A little bit more was cleared from the play-off picture last night, when the Indians were off and the Rangers and Rays made up the half game difference in the schedule. While it isn't official, The Indians sweep of Houston has for all reasonableness eliminated the Orioles and Yankees, who each have magic numbers of three or less. Kansas City is also on the cusp at three games back and will likely be eliminated in short order. With a magic number of two, the Indians are in the same position in the Central Division that the Orioles are in the Wild Card and will likely make the Tigers the last official division winner within the next three days.
With the front door (the Central Division) closed and three of six teams out of contention, things are a lot more simple, but a play-off spot is no where near guaranteed. There is no longer a chance for a five team tie for the final spot (there may never have been a real chance), but the Indians, Rangers and Rays are as close as any teams would ever want to be. The Rays are a game ahead of Indians, who are a game ahead of the Rangers.
- All three teams have six games left in 2013 and they will come against fairly easy opponents. The best team any play are the Yankees, who the Rays will play in New York. With C.C. Sabathia out for the year and the Yankees sitting four games back, they will likely not be as spirited as in the previous weeks.
- The best result any team can hope for is a 5-1 finish. Obviously, if all teams finish 5-1 (or any other similar record), things will stay the same and the Indians will go to Tampa on October 2nd to play a one game play-off game.
- The Indians hold the easiest final schedule, facing the two worst teams in the central (two against Chicago and four against Minnesota). They will almost certainly win at least four of those games and winning all six is not out of the realm of possibility. If they win four, they will likely at least earn a play-in game with the Rangers.
- On the other side of things, a poor finish against the Yankees and Blue Jays (4-2 or worse), could propel the Indians into the first Wild Card spot, as long as the Indians take care of things against their Central Division foes.
- Things could very easily go down to the final game of the season and the Indians have set things up the way they want by bumping Ubaldo Jimenez up in the rotation, making him available for the final game of the season. If the Indians need a win in that game to make the play-offs or to avoid the tie-breaker game with Texas, they will likely use him. Otherwise, they will probably hold him back for the prospective Wild Card Play-Off game against Tampa.
This is the last edition of "What the Indians Need to Do," but we will continue to update the Indians progress in the play-off hunt on BurningRiverBaseball through the Wild Card Standings on the right side of the home page and in each Post Game Recap after every game. Keep watching, as things are likely to stay exciting all the way through the end.
Also, make sure to buy tickets to the possible Wild Card play-off game at Progressive field. The game is unlikely to happen at this point, so you would get your money back if it takes place in Tampa, but if it does happen, there is no reason to embarrass the city of Cleveland by having a half empty stadium.