Los Angeles Times - - INSIDE BASEBALL - — Mike DiGio­vanna

Tribe quest: After hov­er­ing near .500 for 2½ months, the de­fend­ing AL-cham­pion Cleve­land In­di­ans have hit their stride, mov­ing into first place by win­ning eight of nine games in which they outscored the Dodgers, Min­nesota and Bal­ti­more by 68-23 from June 15 through Thurs­day. Slug­ger Ed­win En­car­na­cion, who signed a three-year, $60-mil­lion deal last win­ter, is bat­ting .351 with a 1.144 on-base-plus-slug­ging per­cent­age, 10 homers and 23 runs bat­ted in in 26 games through Thurs­day; he hit .208 with a .709 OPS, seven homers and 17 RBIs in 43 games through May 22. After a two-game glitch against the Dodgers, uber-re­liever An­drew Miller es­caped a bases-loaded, no-outs jam in Wed­nes­day’s 5-1 win over Bal­ti­more. June boom: When Seattle catcher Mike Zunino was op­tioned to triple A on May 5, the fourth de­mo­tion in three years for a player who was the third over­all pick in the 2012 draft, he was hit­ting .167 with no homers, two RBIs and a .236 slug­ging per­cent­age in 24 games. Since re­turn­ing to the Mariners on May 23 with a re­tooled stance and ap­proach, Zunino, 26, has been Johnny Bench-like, hit­ting .319 with 10 homers — in­clud­ing a pair of two-run shots in a 6-2 win over Detroit last Mon­day — 31 RBIs and a .702 slug­ging per­cent­age in 27 games through Fri­day. His 26 RBIs in the first 19 days of June set a fran­chise record for the most RBIs in any month by a catcher. Cow­boy up: The most po­lar­iz­ing um­pire in base­ball joined an ex­clu­sive club Tues­day when “Cow­boy” Joe West called his 5,000th game, work­ing the plate for a game be­tween Colorado and Ari­zona, fran­chises that didn’t ex­ist when he be­gan his big league ca­reer in 1976. Only Bill Klem (5,369) and Bruce Froem­ming (5,163) have called more games than West, 64, who is known for his out­spo­ken opin­ions on is­sues such as the des­ig­nated hit­ter and pace of play and his pen­chant for heated ar­gu­ments and ejec­tions. How long can West con­tinue? “Un­til these TV peo­ple get tired of look­ing at me,” he told the Chicago Tri­bune. “My mother says it’s a great job be­cause I wear a mask and I don’t scare the kids.” New York Mess: Was it two sea­sons ago that the Mets ousted the Dodgers in a dra­matic five-game divi­sion se­ries en route to the 2015 World Se­ries? Seems like two decades ago. A once-vaunted ro­ta­tion, with­out the in­jured Noah Syn­der­gaard and Matt Har­vey, ranked 14th in the NL with a bloated 5.15 ERA through Fri­day. The mis­han­dling of Syn­der­gaard’s in­jury, a torn back mus­cle, and Har­vey’s three-day sus­pen­sion with­out pay for vi­o­lat­ing team rules in early May have added to a soap opera feel around the club. Get­ting torched by the Dodgers, who outscored the Mets 36-11 in a fourgame sweep, and fall­ing 10 be­low .500 last week didn’t help. A step back: Eight months re­moved from a dra­matic Wil­lis Reed-like re­turn in the World Se­ries, Chicago Cubs slug­ger Kyle Sch­war­ber was de­moted to triple A on Thurs­day with the hope he can clear his head and find his swing. After suf­fer­ing what was thought to be a sea­son-end­ing knee in­jury in the se­cond game of 2016, Sch­war­ber re­turned in the World Se­ries and hit .412 (seven for 17) with two RBIs in five games to help the Cubs beat Cleve­land. He has 12 homers this sea­son but is bat­ting .171 with a .378 slug­ging per­cent­age and 75 strike­outs in 222 at-bats. “At the end of the day, you have to do what you think is best for him,” man­ager Joe Mad­don said, “and what’s best for him is gonna be the best for us.” Depth charge: The San Fran­cisco Gi­ants fur­ther tor­mented them­selves and their fans on a 1-7 trip to Colorado and At­lanta that dropped them 21 games un­der .500 on Thurs­day. They scored eight runs in the fi­nal three in­nings to tie the Rock­ies 9-9, only to lose 10-9 on June 15. Last Sun­day, they scored three in the ninth for a 5-3 lead over Colorado, only to lose 7-5 on Nolan Arenado’s cy­cle-cap­ping three-run walk-off homer. Hunter Pence hit a game-ty­ing homer in the ninth Wed­nes­day in At­lanta; then Matt Kemp hit a two-run homer in the 11th to win it for the Braves. “It’s our third comeback on this trip and we lost them all,” man­ager Bruce Bochy said. “It’s dis­heart­en­ing.”

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