The Week Ahead For AL Playoff Contenders: September 22nd

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Down but not out; Indians look to repeat September magic

How things “stand”:

The late Al Davis, former owner of the Oakland Raiders, said it best:  “Just win, baby.”  With only six full games left to play, the Indians don’t have much of a choice if they want to be playing baseball in October. They will resume their suspended game against the Kansas City Royals tonight, needing three outs to secure a victory and complete the retroactive sweep from earlier this month. The Royals stick around for a three game series before Cleveland wraps up the regular season with three games against the Tampa Bay Rays.

The good news is that despite recent setbacks against the Detroit Tigers, Houston Astros and Minnesota Twins, the Indians still (almost) control their own destiny. According to Baseball Prospectus, if the Tribe win out and end the year on a nine game win streak, they have a 96% chance of making the playoffs. That number drops to 67% if they lose one game and 21% if they lose two. Obviously back-to-back sweeps is no small feat, especially when the boys in powder blue are involved, but crazier things have happened.

The Tigers are clinging on to a game-and-a-half lead over the Royals in the Central. Cleveland sits five games back, so barring a serious collapse by the Kitties, it’s looking like Wild Card or bust for the good guys. Speaking of clinging, Oakland is down to a half game lead over Kansas City for the top Wild Card spot. Seattle is the first man out at a game-and-a-half back, two games closer than the Tribe.

The Week Ahead:

Cleveland Indians

Last week rating/results: Could be good, could be bad / 5-2

This week difficulty rating: Could be good, could be bad

Schedule: vs Kansas City 9/22-9/24, off 9/25, vs Tampa Bay 9/26-9/28

Real quick: I wanted to rate this week “Looking Good”, I really did. Three starts (two from Carlos Carrasco, one from Corey Kluber) ,

Sep 21, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Corey Kluber (28) pitches in the third inning against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

AKA half of their remaining games, will be made by arguably the two hottest pitchers in baseball. Six home games when the Tribe is tied for fourth in the majors in home wins. Three of the six remaining games are against a team (Rays) without a whole lot to play for. Unfortunately the three before that are against the Royals. Danny Duffy, although he is coming off two missed starts with a sore shoulder, has given the Indians fits this year. So has Jason Vargas, minus his last start against them August 29th. And t hey literally might not even be able to finish the game on Wednesday due to Danny Salazar and Yordano Ventura setting every baseball they’re handed on fire. If they do manage to pull off the sweep, they’ll still have to deal with Chris Archer and Alex Cobb of the Rays. Regardless of how things end up, it’s time to turn your TVs on, head to the ballpark if you can, and crack open a couple cold ones. The Tribe made it clear at the end of last year that they won’t quit under manager Terry Francona and this year is no different. So buckle up for one last push, Cleveland. I’m realizing now that this wasn’t “real quick”, but I’m fired up. And you should be too.

Kansas City Royals

Last week rating/results: Could be good, could be bad / 3-3

This week difficulty rating: Could be good, could be bad

Schedule: @ Cleveland 9/22-9/24, @ Chicago White Sox 9/25-9/28

Real quick: Bias aside, coming into Cleveland and facing Carrasco, Salazar and Trevor Bauer is not an easy task, especially when the team is fighting for its life. They also are coming off losing two of three in a crucial series against the Tigers, who beat their ace James Shields on Saturday. They luck out and miss White Sox Cy Young candidate Chris Sale in the four gamer after that. The Sox have a better record at home than on the road, even if that record is barely above .500 (39-38). If the Royals do make the playoffs, they’ll do it riding the coattails of Nori Aoki (14-22, 2 2B, 3/0 BB/K, SB last week).

Detroit Tigers

Last week rating/results: Looking Good / 3-3

This week difficulty rating: Looking Good

Schedule: vs Chicago White Sox 9/22-9/24, vs Minnesota 9/25-9/28

Real quick: A sort of upside down week saw the division leaders lose two of three to the Twins in Minnesota, then rebound to take two of

Sep 6, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez (41) celebrates his home run in the third inning against the San Francisco Giants at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

three from the Royals in Kansas City. A Royals-Indians series is great news for Detroit. Unless Kansas City puts a hurting on the Tribe, it should give the Tigers a little wiggle room if they lose one or two against the bottom dwellers in the Central. One of those could come against Sale in the series finale, although they beat him in their last matchup in August. And no, those darn Martinez boys haven’t stopped hitting yet.

Seattle Mariners

Last week rating/results: Could be good, could be bad / 3-4

This week difficulty rating: Could be good, could be bad

Schedule: @ Toronto 9/22-9/25, vs Los Angeles Angels 9/26-9/28

Real quick: Seattle has a chance to make some moves early this week. With the Royals in Cleveland and the Oakland A’s playing three games against the Angels, the Mariners could very well find themselves near the top of the Wild Card standings by Thursday morning. That is if they take care of the free-falling Jays, who are 2-8 in their last ten games. Los Angeles could and probably will be resting most of their key players by that last series. If they can rebound from a series loss to Houston at the end of last week, he M’s are poised to make their first playoff appearance since 2001.

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