Cleveland Indians: Are They Really Still in the Wild Card Hunt?
The Indians somehow remain alive–barely–in the AL Wild Card hunt. Can this team really make a late run at it?
The game of baseball is so amazing. Over 162 games, scenarios play out that just seem like they aren’t possible. The Cleveland Indians find themselves in the thick of one of those scenarios. The Indians find themselves just 3 1/2 games behind the Minnesota Twins for second in the division, and just 4 1/2 back for the second Wild Card with a 63-66 record. To give and idea, the Chicago Cubs sit with the fourth-best record in all of baseball (73-55)–and are in third place in their division. Second in the NL Wild Card, but by no means a lock. Baseball works in mysterious ways.
The goal is simply to get into the postseason. Whether you win 120 games or slide in via the Wild Card–if you’re there you have a chance. The Tribe has won eight of their last 10, and just swept the Angels–one of the teams they have to run down to pull of this miracle. They still have seven to play against the Twins, seven against the division-leading Royals. The Orioles are reeling, 1-9 in their last 10–and the Rays are playing just .500 ball over their last 10. The Indians are one of the hottest teams right now, but take it with a grain of salt as their pulse in this race is weak. Still there, but weak.
Can this team really sneak away the second Wild Card? If the pitching can get healthy–and fast–then they have an outside chance. Carlos Carrasco headed to the DL recently, but it isn’t expected he will miss anything but the requisite 15 days. Danny Salazar was scratched from his last start for illness, but should be fine moving forward. Corey Kluber has continued to do what Corey Kluber does.
Now the offense seems to be catching up. The Indians hit grand slams in back-to-back days, yesterday by Yan Gomes and today by Abraham Almonte. Almonte may not be an impact player beyond this year, but you can’t deny the positive effect he’s had on this offense since his arrival. Michael Brantley has regained MVP-like form while Francisco Lindor continues to impress in his rookie campaign.
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With September call-ups around the corner, look for the Indians to add arms in the bullpen, and some possible speed on the basepaths. There isn’t going to be a lot of surefire guys that will come up and produce down the stretch. But filling the holes that the Indians have will be key with the first wave of call-ups.
I don’t want to get ahead of myself. Many had written this team off long ago. I lobbied that the weak division would give them a chance. The Royals hadn’t started to pull away at that time, but somehow the rest of the AL stayed back–giving the Indians a fighting chance. The pitching is there–starting pitching at least–to make this possible. If these bats can stay hot–they might just be able to blow off that Sports Illustrated cover jinx.
But that’s a very weak maybe, that I’ll admit.