The Cleveland Indians didn’t do themselves any favors in interleague play last year. They’ll look to get back on track against the NL West in 2020.
Around this time last year, we discussed how interleague play could impact the Cleveland Indians’ playoff chances. The AL Central squared up with the NL East, which turned out to be the best division in the senior circuit in terms of winning percentage in 2019.
Even before the season played out, you had to figure interleague play was going to be a challenge for the Indians last year. Only the Miami Marlins looked like a total non-factor in the NL playoff picture; all of the other four teams in the division were geared up to compete.
And wouldn’t you know it – the Indians were officially eliminated from playoff contention on the final Friday of the regular season, by none other than the Washington Nationals. After being knocked out of the hunt, the Indians mailed in the final two games and were ultimately swept.
The Indians were also swept in the third week of August by the New York Mets, a miserable series that went a long way toward driving the knife into Cleveland’s heart. Not only would the Tribe sit at least 2.5 games back of the Minnesota Twins from that point forward, but the three-game skid also bounced them from the wild-card hunt the rest of the way.
Not to mention, the Indians went a combined 3-4 against the Atlanta Braves and Miami Marlins earlier in the season. That’s seven games under .500 against four NL teams. The Indians finished three games back of the Tampa Bay Rays for the second wild-card spot. The point being: all 162 games count the same in the standings.
In 2020, the Indians and their divisional adversaries will take on the NL West, which doesn’t figure to be a whole lot easier than the NL East last year. Here’s a rundown of the Tribe’s interleague schedule, including the Ohio Cup versus the improved Cincinnati Reds.
- May 1-3 – San Francisco Giants
- May 19-20 – Cincinnati Reds
- May 22-24 – at Los Angeles Dodgers
- June 23-24 – at San Diego Padres
- July 7-8 – at Cincinnati Reds
- August 11-12 – San Diego Padres
- August 25-27 – Arizona Diamondbacks
- September 4-6 – at Colorado Rockies
A few things jump off the page at me right away when I look at this layout. The first of these is getting the Rockies in September.
The Rockies have somehow managed to find themselves in a hostage situation with their best player one year after signing him to the most lucrative contract in franchise history. There seems a reasonable chance Nolan Arenado doesn’t even make it to Opening Day in a Colorado uniform. If he does, the Rockies had better start winning, or whatever caused this rift in the first place is only going to get worse.
One player doesn’t single-handedly determine the outcome of a game or series, but Colorado’s lineup is naturally more intimidating with Arenado in it. He might not be there anymore by the time the Indians come to town.
The other big takeaway here is admittedly impossible to see without context, but the August 25-27 series against the Diamondbacks is the first installment in a 10-game stretch that also includes the Twins and New York Yankees. The Indians will get Arizona and New York at home before heading to Minnesota for a four-game tilt to end August and begin September.
We have no idea what the standings will look like by then, but that’s a 10-day stretch I feel comfortable circling on the calendar as “marginally important to the Indians’ playoff chances.”
I wouldn’t sleep on that August 11-12 two-gamer against the Padres, either. They’re an up-and-coming team who could be hitting their stride around that time of year. As for the rest of the interleague schedule…
We’ll see how the Reds’ offseason moves translate onto the field, but they should be a tough matchup for any opponent. The Indians went 3-1 against their in-state rival in 2019; it will be a challenge to do the same in 2020.
The Dodgers are the Dodgers. If the Indians can steal two of three from the reigning NL West champs, great.
The Indians finished 8-12 in interleague play in 2019. They held a winning record over only two of their six NL opponents, and split with a third. They’re probably not going 18-1 against the Detroit Tigers for a second straight year, so here’s hoping Cleveland accounts for the difference with a better showing against the NL West in 2020.