The Cleveland Indians have finally clinched the AL Central, but their work is still very much cut out for them as they begin the long push for a World Series title.
Once a division title is clinched, the long wait for October begins. Being the first team to clinch their respective division means that the Cleveland Indians now will simply have to wait for October to arrive. They’ll likely be facing the Houston Astros if not the Oakland A’s. Regardless of which team they face, they likely won’t have home-field advantage.
This long tedious wait can lead to some interesting strategies for the Indians. For one, you might see the occasional “hangover lineup” like we saw yesterday. We saw the likes of Edwin Encarnacion, Francisco Lindor, and Jose Ramirez all being excluded from the lineup.
Don’t be surprised to see more of that, and don’t be upset if the Indians take this approach. The most important thing for the Indians to do now is to rest. We saw on Friday when Terry Francona started Josh Tomlin in order to rest Corey Kluber so that he is a better fit for the playoff rotation.
The thing that fans should keep an eye on more than anything may just be happening off the field in the next few weeks. Trevor Bauer‘s recovery is of the utmost importance for the Indians. Winning a World Series will be much more difficult without having Trevor Bauer readily available.
From what we understand, starting out of the bullpen is a possibility for Bauer, but that’s a topic for another day. The Indians will also have the luxury of using their much-improved bullpen more frequently during this time. That seems like something we never thought we’d say after the way May and June went for these guys.
It’s been a long run to get to this point. This team’s play has been reminiscent of the ’97 Indians team. They never really had a long streak of red-hot play, but that team still made it to Game 7 of the World Series. There is still a lot opposing these 2018 Indians, but as we’ve learned, you can’t expect anything in the postseason.
This team will likely finish with a few more wins than that 1997 team, as they already sit at 83 wins. While it may seem like this season didn’t have the “magic” feel of 2017, that season was cut abruptly short. This Indians team likely hasn’t forgotten that. They’ll be looking to avenge that loss this time around.