Indians Still Chasing Tigers for Top Spot in Division

If you watched the Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers battle this weekend, it was obvious that the better team was the Tigers. You didn’t need a scoreboard to know who was better. The eye test told you the Indians still have a way to go.

Cleveland was a pathetic 4-15 against the Tigers last year and it lingered as one of the biggest reasons the Indians did not win the American League Central Division. When the dust settled, the Indians were just a game behind Detroit at the season’s end. That game was the difference between a one-game Wild Card playoff or a five-game series.

This year, the Indians are 4-4 versus Detroit. Each team has logged a three-game sweep against the other but this weekend demonstrated the glaring holes the Indians still have against the Tigers. The Indians pitching staff has no answer for Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez. This weekend you could add J.D. Martinez to the list too. Detroit’s offense is watered down from year’s past with no Prince Fielder and Torii Hunter injured, but they had all the offense they needed to handle the Tribe this weekend.

Detroit made some changes to their roster this past winter to try and get younger and quicker defensively. Even without shortstop, Jose Iglesias, Detroit is very sharp defensively, especially compared to the Indians. Cleveland is the worst defensive team in baseball and their woes have cost them several games. You have to look no further than Sunday’s game when Asdrubal Cabrera and Michael Bourn made crucial errors during Detroit’s seven-run fifth inning.

As concerning as the Indians still trailing the Tigers in the division as we near the half way mark of the Major League Baseball season is that the division is much stronger from top to bottom. While Cleveland struggled against Detroit a year ago, they were 17-2 against the Chicago White Sox and 13-6 against the Minnesota Twins. While neither team is likely cut out to win the division, they are both improved. The White Sox are 7-3 against the Tribe this year and the Indians are just 4-3 against the Twins.

So the Indians haven’t chased down the top spot, but the bottom is climbing up and the Kansas City Royals appear to be better also. The division is becoming cloudy and deep. No team is an easy victory like a year ago. That parity likely means the team that can beat the others in the division will be the winner. The Tigers still control the division and Indians—as demonstrated this weekend—and to make matters worse, that parity will likely lead to the Wild Card going to the other divisions.

For a team that printed, “Unfinished Business,” t-shirts in March and made their goal clear in their need to win the division, it appears it may be more necessary and more difficult than ever.

The Indians have to do something to chase down the Tigers—maybe the Royals—and hold off the White Sox and Twins.

Photo: David Maxwell/Getty Images

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