Cleveland Indians: All that rides on the final regular season series

CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 24: Cesar Hernandez #7 and Jose Ramirez #11 of the Cleveland Indians celebrate a 5-4 victory over the Chicago White Sox at Progressive Field on September 24, 2020 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 24: Cesar Hernandez #7 and Jose Ramirez #11 of the Cleveland Indians celebrate a 5-4 victory over the Chicago White Sox at Progressive Field on September 24, 2020 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images) /

Entering the final series of the regular season, the Cleveland Indians are in the midst of the one of the tightest division races in baseball.

The 2020 season has been an interesting one for the Cleveland Indians, but despite some struggles they still find themselves entering the last series of the regular season with the possibility of winning the AL Central division title.

With three more games left for all three teams contending in the AL Central, the Indians couldn’t have asked for a better opponent than the Pittsburgh Pirates. Currently the worst team in baseball with an 18-39 record, the Pirates seem to be the ideal opposition for the Tribe, who have found a groove of late.

After losing eight straight games in the heart of September, resulting in the team losing control of the AL Central, the Indians have spouted off seven wins over the last eight games and found a rhythm that has them right back in the thick of things in the division, but it hasn’t exactly been easy.

To get to this point the Indians rattled off a four-game series sweep against the Chicago White Sox who had entered the series in first place in the AL Central. This came thanks to three comeback wins and a walk-off home run by MVP candidate Jose Ramirez. Now, Chicago stands one game back of the Minnesota Twins and one game ahead of the Cleveland Indians, leaving just two games separating the top three teams in the Central.

Due to tiebreakers, the Indians will need to win out, plus a little help from the Cincinnati Reds, in order to claim the division. The Twins hold the season series over the Indians, meaning the Reds will need to sweep the Twins for the Indians to have a shot at passing them. As for the White Sox, the Indians hold that series handedly, so a tie would still result in the Indians having the second spot in the Central at least.

However, the divisional race isn’t the only thing still undecided in the American League. With the new playoff structure, the top four teams will host in the Wild Card round before moving to a bubble site in the Division round. The top three teams in the AL are the division leaders, but the fourth team is a different story.

If the playoffs ended today, the White Sox would be the fourth seed and host in the first round of the playoffs. However, that could very quickly change. As it currently stands, the Indians are slated as the fifth seed and the Yankees as the sixth seed. The Indians trail the White Sox by one game and then the Yankees trail the Indians by just a game as well.

With three games left, these teams could turn into a carousel, moving about as the weekend goes. With a bubble for the rest of the playoffs, getting the fourth seed could be a huge advantage in the first round. Even if the Tribe fall short of the division, this is still well within reach if they can pass the White Sox in the standings and hold off the Yankees.

Since the Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees didn’t face this year, the tiebreaker would move to intradivision record. Well, as fate would have it, the Indians and Yankees are both 23-17 against their own divisions. This would mean the third tiebreaker would come into play, which is the last 20 intradivision games, adding one game each until the tie is broken.

Over the last 20 division games, the Indians are 13-7 while the Yankees are 11-9 over their last 20 division games. Both teams are set for NL opponents to close the season, meaning that the Indians will hold the tiebreaker over the Yankees.

So, in a nutshell, the Twins are the only team the Indians have to pass outright if they want to clinch anything. The Tribe hold the tiebreakers over both the White Sox and the Yankees, so a tie with either would grant the Cleveland Indians a home field advantage in the Wild Card round.

While the 60 game schedule seems to have been full of more emotion than a regular season with countless ups and downs for such a short span, the Indians are still right where they have been recently in the middle of a race to the playoffs.

The Pirates aren’t a pushover, but they are the best team to face for the Indians who not only have a shot at hosting the Wild Card at Progressive Field, but also have a chance at capturing the AL Central title for the fourth time in the last five years.

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