As Sept. 1 draws nearer, the Cleveland Indians remain in the thick of both the AL Central and Wild Card races, sitting six games behind the Kansas City Royals in the division and five back of the Seattle Mariners in the Wild Card. Cleveland’s pitching has been absolutely lights out lately, as the starting pitchers have logged a 1.70 ERA over their last 13 games. The opposition has scored three runs or fewer in 12 of those 13 games, while the Indians have compiled a 9-4 record. However, with average offensive production, the Indians may have won all 13.
Cleveland’s offense has floundered in recent weeks, averaging only 3.15 runs per game over the past 20 games. Much of that has to do with injuries to key players like Nick Swisher, Yan Gomes, David Murphy and Ryan Raburn. The Tribe has been forced to insert anywhere between one and four rookies into the lineup on any given night, with Zach Walters, Tyler Holt, Roberto Perez and Jose Ramirez receiving regular playing time.
Accordingly, if the Tribe’s pitching staff can keep rolling, the Sept. 1 roster expansions could be a godsend to a tiring offense. Raburn and Jason Giambi, both key cogs for the team down the stretch last season, will soon begin rehab assignments with the hopes of rejoining the squad in early September. The veterans will add some pop and experience to the lineup.
Additionally, top shortstop prospect Francisco Lindor, who has been tearing up AAA pitching in recent weeks, will likely finally get a shot at the Major League level. His ascension through the Indians’ farm system has been swift, and he will surely impact the offense and defense in a positive way. The hope is he can be a spark plug, just as a young Asdrubal Cabrera was for the 2007 ALCS Indians squad when he received a September call-up. Another young gun with some thunder in his bat, first baseman Jesus Aguilar may get a second shot with the Tribe this year. He has mashed 17 homers in Columbus in 112 games.
At 66-63, the Indians have positioned themselves well to make a serious run over the last month of the season. They will begin a crucial AL Central swing Tuesday at the Chicago White Sox before traveling to face the Kansas CityRoyals for three games and returning home to host the Detroit Tigers for a four-game set. With a little offensive boost from the roster expansions, the Indians will surely make things interesting for the second consecutive year as they attempt to return to the playoffs.