The Cleveland Indians currently have a 22.4 percent chance to make the playoffs, according to CoolStandings.com. In that lies a 4.2 percent shot to take the division from the Detroit Tigers. That’s what the series this weekend is all about. Not only that, as I detailed in a piece earlier in the week, the Indians can lose roughly 11 games the rest of the way if they want a Wild Card berth, and they have already been swept by the Braves. Baseball may be the game of the long season, but things are sure shortening up for the Tribe right now.
Realistically, getting out of Motown with a win in the series would be a bit of a coup – the Tribe is 3-13 against Detroit this season with only one win in Detroit. It makes sense – the Tigers are what you might call “really good.” They’re first in the MLB in OPS and hits, second in homers, sixth in walks (fourth in the AL) and all that has led to the most runs scored in the game. It’s been this way all season. Their pitching is no different, seventh in ERA (second in the AL), first in baseball in strikeouts and are in the bottom third in walks given up. When you look at the distant outfield walls of Comerica Park, at least one of these sets of facts makes sense.
So plainly, there’s some black magic going on here, and it’s plain that the Tigers are using performance enhancing substances – that’s right, Little Caesars Pizza. Owner Mike Ilitch made his fortune on these discount pies, and as a former college student I know that eating even one of these after a long Friday night of extracurricular activities allows for feats thought impossible just hours prior. Maybe you don’t move as quickly, but at the least normal conversation is possible, and you’re able to escape the clutches of your bed, or the head as the case may be. I can only imagine the power it imbues when you’re stone sober, or a professional athlete.
It could be that the Indians will face the Kittens with a dinged up Miguel Cabrera. He hurt his abdomen again, or maybe his leg or knee, trying to leg out a double against the A’s on Thursday and is listed as day to day. He hasn’t been 100% the last few weeks, which is terrifying. The way he’s swinging the bat it looks like he’s “sacrificing” average for power to overtake Chris Davis and win another Triple Crown. The last 25 games he’s hit 11 homers while batting “only” .351, still below his season average. What a ridiculous human being. He’s also slugging .742 over that same period, better than at least six Indians starters’ OPS. So that’s nice.
I think we know how Cubs/Astros/Pirates/Brewers fans have felt the last decade now.
Not much else to say about a team we know all too well, but it’s remarkable that Torii Hunter has put together a brilliant season in his 37th year. He’s never done anything besides play defense on an elite level, though he’s always been a generous contributor on offense and this season is no different. The hits are timely (game winning homer on Thursday) and he’s slid into the 2-hole in the lineup and given Miggy and Prince a host of chances for RBI’s. It’s amazing that he’s only been worth less than 3 rWAR in his career (2.9 in 2010) and his two best WAR season came after age 33. He’s so damn consistent, a brilliant pickup by the Tigers.
Along with Hunter, the recent Jose Iglesias acquisition has meant so much for the Detroit. The offensive loss of Jhonny Peralta is a bummer for them but Iglesias is what they need. With Miggy even more hobbled, his range is in the tank which Iglesias can make up for. And he has – he may not be Andrelton Simmons or Troy Tulowitzki, but it’s hard to find a better glove at short than him. Of course, the bat is a bit weak but he had a few big hits against the Indians last time around. He’s got timing, I’ll give him that.
Jim Leyland has been giving a once-bad bullpen work and they’ve turned into a weapon for him. It took a while, but Joaquin Benoit has found himself in the closer’s role more often than not and young Bruce Rondon has been hurling fire. Add to that Drew Smyly in the early role and Phil Coke still being Phil Coke, the one weakness that pleased me, besides the plodding baserunning, has become a strength. It’s not good for opposing clubs.