Posted on September 16, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
For most of the 2018 season, the Cleveland Indians have been a forgotten. However, the Indians are the first team in 2018 to win their division. With their 15-0 win over the Tigers on Saturday, the Indians clinched first place in the AL Central. This is Cleveland’s third straight AL Central title.
“All things considered, we clinched at home, and we did it in a convincing way,” Indians manager Terry Francona said after Saturday’s game. “We pitched well. We hit well. That’s a nice day.”
All things considered, the Indians have had a rather modest season. They only have the fifth-most wins in the American League. Cleveland has benefited from playing in the weakest division in baseball. However, they haven’t been overly dominant.
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Every other team in the AL Central is at least 10 games under .500. Had they been in any other division, the Indians would be seven games out of a wild-card spot. Nevertheless, playing in such a weak division has allowed Cleveland to clinch a playoff spot with more than two weeks left in the regular season.
“You can see by the way everyone played, they wanted to get it over with now, just so we can actually celebrate and enjoy it for this short time period,” said Mike Clevinger, who pitched six shutout innings in Saturday’s game. “We still have some games to get it together and prepare for what’s going to be our toughest task — that’s going to obviously be the playoffs.”
As Clevinger mentioned, the Indians have some work to do before the start of the playoffs. They will no doubt be underdogs in the American League playoffs regardless of who they play. However, that doesn’t mean the Indians won’t be a threat in the postseason. Considering their combination of talent and postseason experience, they should not be taken lightly in the playoffs.
The key for the Indians will be their starting pitching. With Clevinger, Corey Kluber, and Carlos Carrasco, the Indians have three starting pitchers who can match up with nearly any rotation in baseball. That rotation could be even better if Trevor Bauer is able to return. Bauer was having the best season of any of Cleveland’s starters before being sidelined with a stress fracture in his leg. Bauer is starting to work his way back and could be a difference maker if he can get back on the mound and return to form.
The Indians have another important X-factor in Josh Donaldson, who was acquired at the end of August. Donaldson recently returned after more than three months on the DL. If he can return to being the productive player he’s been in the past, Donaldson could strengthen an already powerful lineup that includes MVP candidates like Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez.
With an unimpressive record and obvious questions marks, it’s hard to see the Indians as anything but an underdog heading into the postseason. However, with their recent track record and the potential to add impact players like Bauer and Donaldson, the Indians are capable of making noise in October. After all, they have two weeks to find their groove so they can be at their best when the playoffs roll around.
“We’ve earned our right to play into October, which is not to be taken lightly,” said closer Cody Allen. “But we want to play a lot of baseball.”