The Cleveland Indians are getting our hopes up yet again
“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!” Thank you, Michael Corleone. Truer words may have never been spoken for Cleveland sports fans. Not just the Cleveland Indians, all of them. But this season, the Tribe are doing everything that can to play into this quote from the Godfather: Part III.
Not long ago it seemed like the season was over for the Tribe. The team was down and out and the era of Cleveland Indians baseball was over. But to quote Lee Corso, “Not so fast.” Somehow, not only are the Tribe showing new life, but they just pulled off a weekend sweep over a fellow American League Wild Card contender in the Los Angeles Angels. And it wasn’t exactly close.
Now, before we go too far in and jump off the deep end we need to get a few things out of the way. It was only a few games. Cleveland is still 9.5 back in the AL Central and 7.5 back in the Wild Card. They are just now back to .500. But to stick with the quotes “So, you’re telling me there’s a chance.”
Back to the scheduled optimism. The sweep over the Angels puts Cleveland ahead of them in the AL Central race. Now, just the Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays stand between Cleveland and being on the door step of the playoffs. Then, it’s trying to overcome two of the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Oakland A’s.
That seems like a lot, no doubt. However, when you break down the upcoming schedule for Cleveland it doesn’t seem as far fetched. Throw in the fact that Boston and Oakland aren’t exactly thriving and it’s enough to raise an eyebrow and ask “What if?”
Next up for Cleveland will be a homestand that starts with the bottom-feeder Texas Rangers and ends with the struggling Red Sox. Texas will enter the series well below .500, in fact well below .400, on top of being 3-7 in their last 10 games. As for Boston, they’ve hit a rough patch of late that has them struggling to keep up with the surging Yankees.
From there, the Tribe will head on the road against Kansas City and then another series against Boston. Into September now, it will be the Twins and A’s next. That means that Cleveland’s schedule for the next three weeks or so will consist of either teams that are very beatable currently and/or teams they are chasing in the Wild Card race. If the club can hit a hot streak, look out.
Asking for a hot streak just a month ago would have been laughed at, but now not so much. And it’s all stemmed from the pitching. Cal Quantrill, Triston McKenzie and Eli Morgan have all settled into their roles to lock down three spots in the rotation. While Zach Plesac hasn’t been his best, he at least shores up another spot.
Even better news, Aaron Civale just began a rehab assignment with Double-A Akron. With Civale back, that would give Cleveland a full, and solid, rotation and that doesn’t even include Shane Bieber who is also still on track to return eventually.
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But what about the offense? You can’t win unless you can score. Well, somehow that is coming around just as well. Myles Straw has been playing well at the top of the order while Bradley Zimmer has shown flashes, but what might be even more promising is the rise of Jose Ramirez back to his natural MVP form.
Over the last seven days, Ramirez is slashing .296/.345/.741 with three doubles, three home runs and seven RBI. His 14 day splits aren’t too far off either. Historically a better player in the second half, Ramirez might finally be turning it on, just in time for a late push.
Again, we’re not saying the Cleveland Indians are winning the World Series this season. Quite frankly, we aren’t even sure if they make the playoffs. What just happened over the weekend was enough to reignite hope around the club. The pitching looks better, the hitting is coming around and the schedule looks favorable.
It’s the right time of the year for everything to click into place, but the hope is that it isn’t too little too late. That could very well be the case. If anything, this should create some excitement going into next year and maybe boost the confidence of some of the organization’s key players.