The Indians are currently at the .500 mark, at 56-56, and are lucky to still be in contention for the playoffs. If the Indians were in the AL East, they would be way out of contention with no chance at the playoffs. Luckily, the AL Central is a weak division this season, which favors the Tribe.
The outcome of the series is important for both teams. If the Indians can win the series, they can gain ground on the Tigers. However, if the Tigers win the series, they can build a lead over the Indians that may become too much to overcome.
The one thing that favors the Indians, as they are behind, is that the teams play a total of twelve more games this season. It gives the Indians time to regain the lead in the division, but they must start by winning this upcoming series.
The Indians will be given a great shot to win in the first two games, as Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez with pitch today and tomorrow respectively. Masterson has been a reliable starter all season, and Ubaldo should be able to be much more relaxed than he was during his first outing on Friday.
Thursday will be tough for the offense of the Indians, as they must go up against Justin Verlander. He can be unhittable (literally) at times, but he has been known to have games where he just doesn’t have his best stuff.
No matter how well the starting pitching does, the bullpen must return to their early season form. The team’s last four losses have been charged to the bullpen, and have come in either walk-off, or late inning fashion.
The Indians now have exactly 50 games left in the season. They must begin to pull away from the .500 mark, to avoid making this season a disappointment. Of course, we have all seen the progression of Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall, but we have also seen the departure of Alex White and Drew Pomeranz. It would be nice to see the acquisition of Ubaldo pay dividends this season, especially considering what was given up.
The Indians are in control of their own destiny, and must take advantage of their opportunity starting tonight.