The Detroit Tigers appeared poised to run away with the AL Central after completing a trade for Cy Young winner David Price at the trade deadline. Brad Ausmus’s club boasts the last three AL MVP and Cy Young winners. Victor Martinez is having the best season of his decorated career. The Tigers seemed unstoppable.
However, Detroit has since lost four in a row and seven of its last 10 overall, as the Kansas City Royals lept to the top of the division and seized first place. Detroit is a half game back of KC in the AL Central, and is tied with the Seattle Mariners for the second Wild Card spot. Justin Verlander left his last start with shoulder inflammation, while the 2013 AL ERA leader Anibal Sanchez and reliever Joakim Soria are on the DL.
The Tigers are weak, their roar less loud than a few weeks ago.
The Cleveland Indians have remained level, winning and losing in bunches yet hovering right around the .500 mark most of the year. In fact, the team has fallen below .500 and returned to the mark 14 times this season. The Tribe made no big deadline additions, and it is unlikely they will make anything but a minor waiver trade.
Yet, despite horrendous defensive play and a shaky rotation, the Indians remain only five games back of the Royals and 4.5 games back of Detroit and Seattle in the Wild Card chase.
The rest of August has the Tribe squaring off against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Baltimore Orioles, Minnesota Twins, Houston Astros and Chicago White Sox, before playing the Royals and Tigers a combined 10 times over the final five weeks of the season. Of the matchups prior to the divisional series, only the O’s are above .500, so the Tribe is positioned well to make a late-season run.
However, there can be no more inconsistency, no more bad defense, no more excuses. The time is now for the Tribe. They must finish August hot, feasting on subpar teams while the Tigers battle injuries. Then, they must pounce on the Tigers and Royals come September. Last season, the Indians went 12-16 in August before finishing 21-6 in September, winning their final 10 games overall.
The Tribe has played like anything but a playoff team to this point. Now, Terry Francona’s bunch will have a chance to finish strong like they did last year and play into October once more. Here’s hoping some of the magic from last season remains.