At the All Star break, the Cleveland Indians (47-40) currently hold a 2.5-game lead over the Minnesota Twins. Expected to win the AL Central, they will make a run at their second World Series appearance in as many years. Although the Indians are in first place in their division, the Houston Astros are the most dominating team in the American League. With a record of 60-29, they are not only running away with the AL West (already have a 16.5-game lead), but they are running away with the best record in the AL. The Astros though have a problem when they have faced the Indains as they are just 1-5 against the Tribe this season with the Indians out-scoring them, 29-22.
Prior to the Sunday Night Baseball game in Cleveland last night, ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian admitted that, although Houston is a juggernaut, the one team that is best equipped to beat them in the postseason is the Indians. He not only believes that they can beat the Astros, but also win the World Series against whoever comes out of the West.
“The Astros have the best record in the league and they’re going to be tough to be, but I think the one team best equipped to beat the Astros are the Indians in the postseason. Corey Kluber is as dominant as any right-handed pitcher in this league, that’s for sure. Their bullpen is great. Their offense is so much better than it was last year with [Edwin] Encarnacion and a healthy [Michael] Brantley. That puts them in a great position. They all understand how much that hurt from last year. …They are well equipped, once they get [Jason] Kipnis and everyone healthy, to go back to the World Series and win it.”
He even went on to say that the Astros may make moves at the trade deadline solely to focus on beating the Indians in the playoffs, much like NBA teams have done recently to beat the Cavaliers and Warriors.
With the experience of last year’s postseason run under their belt, Cleveland will be ready to make a deep playoff run for the second year in a row. But, the Astros are very, very good. How good, you ask? They are just the fifth team in the last 40 years to win at least 60 games prior to the All Star break. This year’s Los Angeles Dodgers are one of the other four teams to do so.
The Astros lineup is dominating opposing pitching staffs, to say the least. It takes a team with a fantastic starting rotation and bullpen as dominant as the Indians have had to have a shot. Also, a contending team will need to be able to keep up with a lethal offense to take them down.
The Indians may have 13 less wins than the Astros at the break, but the knowledgeable Kurkjian thinks that Cleveland can beat them in a best-of-seven series in October. The fact that the Indians have dominated Houston this season helps, but are the Astros just too good at this point? Just ask the 2001 Seattle Mariners how much regular season win records mean once the calendar flips to October. Or the 1954 Cleveland Indians for that matter.