tribe.