The Cleveland Indians just broke an awful losing streak, but the Chicago White Sox up next, they are still in contention for the AL Central.
The Cleveland Indians had a hard time finding the win column in the first half of September, but with just a little over a week left in the season, they still find themselves in the thick of the AL Central race.
As it stands, the Tribe are third in the American League Central behind the Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins, but the window of opportunity for a division championship isn’t shut just yet.
Monday will be the first of four games for the Indians against the White Sox and this is where things could get interesting. As it currently stands, Cleveland is five games out of first place. Although a sweep seems nearly impossible to Indians fans right now, they could still pull the rabbit out of the hat and shock everyone.
For the first two games, the Indians have Aaron Civale and Shane Bieber taking the mound, which gives hope that the Tribe could knock out the first two games of the series with ease if the offense can continue to produce the way they did against Detroit. Cleveland scored a total of 19 runs over four games against the Tigers, including 10 runs on Thursday and seven on Sunday, taking three of the four games as well.
Sweeping the White Sox would be a tremendous momentum boost for the club as they are set to face the Pittsburgh Pirates to end the season in a three-game series. The Pirates are an MLB-worst 15-38, meaning that a sweep could be very possible there as well.
Now, for the Indians to overtake the division a sweep over Chicago almost has to happen. After the Indians, the White Sox will square off with the cross-town rival Chicago Cubs. That series will be hard for the White Sox to sweep, meaning the Indians could have a shot at surpassing them if they can run the table.
The other side of the coin for the Tribe to still claim the AL Central will be the Minnesota Twins, who are stuck between the Indians and White Sox in the standings. Currently, Minnesota is two games out of first, leaving them three games ahead of the Tribe.
The Twins have the easiest schedule of the three teams battling in the Central with just five games left to play while Chicago and Cleveland each have seven. Minnesota is off both Monday and Thursday, book-ending a two-game series with the Tigers.
The Twins should handle business with the Tigers. If they sweep and the Indians sweep as well, the Twins would overtake Chicago atop the division and become the team to beat down the stretch with three games left to play. However, the Indians would need the Twins to at least split with the Tigers to have any shot at passing them for the division.
The final three games for the Twins will be against the Cincinnati Reds, who are in the middle of their own divisional battle, currently standing 4.5 games back of the Cubs for the NL Central while clinging to the final wild card spot in the NL.
If the Reds could sweep the Twins while the Indians sweep the Pirates and the White Sox fall to the Cubs, there is still a path to the division crown for Cleveland. Yes, it gets confusing and yes it’s a long shot, but there is still the chance.
Right now, the Indians just need to win out to secure their spot in the playoffs regardless. They can still land either the top spot or the second spot in the AL Central, but the road will be difficult. The final week of the season will be key in determining where, and who, the Indians play in the first round of the playoffs.
If the season ended today, the Indians would be the seventh seed and face the White Sox. However, with four games upcoming against Chicago, that playoff picture could change a lot between now and the end of the series.
The Cleveland Indians have the pitching to make it all happen on their end, but the offense will be the key to whether or not they can clinch the division, or even a playoff spot at this point. The slippery slope that has been September for the Tribe has put them in a tough spot, but luckily the playoffs are what matter and there’s still time for the Cleveland Indians to find their footing and make a run.