The playoffs for the Indians start tonight
We are now down to the final six days of the regular season. Less than a week remains in a season that many did not consider the Indians as having much of a chance of making the playoffs let along contending for them, yet, here we are.
The Indians are in great position to make the playoffs for the first time since 2007 and only the second time since the 2001 season. They control their own destiny where if they simply win all of their remaining games they will win one of the two wildcard spots no matter what any other team does down the stretch.
That said, the likelihood of the Indians winning all of their remaining six games is not great. It is possible, but should not be expected. With that in mind, let’s take a quick look at some of the interesting scenarios the Indians face this final week:
Winning a wildcard spot
The Indians currently sit one game behind the Rays for the top wildcard spot and hold a one game lead on the Rangers, a three game lead on the Royals, a four game lead on the Yankees and a five game lead on the Orioles.
Here are the magic numbers for the Indians to eliminate each team from the wildcard race or to overtake the top spot: Rays (8), Rangers (6), Royals (4), Yankees (3) and Orioles (2). Remember, a magic number is any combination of wins by the Indians or losses by that team and that number goes down. So, for example, if the Indians win tonight and the Rangers and Orioles lose, then the magic number for the Rangers would be four and the Orioles would be eliminated.
For all intents and purposes, the Orioles and Yankees are eliminated as it would take them going 6-0 down the stretch along with the Indians going 1-5 for the Yankees or 0-6 for the Orioles to get in over the Indians. The Royals also have a tall order ahead of them as they would have to go 6-0 and hope the Indians go 2-4 to get in over them without any play-in tie-breaker game.
So it really comes down to the Indians taking care of their own business by beating two of the worst teams in the American League the White Sox and Twins these final six games and then maybe getting some help from the opponents of the Rays and Rangers.
The Indians won’t get much help the next few days with the Rangers as they are playing the same Astros team the Indians just swept in four games over the weekend, and beat handily 12-0 last night in Arlington. That means the Indians have very little room for error with the Rangers the next two days as you have to expect them to beat the Astros tonight and tomorrow.
Where the Indians should get some help is against a desperate Yankees team who plays the Rays the next three nights. The Yankees have to sweep the Rays to have any shot at the wildcard, so they should be approaching tonight like it is an elimination game. Indians fans should be rooting for a Yankees sweep or for them to take at least two of three against the Rays. If they do either one, then things with the wildcard and at the top would get much more interesting.
After these next few days all three of the Indians, Rays and Rangers face off with non-playoff opponents to finish the season. Once again, the Indians get a break as they play a bad Twins team but in a park where they have often struggled so nothing is guaranteed. Meanwhile, the Rays finish off with a talented but disappointing Blue Jays team and the Rangers finish off with high-priced Angels team that fell well short of expectations this season.
The Blue Jays and Angels were preseason favorites by many to win their respective divisions or make the playoffs, so while they have frustrated all season they are talented and you can bet they will be playing to be the spoiler.
Bottom line, if the Indians can find a way to go 4-2 down the stretch it should be enough to get them into the playoffs outright with no play-in tiebreaker game. I really think the Angels are going to give the Rangers all they can handle and at least split that series, or who knows, maybe the Astros steal a win.
Going for the top
If the Indians can finish strong and go 6-0 or 5-1 these last six games, or even go 4-2 and get lots of help from the Yankees, then the Indians have a very good shot at finishing with the best record in the wildcard which would mean they host the wildcard game.
Remember, in the event of a tie for the final wildcard spot between two teams, the Indians and that team would square off in a tiebreaker game and then the winner would go on the road for their wildcard game. If two teams tie for both wildcard spots and no other teams qualify, then there is no play-in game and they choose homefield base on head-to-head record in the regular season.
If the Indians happen to tie with the Rays for the wildcard and no other team is in the mix, then the Rays would host the wildcard game because they went 4-2 against the Indians this season. If the Indians tie with the Rangers for either the two wildcard spots or for the last wildcard spot, the Indians would host the wildcard game or play-in tiebreaker game because they went 5-1 against them this season.
A lot can change over the next few days, but in the end the Indians just need to continue handling the opponents they play. If they continue to do that they will be in good shape, and they might get some help along the way. The Rays are a much different team on the road and have two tough opponents with the Yankees and Blue Jays where I think the Indians could surpass them in the standings and earn the top wildcard spot and host a postseason game at Progressive Field next week.
If you take a step back and think about it, by this time next week the season could be over if the Indians struggle this week and miss the playoffs or if they lose the wildcard game. But for now, just enjoy the moment as this is what it is all about when it comes to following your favorite sports teams.
Follow Tony and the Indians Baseball Insider on Twitter @TonyIBI. Also, his new book the 2014 Cleveland Indians Baseball Insider which profiles the Indians' Top 100 Prospects and more is available for sale.
Perez.....oof. The Indians have a problem there if they make it to the postseason. Can. No. Trust. Him.
Nice job Perez!