The Real Tribe Nine?
If you’ve been following Indians-related news and notes this week, you’re well aware that Francisco Lindor has launched two home runs into orbit for the Columbus Clippers in his rehab games. Sure, it’s minor league pitching, but Lindor doesn’t look like he’s got too much rust to shake off. There’s a chance he rejoins the Indians this weekend, finally giving Terry Francona the ability to put his best nine on the field.
Two Different Strengths
The Indians have a definitive advantage over the Braves in the pitching department, but the Braves have had a better offense to start the year, particularly at the top of their order. Albies, Freeman, and Acuna can create problems in a hurry, so the most interesting aspect of this series will be seeing what Cleveland’s rotation does for an encore after shutting down the explosive Mariners.
Best/Worst Case Scenario
Best Case: 3-0 series sweep, the correct decision on Lindor’s health
Considering the aforementioned advantage in starting pitching, the Indians can indeed sweep this series if they get well-balanced production from the offense. Teheran would appear on paper to be the most beatable of the Braves starters, but neither Toussaint nor Fried have especially long track records.
On Lindor, I’d rather see the Indians delay his return until he’s undeniably ready, as opposed to bringing him back too early. Many folks on Twitter noted the limp with which he circled the bases after his home runs for Columbus. The Indians are 11-7 without him, and we have more than enough evidence of the downside of rushing players back.
Worst Case: 0-3 series sweep, the incorrect decision on Lindor
Surprise, surprise. The worst-case scenario is the exact opposite of the best. If the Braves are able to get to the Indians starters, this could be a painful series. Cleveland’s offense has shown early on that it is prone to frustrating spells of inactivity, so until the team as a whole gets going on all cylinders, there is always the possibility for those lineup-wide struggles to resurface.
Both teams are good enough in one way or another to walk away from this series completely unscathed.