The Cleveland Indians begin a crucial 10-game AL Central swing tonight at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago. The Tribe will face off with Jose Abreu and the Chicago White Sox for three before heading to face the Kansas City Royal for three games against the royalty of the AL Central. Finally, the Indians will return home to Progressive Field and host the Detroit Tigers for four games.
The Indians currently sit at 66-63, 5.5 games back of the Royals in the division and 4.5 behind the Seattle Mariners in the Wild Card race. The Tigers remain just a half game behind Seattle entering play today.
The first objective for Cleveland will be to dispose of the White Sox with relative ease. The Sox are 12 games under .500, and the Indians must at bare minimum win the series to put themselves in a good position heading to KC. A sweep would obviously be preferable.
The Royals could possibly place the Tribe out of playoff contention with a three-game sweep at Kauffman Stadium. Depending on how the Chicago series pans out, a KC sweep of Cleveland could put Terry Francona‘s club as far as 10 back. With only 30 games left, a series win seems essential for the Tribe in Kansas City as they try to make up ground.
Cleveland will then come home to host Detroit, the team that finished just one game ahead of the Tribe in the Central last season. The Tigers remain poised to return to the postseason, as they are clearly more talented and experienced than the Mariners and Royals in front of them. However, the Indians could make up serious ground in the Wild Card and even displace the Tigers with a strong four-game set. The Indians have the third-best home record in the AL, and they will need to continue to play well at home when Detroit comes to town.
Clearly, the next 10 games could make or break the Indians’ season as they strive for their second consecutive playoff berth. Despite and up and down season, the Indians have a legitimate opportunity in front of them. Here’s hoping they seize it.