Small Stories, Big Picture
Bounce-back opportunity – The Royals have had a knack for playing the Indians tough despite Cleveland’s 10-6 record in the season series. If the Indians want to reassert themselves as true contenders, they need to make an example of their divisional adversary this weekend.
Since August 1, the Royals are 5-13. Also in this span, there are seven Kansas City hitters who have recorded at least 50 plate appearances. Three of them have a wRC+ above 100, and the rest aren’t even close. Alex Gordon’s wRC+ is -2; Bubba Starling’s is -11.
As always, the trio of Whit Merrifield, Jorge Soler, and Hunter Dozier present a formidable threat at the top of the Royals lineup. The Tribe must exploit Kansas City’s near total lack of depth outside of those three.
Top of the rotation – Clevinger and Bieber last appeared in the same series against Boston, and it didn’t go as planned. Clevinger got knocked around a bit, Bieber got zero run support, and the Indians lost both games. That was the Red Sox. This is the Royals.
No win or loss counts more heavily toward a team’s record than the other, but the Indians absolutely cannot give up a game in the standings with their aces on the mound against a dreadful baseball team. It is imperative that the Tribe exploits the unquestionable advantage they’ll have with Clevinger and Bieber this weekend.
Keep the faith – There are undoubtedly some issues facing the Tribe right now that need to be resolved in a hurry. The Mets series was about as all-around bad as the Indians have looked since springtime. No one is denying that.
But baseball season is 162 game-days long for a reason. It’s so that teams like the Mariners, who go 13-2 to start the season, are brought back down to size. It’s so that teams like the Nationals, who were 19-31 after 50 games–but obviously never actually a bad team–can turn it around. It’s so that teams like the Indians, who lose three in a row to the Mets in August, aren’t totally wiped out of the race for October.
The way the 2019 season has gone, there is no evidence to suggest that the AL playoff picture will be decided any earlier than the final weekend or the final day. All the Indians can do till then is keep themselves in a position to have something to say about it when the dust settles.