The Cleveland Indians enter the last month of the regular season with a 4-1/2 game lead over the Detroit Tigers in the AL Central Division.
The magic number is 26.
All in all, the Tribe is in pretty good shape.
They fortified the roster by making a waiver deal to bring Coco Crisp back to the wigwam, and considering the trades that were made in August, that has to be considered a solid move.
After all, the Orioles just traded for former Indian Michael Bourn. Who would you rather have?
Crisp is the probable roster replacement for Abraham Almonte who is ineligible for the post-season due to his suspension for PEDs earlier this season.
The veteran switch-hitter did have a 778 OPS away from the pitcher friendly, dank Oakland ballpark this season, so he can still contribute with the bat and is more than adequate in the field as long as that field is leftfield.
The bullpen is also much improved from the end of July, partially because of Andrew Miller’s dominance, and also because some of the pitchers who were struggling seem to have righted themselves.
Zack McAllister looks like the guy who was a late inning dude during the first half of last season. He got a huge out Monday night with the bases loaded and two out in the 10th inning, and over the last two weeks has been real good.
And Jeff Manship is also getting hitters out giving Terry Francona an early option if he needs to go to his ‘pen. Mike Clevinger has also contributed, although it looks as though he may be getting stretched out as a starter again next week.
The starting rotation also seems to be out of the funk it was in since the All Star break. Corey Kluber has established himself as a contender for a second Cy Young Award, and it was a good sign that Danny Salazar pitched well last weekend in Texas.
Saturday is a big start for him to see if he is back on track. Trevor Bauer has put together back-to-back solid efforts, and Carlos Carrasco has been the best starter outside of Kluber since the break.
Josh Tomlin looks like he is out of the rotation at this point after he was cuffed around again against the Twins. Our guess is Clevinger will take his turn on Tuesday night, going as long as he can before the bullpen takes over.
We also think that the Indians will bring up either Ryan Merritt or Shawn Morimando to back up Clevinger at least early on. The way Tomlin has pitched, he should be relegated to mop up duties at this point.
This team still needs to win games to make the last two weeks of the schedule as meaningless as they can.
Remember, 13 of Cleveland’s last 16 games are against the Tigers and the Royals, and even though the Tribe has handled both team well this year, if the Indians keep winning, those teams will be desperate.
On the other hand, if Francona’s group can have let’s say a six or seven game lead going into those last 16 contests, it puts KC and Detroit into a position where they would have to sweep.
We have always maintained a five game lead on Labor Day is pretty safe, and the Indians can accomplish that with a good weekend against the Marlins, because the Tigers and Royals square off at the same time.
The front office has fortified the roster, now it’s up to the players. And if the starting pitching is back on track, the Tribe will be pouring some champagne in their clubhouse this month.