Cleveland Indians: Everything falling into place at the right time

CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 22: Jose Ramirez #11 of the Cleveland Indians is held up by Carlos Carrasco #59 as he celebrates with Franmil Reyes #32 after hitting a walk-off three-run home run off José Ruiz #66 of the Chicago White Sox during the tenth inning at Progressive Field on September 22, 2020 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Indians defeated the White Sox 5-3. (Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 22: Jose Ramirez #11 of the Cleveland Indians is held up by Carlos Carrasco #59 as he celebrates with Franmil Reyes #32 after hitting a walk-off three-run home run off José Ruiz #66 of the Chicago White Sox during the tenth inning at Progressive Field on September 22, 2020 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Indians defeated the White Sox 5-3. (Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images) /
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The Cleveland Indians have had their fair share of struggles, but as the regular season comes to a close, everything is starting to click for Cleveland.

Cedar Point is just about an hour away from Progressive Field in Sandusky, Ohio and if the 2020 Cleveland Indians were a ride there, the one best characterizing the season would be the Millennium Force. A high-speed ride with lots of twists and turns, highs and lows, it perfectly encompasses what the year has been for the Tribe.

At this point, it doesn’t matter how the team got here. All that matters is that they have clinched a spot in the playoffs for the fourth time in the last five seasons. Thanks to a Jose Ramirez walk-off home run on Tuesday night, the Indians are guaranteed a spot in the American League playoffs and can begin to look to October.

Despite all the twists and turns, highs and lows, the Cleveland Indians are still playoff bound and it can be largely attributed to the team’s complete effort over the last week or so. After a rough start to September that nearly ended any thought of the postseason, the Tribe have found their footing and could be hitting their stride at just the right time.

For the entirety of the season, the starting pitching has been the lifeblood of the team. The 2016 MLB Draft class trio of Shane Bieber, Zach Plesac and Aaron Civale has been stellar while Carlos Carrasco has been a steady veteran presence that has helped to allow the emergence of Triston McKenzie.

As a rotation, those five are a combined 24-13 on the year with 337 strikeouts over 282.1 innings pitched. Additionally they have allowed just 87 runs as a group and have given up just 35 home runs. Now with the new playoff format, the Indians will need just three of them to lock down the first round of the playoffs to advance.

When the starters turn the ball over to the bullpen, the same confidence is carried on the mound. Although the bullpen might not be as dominant as the starters, they have more than proven to be a solid group to close out games. Being led by closer Brad Hand, the back end of the bullpen has especially been impressive. Hand currently has an MLB-best 14 saves on the year for the Tribe.

The stumbling point for the Cleveland Indians this year has been their hitting. The team has struggled to produce runs and their best hitters have failed to get going. That is, however, until late.

The batting order has been paced by Jose Ramirez who not only clinched the playoff spot with a walk-off home run, but has also inserted his name into the MVP conversation with his incredible play at the plate. Ramirez has come up clutch for the Indians far more than once over the last week and has been a season long catalyst for trying to create a spark in the lineup.

Along with Ramirez, Cesar Hernandez has hit a hot streak of late, slashing .327/.340/.408 over the last two weeks, including four doubles. Hernandez was recently moved to second in the order and that seems to have played a role. In the two-hole, Hernandez is hitting .400 with three doubles and two RBI.

Francisco Lindor has also had a bit of success since moving in the order to the lead-off spot. Being back at the top of the order, Lindor has seven RBI, six walks and two stolen bases.

Even players who have struggled to find their groove this year have come through when needed and played a role in big wins. Carlos Santana had a home run on Monday night while Josh Naylor also had two doubles off the wall.

If more pieces of the lineup, like Santana and Naylor, can hit their stride and begin producing regularly, that would be huge for the Indians entering the postseason. In the same regard, if Franmil Reyes can return to form that would be a similar gain.

Cleveland’s pitching has been a high point for the entirety of the season, but the offense has just recently started to match that play. If Ramirez can stay hot that would be a big step for the Tribe to contend throughout October. Lindor, Hernandez and Santana would all be additions to the momentum that is forming for the Indians down the stretch.

There’s less than a week to play before the playoffs begin and the Indians are clicking. The hitting is finally starting to show while the pitching has been outstanding for most of the season. The timing could be perfect for a deep run into the postseason.

Next. Ramirez making strong case for MVP. dark

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