Cleveland Indians (76-73) @ Houston Astros (66-83)


Indians Season Teetering on the Brink Versus Astros

Rewind back to last Friday. In my preview of the series between the Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers, I made the following statement.

“Of course, the team most in danger of having their playoff dreams shattered is the Indians. If all goes right, there is the chance that the Tribe could leave Detroit 1 game back of the division lead. If things go wrong, they could be staring at as much as a 7-game deficit in the division race. With 14 games left as of this coming Monday, overcoming a 4-game deficit would take a miracle… and possibly a human sacrifice to come to fruition.”

Well, do we have any volunteers? Because that’s where we’re at after the disaster that unfolded over the weekend. After dropping all three games in Detroit, the Tribe now finds themselves six-and-a-half games back in the division and five games back in the Wild Card with only 14 games to go.

So again, do we have any volunteers? No? Ok, then let’s start talking about what needs to happen.

For starters, the Indians need to start winning. The need to win a lot. They need to win and then keep winning until there are no games left to win. They have to hope they can win enough games to put some series pressure on the teams ahead of them. If they can stay within striking distance, they still have four games left to decide with the Royals. It’s a long shot, but it’s still possible, at least from a mathematical standpoint.

It all starts tonight as the Indians make their way to Houston for a four-game set against the Astros, a team that is well on its way to another losing season and simply looking to make it to the end of the season healthy and in one piece. If they can destroy the hopes and dreams of another team along the way, then all the better.

The point is, much like last season, the Indians have been gifted an opportunity in the form of these Astros. Four games and a chance to either gain some much-needed ground or keep within striking distance, at the very least. With four games in Houston to be followed by three more in Minnesota, before coming home for four against KC (one of which requires only three outs for an Indians win), there is still a chance here for a playoff run.

What we have to hope is that the most recent three game stretch in Detroit didn’t completely demoralize this team. If history, and some inflammatory tweets from Jason Kipnis are any inclination, then this team will probably come out guns blazing tonight.

That’s not to say the Astros aren’t dangerous. This team is much-improved from last season even if their record doesn’t seem to indicate as much. They have several players, Jose Altuve, Chris Carter, Jason Castro, etc., all of whom are playing great baseball and can cause problems for opposing pitchers. On top of an undervalued lineup, the Astros also have presented a formidable staff led by Dallas Keuchel. No, he is not Clayton Kershaw, far from it actually, but he has been a consistent performer all season long. When the Astros finally get up to full speed with their young prospects, i.e. Mark Appel, this could be a team on the rise in a hurry. What the Astros are looking for is experience. Quality reps now can pay off huge dividends down the road. Playing against a team like the Indians at this time of year can really help in their overall development. No, they aren’t competing for a spot in the playoffs, but they are fighting to keep another team out. That folks, can be just as exciting. The Indians will have to avoid this potential pitfall at all costs. With the Royals right around the corner, it would be easy to look past either the Astros or Twins, thus rendering next weeks series a moot point. I suspect Terry Francona will have the Indians ready to go tonight, but baseball is a funny game and anything can happen. Let’s just hope that “anything” goes the Indians way. But just in case I’ll ask one more time. Do we have any volunteers?