This week will begin with September first, beginning Terry Francona’s favorite time of year. Not only do the Indians have meaningful baseball left to play, especially this week, but he will finally get the bullpen of his dreams as rosters expand to as many as 40 players. While he has already stated that the 15 man bullpen used last September was too big, but expect at least five to seven new players, mostly pitchers. As already mentioned here, some probables are Austin Adams, Bryan Price and Zach McAllister (who was already brought up for Josh Tomlin on Sunday) for the bullpen with Jesus Aguilar and Jason Giambi expected position players just to name a few.
Other youngsters, like Giovanny Urshela and Francisco Lindor may not be called up as early as possible for a couple reasons. First, the Columbus Clippers are on quite a run and will be competing in the International League play-offs. Because of this, the Indians may prefer these young players get some minor league play-off experience before getting real play-off experience. The second reason is that the Indians will begin with a tough test for the first four days of the upcoming week.
From Monday through Thursday (Monday is a special 4:05 start time with the game televised on ESPN), the Indians will be playing the Tigers with a chance to move into second place in the Central Division race. While much emphasis has been placed on the Royals, the Indians will still have to surpass the Tigers for any chance at the play-offs this year, through the division or Wild Card. At just three games behind Detroit, the Indians will have the opportunity to surpass the Tigers with a four game sweep, but it will not be easy.
Monday’s game truly looks to be something special as the expected pitching match-up is the newest Tigers starter, David Price against one of the top three pitchers in the American League right now, Corey Kluber. The situation is made even more intriguing by the fact that both great pitchers struggled last time out with Kluber giving up three runs in 6.1 innings against the White Sox and Price getting destroyed by the Yankees to the tune of eight runs in two innings.
This is not your 2013 Tigers that beat the Indians in 15 of 19 games. So far, the Indians have actually have had the best of Detroit winning seven of 13 and with a .609 winning percent at home, they will look to increase that margin. While the Tigers may have had the advantage early in the year with a healthy Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander, the young Indians team should be able to turn the tables with players that are less susceptible to break down over the long season.
After the huge four game series, the Tribe will stay at home for their final three games with the White Sox. They were able to win the three game series on the road against Chicago last week, but will likely be looking to sweep at home as it will be difficult for them to make up ground any other way. While the Tigers will move on to face a tough foe in the San Francisco Giants, the Royals will be playing the Yankees and as both are play-off contenders, no good can come out of the series for the Indians unless the Yankees sweep.
In addition, 14 of the Indians last 27 games are against contending teams, so they will have to win every single series against the non-contenders to have a chance. Right now, the Indians are projected for a 83-79 finish based on their opponents while the Royals are slated to finish 92-70. While the Wild Card back door to the play-offs is still open, the Tigers are expected to win 88 games with the Mariners and Yankees at 86. The Indians will need to go on another amazing run to end the season, like they did last year, and it will need to include at a minimum winning five games this week.
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Who’s Hot – Who’s Not
Bryan Shaw has missed two games this week with forced days off due to overuse, but has still thrown in five games this week, and 15 of the Indians last 19 games. In the past week, he has added his team high 18th hold and his fifth win of the year. In six innings, he has allowed just a single run on five hits with four strike outs.
While both Tyler Holt and Zach Walters have been adding their particular talents to the Tribe over the past weeks, Chris Dickerson has not particularly impressed. With the three fighting for playing time, Dickerson has walked twice and struck out four times in the past week while going 0/6 overall. With rosters expanding tomorrow, playing opportunities will likely continue to diminish for the once hot injury replacement.