Tribe Stuck in Scoreboard Watching Mode as Season Slips Away
Bob Toth | On 25, Sep 2019
The Indians find themselves in a precarious situation in the final week of the season.
Instead of resting comfortably at the top of the American League Central, as the club has done for the last three years, the Indians find themselves on the outside looking in. Despite resurgent play in the second half of the season and catching Minnesota briefly atop the division, Cleveland has watched as the first place Twins have remained hot and kept some distance from the second place contenders. Their magic number after Tuesday’s win was reduced to just two, likely ending the Indians’ three-year title as the best in the Central.
The American League Wild Card has been no less pleasant of a pursuit for the Tribe. As seems to be the case every year, Oakland (94-63) is in the conversation, nine games behind top-seeded Houston yet sitting pretty, in full control of its own destiny while in the driver’s seat for the first Wild Card slot. A loss to the Los Angeles Angels (71-86) on Tuesday night decreased its advantage to a half game over the Tampa Bay Rays and one full game over Cleveland, but the A’s remaining schedule is soft, as they face the Angels once more this week before closing out the season with four games against the last place Seattle Mariners (66-91). They will need to end a two-game skid to secure their postseason dreams.
The Rays (94-64) got a dramatic 12th inning walk-off home run from Ji-Man Choi on Tuesday against the New York Yankees to steal yet another extra inning win while picking up ground on Oakland. It kept the Rays ahead of the victorious Indians by a half game as for the third time in the last five games, the Rays won in walk-off fashion and for the fourth time in their last six picked off a last at bat win. Tampa has an evening date with the Yankees on Wednesday before an off-day Thursday. They wrap their season with three games in Toronto against the Blue Jays (64-94), the fourth place club in the American League East.
As for Cleveland (93-64), it needs lots of help, but it has to help its own cause first and foremost. A lopsided 11-0 win on Tuesday over Chicago pulled the season series with the White Sox to 8-9 with two to go. Cleveland cannot let the pesky Pale Hose play spoilers if they have postseason aspirations, but the Sox have been a sneaky thorn in the Tribe’s side all year long.
The team’s final series this weekend in Washington will lead to an ultimate verdict, as long as the Tribe does not trip up completely in the final two games in Chi-Town on Wednesday and Thursday. The National League Wild Card race is all but wrapped up, with the Nationals in and the Milwaukee Brewers just a game away entering the day on Wednesday, which could have some implications on the Indians’ series in the nation’s capital. The location of that probable Wild Card matchup remains a mystery (with Washington currently holding a one-game lead for home field in the play-in game), which could have led this weekend’s host playing full tilt to bring at least one more game to Nationals Park this year. But the Nationals do not appear willing to sacrifice their top starter, Max Scherzer, on Sunday afternoon against the Tribe to earn home field (if still undecided at that point) and will instead opt to utilize him wherever that Wild Card contest is played on Tuesday, October 1. If nothing else, that decision gives the Indians a bit of an edge in that final game of the season, one which may have significant implications on the playoff picture.
While the Indians hold their October fate largely in their own hands, they need some serious help. The Tribe and their fans will be pulling for the Angels, Yankees, Mariners, and Blue Jays over this last week of the 2019 regular season, hoping that somehow, someway, the stars align for October baseball for the Indians this year.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images