Hooley: It took awhile, but Tribe is now awake

Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Ramirez are driving a push that's seen the Indians score 52 runs in a six-game winning streak

You have to be patient to be a baseball fan, given the ponderous pace of the game. But Indians fans were about out of patience before this past weekend, and will be again if the Tribe doesn't build on the momentum they have now.

After getting to extra innings in Game 7 of the World Series, Indians fans had every right to expect 2017 to be a season in which their club built on its post-season momentum and treated them to a banner year.

That seemed particularly true in the off-season when the Tribe signed slugger Edwin Encarnacion to go with the return of the team's best hitter, Michael Brantley, from a season lost to injury.

But from April to mid-June, the Indians couldn't have been more average, going 31-31 thru their first 62 games.

I suppose we should have seen that coming when they started the season with a three-game sweep and then followed it by getting swept in their next three games.

There was never one primary issue with the Tribe's halting start. Some weeks, the starting pitching would betray them. Some weeks, the bats would go silent. And, occasionally, the defense let them down.

The only constant was an outstanding bullpen, which probably kept the Indians from struggling more than they did.

The Indians were fortunate that no other team in the American League Central had the ability to take advantage and jump out to a big lead. Everyone but Minnesota was under .500, so the Indians went to Minneapolis over the weekend just two games back of the first-place Twins.

Finally, everything came together. Carlos Carrasco pitched a gem on Friday night, the bats came alive in a Saturday double-header and Sunday, the Tribe got a solid start from Trevor Bauer and Encarnacion carried the load offensively.

Encarnacion knocked in all five runs with a pair of home runs, a single and a sacrifice fly. He had 8 RBI on the weekend and hit .357 against Twins pitching.

Monday at Baltimore, Encarnacion added his 15th RBI in his last 15 games, so it looks like he’s finally swinging the hot bat he's paid $20 million to swing, which could carry the Indians throughout the summer.

In tandem with Jose Ramirez and Brantley, Encarnacion gives the Tribe a meaty middle of the order that’s far superior to their lineup a year ago, which depended too much on strikeout-prone Mike Napoli.

I feared Ramirez's big year in 2016 might not be sustainable. But he had two home runs in one of the Tribe's wins on Saturday, had six doubles this past weekend and added another double in the win over the Orioles. That was Ramirez’s 14th extra-base hit in his last seven games – something no player had done since 1900.

If you'd have told me the Indians would sweep the Twins without pitching Cory Kluber and would score 28 runs without Michael Brantley, I'd have said you were crazy.

But it happened. And then Kluber built on that with a three-hit shutout Monday night.

So the Indians have won six straight and lead the Central by 2 ½ games at the exact point in the season where they were amid a 14-game winning streak a year ago.

That’s when the Tribe distanced themselves from the division a year ago.

Hopefully, they’re now doing the same thing at the same point on the calendar.

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