CLEVELAND -- The Indians took a risk when they picked up Michael Brantley's option over the offseason. It was never a question of what Brantley could do when on the field, but an issue of whether the outfielder could stay on the field after two years of injury woes.Well, Brantley
CLEVELAND -- The Indians took a risk when they picked up Michael Brantley's option over the offseason. It was never a question of what Brantley could do when on the field, but an issue of whether the outfielder could stay on the field after two years of injury woes.
Well, Brantley has stayed on the field and he just keeps on collecting hit after hit.
In a 7-3 victory over the White Sox on Tuesday night, Brantley notched three more hits, helping to power the offense in support of a strong start from Mike Clevinger and extending his hitting streak to 18 games. That represents the longest active streak in the Majors and the longest run for a Tribe batter in two years.
"He works at it, still," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "He doesn't stroll out on the field and do what he's doing. But, boy, is it fun to watch."
Brantley got his night rolling with a single in the first inning, setting the table for Jose Ramirez to deliver an RBI double in an early two-run outburst against White Sox righty Lucas Giolito. In the third inning, Brantley sent a first-pitch fastball from Giolito out to center for a solo homer -- the ninth shot of the outfielder's season.
Brantley was not done, either.
In the seventh inning, the Indians welcomed lefty reliever Aaron Bummer to the game with three consecutive singles by Roberto Perez, Greg Allen and Francisco Lindor. That loaded the bases for Brantley, who slashed a pitch into left field for a single to push Cleveland ahead, 6-1. It marked the third three-hit game within Brantley's 18-game run.
"With Michael Brantley, there's really not a lot to talk about," Ramirez said via translator. "Everybody in the world knows what kind of ballplayer he is and what he brings to the game. I love hitting behind him."
Ramirez (solo homer), Jason Kipnis (solo homer) and Yonder Alonso (RBI single) also contributed to help back Clevinger, who limited the White Sox to one run over 6 2/3 innings. Chicago's lone breakthrough against the righty arrived in the second, when Daniel Palka doubled and later scored on an RBI single from Tim Anderson. Clevinger did not flinch from there, ending with seven strikeouts.
For Brantley, his streak is the longest by an Indians batter since 2016, when Ramirez also enjoyed an 18-game run from July 26-Aug. 14. The current run marks the third-longest streak of Brantley's career, trailing a 22-game stretch in '12 and a 19-game streak during the '10 campaign.
During the hitting streak, Brantley has turned in a .367/.412/.633 slash line in 79 at-bats. On the season, the All-Star left fielder has hit at a .343 clip overall, ranking second in the American League and third in baseball.
Six of Brantley's nine home runs on the season have come as part of the 18-game run. A year ago, when Brantley was coming back from right shoulder issues, the outfielder had nine home runs total in his injury-shortened, 90-game season. With the shoulder woes behind him, Brantley has displayed more power in his latest comeback campaign.
"I don't want to jinx anything," said Clevinger, when asked about Brantley's season to date. "I want him on the field and I want him in the lineup and I'm sure every single person feels the same way. And I don't think there was ever a doubt with him being on the DL that we didn't need him or want him here.
"We knew this is exactly the player you're going to get, and he's only exceeding expectations."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Yes way, Jose: Ramirez shrugged off an unexpected situation before Tuesday's game and let his bat do the talking on the field. The third baseman delivered the RBI double in the first and then belted a solo homer (his 16th of the year) in the fifth. Ramirez currently ranks third in the Majors with 3.7 WAR (as measured by Fangraphs).
Earlier in the day, rumors swirled via a false report out of the Dominican Republic that Ramirez was going to be hit with an 80-game suspension for using a substance banned by Major League Baseball. Both Francona and Chris Antonetti, the team's president of baseball operations, called the claims unsubstantiated, noting that MLB informed the team that no suspension was coming for the third baseman.
"I really am not worried about it that much," Ramirez said. "I should say that I feel bad that it came out, but I'm really not worried about it. I do feel bad for any fan that maybe got a wrong impression of me, but that's bad information. I've never used anything like that.
"So at the end of the day, I feel fine and relaxed about myself and I'm just going to keep doing my thing and keep focusing on baseball and keep going forward." More >
Great escape: After limiting the damage to one run in the second, Clevinger encountered another jam in the third inning. With one out and Cleveland holding a 2-1 lead, Yolmer Sanchez sent a pitch from Clevinger to the wall in right-center for a triple. The Tribe starter then induced an infield popout off the bat of Jose Abreu before escaping with a flyout to left from Palka.
"That's been the main goal right now," Clevinger said. "The hurdle that's been in front of me lately is just limiting the damage when it starts to pile up -- just kind of keeping my composure and staying within myself."
HE SAID IT
"I think he gets mad at himself at times, because he feels like he's ready to break through and then he doesn't. But he's been a lot better lately. And he's having more good at-bats each night, as opposed to maybe one. He's starting to get two or three where he has a chance for a hit. That's what you need."
-- Francona, on Kipnis, who is 7-for-18 with two homers in his past four games
"I don't think a whole lot bothers him. Put him on a baseball field, let him play baseball and he's good to go."
-- Francona, on Ramirez's performance amid the false rumors
Lindor's run-scoring single in the fifth inning gave him 30 RBIs on the season. That gave the Indians five batters (The others being Ramirez, 39; Brantley, 36; Alonso, 32; and Edwin Encarnacion, 31) with at least 30 RBIs through the team's first 53 games. That is the fastest Cleveland has had at least five hitters reach that plateau since 2001, when Juan Gonzalez, Ellis Burks, Russell Branyan, Marty Cordova and Jim Thome achieved the feat in the Tribe's first 50 games.
Corey Kluber (7-2, 2.17 ERA) will take the mound for the Tribe for Wednesday's series finale against the White Sox at 1:10 p.m. ET. The right-hander threw 6 1/3 shutout innings against the Astros on Friday for his 11th quality start in 11 tries this season. The Sox will counter with right-hander Reynaldo Lopez (1-3, 2.93 ERA).
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter@MLBastian and Facebook.