Surprisingly, the Tribes still have outside shot at Central

Carlos Santana Indians - Photo Credit - Keith Allison
Carlos Santana Indians – Photo Credit – Keith Allison

 

When we think of the American League Central, we think of it as a two-team race — the battles going on between the Detroit Tigers and the Kansas City Royals.

Fair enough, but do not forget about the one manager in the Central with a World Series ring, Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona.

Francona took a one-year hiatus from managing in 2012 and took over an Indians team last year coming off of a year in which they won only 68 games in 12′.

By the end of August last season, they were in the same position they are in this season — in third place with a 71-64 record.

This season, they are currently in third place with a 71-67 record.

They ended up making the postseason as a Wild Card last season, going an incredible 21-6 during the month of September, including 10 straight wins to finish the season.

Now, could they have that same kind of run this September? Possibly, but not exactly the same considering they have already lost 3 games this month — all to the Tigers.

Even though they lost 3 of the 4 games to the Tigers,  they did finish August by winning 6 of 7 so they put themselves in a more manageable position.

Their rotation, led by emerging ace Corey Kluber, is not great, but they are good. T.J. House will get the tough matchup tonight against Chicago White Sox ace Chris Sale and Danny Salazar is coming off of his first career shutout against the Tigers — the only game they won during the four-game set.

Closer Cody Allen (18 saves) has been dependable all season, even converting 17 straight saves at one point this season but he has hit a little bump in the road. Francona isn’t too worried about him, but he knows the workload might be catching up to him — he ranks second in the league with 67 appearances.

He blew his first save since May 19th on Sunday against the Royals — fortunately the Tribe still won the game in the tenth inning but followed up that performance by blowing a save against Tigers when a three-run home run by J.D. Martinez turned a 2-1 Indians win into a 4-2 Tigers win.

Although he did have a 1-2-3 frame in the ninth inning last night in a tied game, the two consecutive blown saves has to have people a little worried.

We know how good Michael Brantley is. His 87 RBI’s lead the team and he’s been consistent all year.

For me, the key will be Carlos Santana.

Santana struggled to start the season. He was playing a new position at third base and could not find a groove at all, switching from third base, to catcher, to first base during the first two months of the season.

A concussion he endured by playing catcher during a May 25th game sidelined him for a week and since returning in early June, he has been able to play one position — first base, and it seems to have helped him out alot. There’s something to knowing exactly what position you will be playing when you arrive at the ballpark.

When Santana suffered that concussion in late May, he was batting only .159 with 6 HR’s and 17 RBI’s. Since returning from injury, he has batted .271 to raise his average over that Mendoza line — currently at .228 and he walks A LOT, as he leads the league in walks with 98. He has also found his power stroke, hitting 18 HR’s in that span and he is creeping up on that career high RBI number of 79 — currently at 70.

The speedy Michael Bourn is back at full strength after missing basically all of July and half of August with a hamstring injury and more offensive help is on the way with right fielder David Murphy returning shortly.

Murphy (55 RBI’s), who hasn’t played since early August while dealing with an oblique strain, did homer in a rehab game on Wednesday for Triple A Columbus.

Rookie Tyler Holt has occupied Murphy’s right field spot in his absence, so when Murphy does come back, it could mean less starts for one of their top prospects, Holt.

When they traded Cleveland mainstays Asdrubal Cabrera (Washington Nationals) and Justin Masterson (St. Louis Cardinals), some might have thought they were giving up on the season. But, they seemed to make the right choice there.

Cabrera has under achieved the past two years, offensively and defensively — and Masterson was not the same guy he was last season, and he has been even worse in St. Louis, even getting demoted to bullpen duties.

Those trades gave chances to youngsters Holt and shortstop Jose Ramirez, and they have shined in their roles.

With the exception of them losing Nick Swisher for the season (knee surgery), the Tribe are as healthy as they have been all year.

With the way their team is set up, they need to be healthy because they won’t overpower you with hitting or pitching.

As of right now, they are only six games behind the Royals in the Central and only two and a half behind a second wild card spot. Another September like 2013 could easily have them back in the postseason in 2014.

Khristian Peel

Khristian Peel

Die-hard Philadelphia fan with a love for everything sports. Baseball isn't just a sport or hobby, it's a lifestyle.

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