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Behind Enemy Lines: Talking about anything but Justin Verlander with Let’s Go Tribe

We asked Matt Lyons about Corey Kluber’s Cy Young chances, and how Austin Jackson fits in.

Cleveland Indians v New York Yankees Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Admittedly, it’s going to be pretty hard to get excited about baseball for the next couple of days, but the game goes on and there is a double-header to be played against the Cleveland Indians today to kick off a four-game series.

I chatted with Matt Lyons, manager of the SB Nation Indians blog Let’s Go Tribe about Corey Kluber, former Tiger Austin Jackson, and if any fun jokes came out of the Players’ Weekend uniforms.

BYB: Injuries have been a real problem for the Indians this season, yet the team is still succeeding even without some of their best players. What’s the secret?

ML: The Indians have a ton of depth in the upper minors, especially in the outfield and third base. I wouldn't trust many of these guys to start everyday for a full season, but there are so many players on the Indians 40-man roster who can step up and be really useful in certain aspects of the game. Giovanny Urshela has been outstanding with his glove at third base when Jose Ramirez moves to cover second, and Yandy Diaz finally learned to elevate a baseball with his enormous biceps. Having the pitching staff the Indians have doesn't hurt either.

Just how much of a blow has it been to lose Andrew Miller this long?

Surprisingly not much of one. At this point, the only thing that matters is that he's healthy for October. Everyone fawns over Miller, and rightfully so, but the rest of the Indians bullpen is really solid. Cody Allen is a fantastic closer, Bryan Shaw is a reliable setup guy, and the Indians always seem to find some reliever to come out of nowhere and contribute. In 2015 it was Jeff Manship, in 2016 it was Dan Otero, and this year it's Tyler Olson. I don't know what the front office is looking at to find guys like this, but they're getting good at it.

Who would you consider the team’s “unsung hero”?

Austin Jackson. He wasn't thought to be a big addition, or even make the team out of spring training, but he's turned into a key contributor to the outfield, especially with all the injuries. He hasn't played a ton due to a mix of his own injuries and some platooning, but he has the second-highest wRC+ among Indians batters with at least 200 PA.

What likely September call-ups do you think are most exciting for the Indians?

I never expect the Indians to do anything exciting with September call-ups, and I'm rarely ever surprised. This year has already been an exception, though. They're calling up an outfielder by the name of Greg Allen, who has tremendous range in the outfield and has drawn faint comparisons to Kenny Lofton. He probably won't start a lot, if ever, but if they get him on the roster in time to playoff eligible, he could be really useful for pinch running or defensive situations. An outfield of Bradley Zimmer and Allen could cover all half the globe.

If the season ended today, do you think Kluber might have a chance to beat Sale for the AL Cy Young this year?

It's suuuuuper close. And considering Kluber was pretty bad to start the year then missed a month with back injuries, that's pretty amazing. I think Sale will win if it's close just because he has more innings, which is a shame.

What was your favorite nickname/story from Players’ Weekend?

Nothing to do with the nicknames, but Francisco Lindor bought everyone robes with their names on them. That was pretty cool. A lot of people seemed to like that Andrew Miller ("Miller Time") bought everyone cases of Miller Lite, but it was all one big ad so he could have the right to use the name. For me, it just made one of my favorite nicknames feel dirty.

Are there any Tigers players you think will be especially troubling for the Indians this weekend?

Not being able to face Justin Verlander is very troubling. It's not a real Tigers-Indians series unless Cleveland gets accused of stealing signs against him. [Editor’s note: Too soon, man, too soon.]

Ugh, double-headers, am I right?

Uuuuuggggghhhh. And the Indians just had one against the Yankees Wednesday.


Thanks to Matt for chatting with us. If you want to read more of his excellent work (even if it is about the Indians) head over to Let’s Go Tribe, or follow him on Twitter @mattrly.