What to Watch For
Yasiel Puig’s suspension – Yasiel Puig will serve his three-game suspension for the duration of this series, due to his involvement in the wild brawl two weeks ago between the Pirates and Reds that occurred after it was announced he had been traded.
Keep the lumber out – The Indians scored 20 combined runs in their three wins against Minnesota, and in two of those victories they needed all of them. Expect a similar challenge from the Red Sox. As tempting as it is to buy into the idea that the Indians have a chance to shovel dirt on Boston’s playoff hopes, getting overly confident against this team is a surefire way to get humbled in a hurry.
Any lineup that includes the likes of Mookie Betts, Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, and J.D. Martinez is going to be just as tough to put away as the pesky Minnesota bats the Tribe just dealt with for four days. With the exception of “Good-Day” Chris Sale, the Indians have an undeniable pitching advantage in this series.
Clevinger and Bieber in particular have proven time and time again they are up to the task of upholding that advantage, so the Tribe’s offense will need to continue lighting up the scoreboard as well.
Ride the wave – If you’re of the mind that there is such a thing as momentum from one game or series to the next, then the argument could be made that the Indians haven’t had this much of it since they defeated the Toronto Blue Jays in October of 2016. They’ve completed the long, arduous climb back into first place in the division, and the playing field is now level for the final 44 games.
Needless to say, the operative words in that sentence are “final 44 games.” It is not lost on the players that there is still work to do. But it’s also not lost on them that they are in the midst of something special.
Even if clubhouse chemistry is an intangible entity, one thing you can see for certain is that the Indians have one of the best team atmospheres in the league–and there is a very tangible buzz around them, now more than ever.
Look for that to be on full display on Monday at Progressive Field–from the way the players carry themselves to the (hopefully) unnerving home field advantage created by a rejuvenated fan base in the seats.
The Indians have essentially been playing do-or-die baseball–or, you might say, playoff baseball–for the entire summer. It’s fitting that their first game after reclaiming a share of the division lead will be played in front of their home crowd, because if they keep playing like they have, it’s going to start feeling like October in Cleveland.