One year ago, the Cleveland Indians were on their way to a Wild Card berth and eventual postseason loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. Despite inconsistency, a revolving door in the rotation, and poor hitting as of late, the 2014 Tribe is almost identical statistically to the 2013 club.
On this date just a year ago, the Indians trailed the first-place Detroit Tigers by seven games in the American League Central and sat 4.5 games behind the Oakland Athletics in the race for the second Wild Card spot. Now, Cleveland is six games behind Kansas City in the AL Central and five games short of the Seattle Mariners in the chase for the second Wild Card spot. Last year, the Indians were 66-58 on August 18, while they are currently 62-61.
The current squad carries a plus-13 run differential, while the 2013 Indians had a plus-30 differential. Both teams were in the top five in the American League in runs as of this date.
Last season, Terry Francona‘s Tribe managed to reel off 10 straight victories to close out the season and secure the top Wild Card spot. It is extremely unlikely that this year’s team will be able to do the same. Accordingly, the Tribe need to strike now and start making up ground in the postseason race.
Cleveland’s schedule over the next few weeks offers the team a chance to string together some wins. Their next nine games come against Minnesota, Houston, and Chicago, all of whom rank in the bottom five in the AL in winning percentage. Though the Tribe has struggled against the Twins and White Sox to this point, compiling a combined 10-13 record against the AL central cellar dwellers, the next few weeks represent as good a stretch as any for the team to get hot.
The Indians will also square off against the Tigers seven more times and the Royals six more times before the season ends, so any reasonable AL Central deficit can be made up with stellar play against their divisional foes.
In their last seven games, the Indians’ starters have compiled a 1.02 ERA, while their bats have averaged a dismal 2.7 runs per game. If the rotation can keep rolling, and Cleveland’s sleeping bats can wake up, perhaps the 2014 Indians can mirror the 2013 squad in the most important way possible by clinching a second consecutive postseason berth.