@Detroit (May 1-4)
The number one series for the Indians this season is very early on in the year. At the start of May, they start a long road-trip at Detroit and it could set the tone for the rest of the season. The Indians play their division rivals for four games before going to Kansas City for three games and Toronto for three games.
In all, this week-and-a-half could be the Indians’ entire season. Although Detroit does not seem threatening after last year (the Indians went 14-4 against the Tigers), it is still division play, and the Tigers are one of the two teams that could stand in the way of the Indians coasting to another division title.
Detroit still has superstars in Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander, and many others. This team has definitely aged in the past few seasons, but they are still a threat. Aside from the division rivalry, the fact that the Indians immediately go to Kansas City and Toronto makes these four games even more important.
Winning at least two games in Detroit is necessary to start the road trip. Kansas City looks to be back in the Wild Card conversation this season if healthy, so those games will also be hard-fought.
Then comes the first return to Toronto for Encarnacion. With last year’s defeat of the Blue Jays in the playoffs and the insanity that usually ensues in the Rogers Centre, those could also be difficult games.
The rule-of-thumb is winning at home and going .500 on the road. If the Indians can win three of four in Detroit, they would only need two more wins to go .500 on the trip.
On the flip side, a bad showing in Detroit could set a poor tone for the trip and lead to more losses in the next two cities.
This stretch of games is by far the toughest (if not because of the strength of teams but the meaning of the teams and them all being on the road) for the Indians this season.
10 games is a huge swing in the MLB, and these specific 10 so early in the season could be the difference between the playoffs or disappointment. But, it all starts in Detroit.