If the past week and a half were perfectly set up for the Indians to regain ground in the AL Central, this week is set up for them to make a move on the Wild Card. They may have faltered against Kansas City, losing three of four, but are still well within both races. Starting on Tuesday, the Tribe will take on two teams out of the AL West, including the Wild Card leading Mariners and the surprising worst team in the American League, Texas Rangers.
The last time the Indians played the Mariners it was obvious why they are currently in third for the second Wild Card. In the three game series, the Tribe scored five of their seven runs in one game as Felix Hernandez (8 IP, 1 H, 9 K) and Chris Young easily set down the Cleveland offense. The AL West is fairly decided, with 9.5 games separating the Angels, who have a huge lead on the top Wild Card and the Mariners, while the Rangers and Astros at least 12 games behind Seattle.
The Mariners have struggled in the past week, losing series to the lowly Mets and the first place Orioles and falling out of the Wild Card lead. The Mariners are ready to go all in, already acquiring Kendrys Morales from the Twins and being rumored to be interested in just about every available player regardless of price (and including Price). Some very expensive additions the Mariners have been talked about with are Matt Kemp and Cliff Lee with stronger rumors surrounding former Indians out fielder, Drew Stubbs. The Indians are lucky to be playing the Mariners now, rather than after they pick up any more “improvements.”
After an expected tough series with the M’s, the Indians will take on Texas, who have been the worst team in the American League. Of course, just because they are struggling doesn’t mean the Rangers won’t be a difficult opponent. In their history, the Indians went 190-238 prior to 2013, but have finally turned things around the past two seasons, going 8-2 over that span. As a true indicator that things could be turning around, Elvis Andrus finally lost his record breaking hitting streak against the Indians during the teams’ last series together.
The Indians may appear as an easy target to the Rangers as well as they are currently in an incredibly tough stretch of baseball. Since July 8th, they have played only legitimate play-off contenders, including four games against the Wild Card leading Angels, three against the West leading A’s, three against the other Wild Card leading Blue Jays and seven against the contending Yankees. After that, the Indians weak offense and poor pitching three out of every five games will look like a minor league team to them.
Who’s Hot – Who’s Not
Corey Kluber has pitched in two games since the All-Star break and could not have been any better. In his first start, he threw 8.2 innings, allowing two runs and striking out ten. In his next, he stepped it up to another level, throwing perfection for 6.1 innings and giving up just one unearned run (more on that coming up) in nine, two hit innings. Kluber walked one batter across the two games and struck out 20. If he did that against the Tigers and Royals, his next start against Seattle should be very interesting.
The unearned run in Kluber’s almost shut out against KC was just part of a terrible week from Ryan Raburn. Raburn has been terrible all season, so it is hard to point out his play after the All-Star break as anything different than the rest of the year. Since the break, he has hit safely four times in 19 at bats with four strike outs. Excluding the first game against Detroit, he has been two for his last 12 with his only production numbers coming in Sunday’s blow out of the Royals. In addition, he made what it become known as the worst defensive play in baseball history, when he slid to make a catch, had it glance off his wrist, picked the ball up and threw it straight into the ground, allowing the batter, Mike Moustakas to score on the play, ruining Kluber’s shut out and ultimately losing the game for the Indians.