The Cleveland Indians are playoff bound for the first time since 2007. Thanks to Sunday’s 5-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins, the Cleveland Indians officially clinched the top spot in the AL Wild Card race and will play host in Wednesday’s Wild Card play-in game. Who they will play remains to be seen, however. Both the Rays and Rangers won on Sunday and will need a 163rd game to decide who will travel to Cleveland on Wednesday.
In the meantime, the Indians can celebrate after rattling off ten straight victories to close out the season. They will head into postseason play as the hottest team in baseball. Since the calendar turned to September they have won 21 out of their last 27 games including 15 out of their last 17 games.
On Sunday, Ubaldo Jimenez became the latest member of the Indians starting rotation to turn in an outstanding outing. He lasted 6.2 innings and allowed only one run to cross the plate while surrendering five hits and a walk. Perhaps most impressive, Jimenez struck out 13 Twins and dominated from the get go. Since the calendar flipped over to September, Jimenez has posted a 4-0 record with a 1.12 ERA. He has been spectacular leading the Indians while Justin Masterson recovered from a strained oblique muscle.
Another key contributor on Sunday afternoon was Nick Swisher. In the top of the first inning Swisher connected on a 2-2 pitch from Scott Diamond for his 22nd home run of the year. It put the Tribe up 2-0 and was all the support they would need to provide Jimenez. Of course, it helped that they added three more runs on the day before the Twins could get on the board. An unearned run on a throwing error, a Yan Gomes sacrifice fly, and a Carlos Santana double would push the lead to 5-0 before the seventh inning stretch.
Another important note on the day was Justin Masterson and his 1.2 of an inning of perfect relief work. He struck out two Twins of his own and looked like the Justin Masterson we have come to know and love. The only question remaining isn’t how healthy is he, but how will the Indians use him moving forward, especially given the struggles of closer Chris Perez?
The Indians will have an opportunity to sit back and relax as they wait out the winner of Monday’s win or go home tie breaker between the Rays and Rangers. For the Indians, it’s a best case scenario as both teams will have all hands on deck. That extra game and added stress could be an added advantage for the Indians, who will already be at an advantage playing at home with what has been reported to be a sell out crowd behind them.