Toughest games are behind the Tribe
Like everybody knew they would, the Indians have cleaned up against the weak competition within the AL Central. The Tribe boasts a combined 25-7 record against the Tigers, Royals and White Sox, with only the pesky Twins (3-6 record against) having given them any fits.
Against the rest of the league, the Indians are 24-30. They’ve struggled mightily with the playoff contenders in the AL West, having gone 7-13 against the Astros, Mariners and Athletics. It also wasn’t until just before the All-Star break that they exorcised what felt like a decade’s worth of demons against the Yankees, swiping their only two victories out of seven games in the season series.
Cleveland has performed relatively well against the NL Central, posting a 6-2 combined record against the likely October-bound Brewers and Cubs. Confusingly enough, they are 2-4 against the Reds and Cardinals, both of whom are probably on the outside looking in at the playoff picture.
With the exception of Cincinnati, the Indians won’t face any of these out-of-division opponents again in the regular season. The first 95 games of Cleveland’s season were tougher by a long shot than the final 67. In fact, of the Tribe’s remaining opponents, only the Red Sox are more than two games above .500 (Angels 49-48, Rays 49-47).
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Barring a mighty surge out of the Twins, the Indians should be able to cruise comfortably into the playoffs without facing an absolute must-win situation until they get there.
On that note, I’m curious to see how the baseball community will interpret the success the Indians stand to have in this shortened second half. A win total in the high 90s is not out of the realm of possibility after a relatively slow start if the Indians continue to exploit the meager opposition in front of them.
But will they be taken seriously? Or will critics continue to point to the weak division the Indians had no hand in creating?
I ask this question as much for my own sanity as I do for any other reason, because with the home stretch fast approaching, Tribe nation must universally accept one very simple truth: The critics don’t get to decide who makes the playoffs.
The Indians will undoubtedly be the recipients of many a back-handed compliment between now and October. And not a single word of praise nor a single iota of disapproval from the masses will matter in the long run. Besides, if the Indians head into the postseason without the respect of the national media, well…we’ve all seen before what an underdog with an ax to grind is capable of.