The race is thickening for the two AL wild card spots.
The Rays, Orioles, Yankees and Athletics are all gearing up for the postseason push over the final month of the season. But a team that has flown under the radar all season, yet is still alive for the playoffs, is the Cleveland Indians.
The Detroit Tigers have not exactly run away with the AL Central division, but the star-studded Tigers roster has garnered the bulk of the attention coming out of that division.
Really no one on the Indians is having a dominant season offensively or on the mound. Jason Kipnis has put together a solid season, but the rest of the team has made middling seasons at best, including Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, Michael Brantley, Carlos Santana and Drew Stubbs.
Most of these players would be role players on any other team fighting for a playoff berth, but the chemistry has seemed to work, with a different guy stepping up for Francona’s club every night.
Justin Masterson has emerged as the team’s ace, but basically all the other starting pitchers are hovering around .500.
The team’s bullpen has been its strong point, led by relievers Cody Allen, Joe Smith and Matt Albers in front of closer Chris Perez.
Over the next month, the Indians have an incredibly easy schedule, which may work to their advantage in trying to secure one of the final playoffs spots.
After a tough home series with the Orioles, the team will play the struggling Mets, Royals, White Sox, Royals again, Astros, White Sox again and the Twins. All of these teams are, of course, professional teams, but they’ll all likely try to showcase their September call-ups, since the games are basically irrelevant.
Meanwhile, the teams in the AL East will all be duking it out against each other. What the Indians need is for the Orioles, Rays and Yankees to all basically split against one another so that one team does not make a jump in the standings.
Cleveland will still have to win the bulk of its games in order to move up, but again based on the light schedule, it could be done.
The Indians have not made the postseason since 2007. They may need some help from the other teams fighting for a playoff berth, but if Cleveland can keep up its pace, October baseball could be a real possibility.
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