Don't look now, but the Cleveland Indians are in first place in the AL Central once again. While the Chicago White Sox have struggled with a 3-7 record in their last ten games, the Indians have gone 5-5, taking back the division lead from the Chicago South Siders.
By leading by 0.5 games, this could change with another single game played by either team, but it is still where the Tribe wants to be.
So what could the team use to solidify the roster as it heads into the final 94 games of the season?
Certainly, some would love to see a right-handed power bat in left field (Carlos Quentin) or possibly an upgrade and power bat at first or third base (Kevin Youkilis), but rotation depth is a must for a contending team, right?
Well, whoever number 63 and number 30 were for the Indians for the first couple of months were, they certainly weren't Justin Masterson or Ubaldo Jimenez. However, they have finally showed up in June. Could the rebound of these two starters be all that the Indians need to be real contenders?
Masterson ended May with a 2-4 record and a 5.14 ERA. In June, Masterson is 2-2 with a 1.24 ERA in four starts, posting a 27:6 K:BB in 29.0 innings, while allowing opposing batters to hit just .186 against him. His WHIP prior to June was 1.49 and in June it is 0.86. Masterson is now 4-6 with a 3.98 ERA over 15 starts, finally trending in the right direction.
Jimenez ended May with a 5-4 record and a 5.79 ERA. Jimenez has posted a 1-1 record with a 2.79 ERA in three June starts, with a 17:3 K:BB in 19.2 innings. Opposing teams are hitting just .230 against him, down from .279 in May. His WHIP prior to June was at 1.79...gross. In June, Jimenez has cut his walks significantly and has a 1.02 WHIP to show for it. While his overall numbers are still just 6-5 with a 5.00 ERA, the Indians have to look at what he has done lately and be pleased, hoping that this is a sign of things to come.
Pitching and defense can win championships. With that being said, the Indians still need some production, too. Michael Brantley looks like he has improved but he is hitting just .296/.317/.409 in 186 at-bats since the beginning of May. He could handle center or left if or when Grady Sizemore comes back. Can you count on Damon for anything? He had a nice game on Wednesday night, but he is still an aging veteran. Travis Hafner will be back soon, Carlos Santana has to hit at some point and Jason Kipnis deserves MVP votes to this point.
It looks like it is another season of holding on to see if things go well once the injuries finally heal. Either way, ownership, management and fans have to be happy with the return of Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez...even for one month.