Tribe Controls More Destiny Than You’d Think in Final Week
Mike B. | On 22, Sep 2014
After being left for dead just a week ago, it appears the Indians still have a heartbeat.
It might be just a faint one, but Cleveland definitely has life as they enter the final week of the season. The Tribe doesn’t completely control their own destiny as they are 3.5 games out of the final Wild Card spot with seven games remaining, but for a team in must-win mode, they probably have more of the pennant race in their hands than they deserve to.
After taking three of four in Minnesota, the Indians return home for a three game series with the Kansas City Royals beginning tonight at Progressive Field. The newest, “series of the year,” opens with a new wrinkle. The Indians have a chance to get a pair of wins this evening, as they’ll complete the game started on Aug. 31 in Kansas City. The Tribe is three outs from a win, cutting their Wild Card deficit to 2.5 games before starting the key, three game series. Tonight becomes the newest, most important night of the season since a pair of wins would have the Indians two games back of a playoff spot with five games to play.
Even if the Indians do get a pair of wins tonight, being two back with five to play—and having Seattle between the Tribe and the Royals in the standings—is no easy task to earn a playoff spot. In order to finish their business and make back-to-back trips to the playoffs for the first time since 1998-99, the Indians will probably have to win out this week. Cleveland catches a couple breaks though, including missing Royals’ ace, James Shields and veteran Jeremy Guthrie. They’ll still have to battle Yordano Ventura on Tuesday evening. Ventura dominated the Indians in his first two starts against the Tribe this year, but the Feisty Featherheads were able tally four runs against the young, fireballer on July 25.
What seems even more improbable or amazing, is that if the Indians can make the final weekend series against the Tampa Bay Rays matter, they’ll have their three best pitchers in the last two months ready to pitch. T.J. House would be slated to pitch Friday night. House has gone 3-1, with a 2.30 ERA, in eight starts in August and September. The rookie, left-hander has been consistent and attacking the zone down the stretch.
Saturday the Indians have Cy Young candidate Corey Kluber ready to pitch. After two straight 14-strikeout games, winning a must-win game on the second to last day of the season for his 18th win could be enough to cement his candidacy. If Kluber helped pitched the Indians to the playoffs—especially if it meant keeping Felix Hernandez and the Seattle Mariners out—he could become the Tribe’s third Cy Young winner in the last decade.
And finally, how better to prove his mettle and mental development than to have Carlos Carrasco take the mound on the last day of the season for a chance to pitch the Tribe into the playoffs. Carrasco, who has struggled to find his way as a starting pitcher for parts of the last three seasons, has been the most dominant pitcher in baseball since resuming his place in the rotation in early August. While his physical ability has never been a question to the organization, it’s been his mental makeup that has created questions. Now, Carrasco pitches with confidence. Seeing that confidence in a game of significance would go a long way to proving his long-term residency in the rotation.
Winning seven straight games and finishing on a nine game-winning streak is tough. It’s not likely to happen, but it does seem like many of the breaks are in the air that allowed the Tribe to go on a similar 10-game win streak to finish the season in 2013.
And if the Tribe were to finish the season hot and play their way into the Wild Card game, it would set up to be Danny Salazar’s turn in the rotation. Sounds familiar.
Photo: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images