Champagne was sprayed and spilt and perhaps even a bit consumed within the confines of Progressive Field on Wednesday night. A couple weeks after the Cleveland Indians wrapped up their own 2017 postseason berth and AL Central division crown, the Minnesota Twins backed into the second AL Wild Card position after the Los Angeles Angels lost in extra innings to the Chicago White Sox. While it is worth a tip of the cap to the Twins outplaying their metrics en route to earning a bid into October, it is satisfying Paul Molitor and his crew were forced to celebrate after a loss as the Tribe controlled the Wednesday night affair and won, 4-2.
With the postseason bids wrapped up, one might wonder why it would be worth watching the final four games of the Indians regular season before the ALDS kicks off next Thursday. Well, the Indians are in a bit of a unique position where there are many underlying arcs still playing out over the course of the last weekend.
Here is why you need to watch.
No. 1 seed still in play
The Indians currently sit at 99-59, which is a full game ahead of the Houston Astros over whom they hold the tiebreaker. The lead might as well be two games as the Astros must finish with a better record than the Tribe to claim the first overall seed. If the Indians go 2-2, then the Astros would need to win out their final four contests to jump them.
The Dodgers sit with a similar stranglehold on the overall No. 1 seed in the MLB postseason. They would need to lose out and the Indians win out for the Tribe to claim that position.
The most likely scenario here is that the Indians go over 100 wins for just the third time in franchise history, await the AL Wild Card Game winner for their ALDS matchup, and would need anyone other than the Dodgers to advance to the World Series to hold home field advantage through the postseason. But, it is not like opponents haven’t gifted the Indians favors in the past. So, we’ll see.
Josh Tomlin vs Danny Salazar
Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and Trevor Bauer have locked up the first three rotation positions. It is possible that the Indians will not need a fourth starter, but, should the need arise, they have a decision to make between Tomlin and Salazar with Mike Clevinger having been moved to the bullpen. By the way, Clevinger is settling into his role nicely as he pitched on back-to-back nights and has yet to surrender a run in his new role.
Tomlin has pitched well in the second half of the season. Despite his last start, he has a 3.38 ERA in eight starts with a .256/.274/.419 slash against. The Little Cowboy has been with the team for a long time and is a big reason they were able to scrape their way to within a win of a World Series championship last season.
If Salazar is right though, there is no decision. He has the potential to be absolutely filthy with his pitches especially if he is allowed to treat his start as a three-to-four inning stint with Clevinger coming in to provide some middle relief innings. Salazar looked the part on Wednesday as he had nine strikeouts in just 4.2 innings pitched. Tomlin gets one more start this weekend, but pay attention to team messaging about how Salazar is feeling too.
Carlos Santana has given Tribe fans a reason to breathe a sigh of relief as it appears his shoulder is not damaged from the weekend collision. Jason Kipnis is still ramping up- as painful as watching him attempt to play center field might be on the eyes. Yandy Diaz and Lonnie Chisenhall came back on Wednesday from injuries. Some of their initial timing issues demonstrate why it is so imperative for Michael Brantley to get some at bats this weekend if he has any realistic opportunity of helping the team in the ALDS.
Oh, and that Andrew Miller guy appears to be back in top form after a slow climb back from his own injury. That might be sort of important.