October is fast approaching and with it comes the most crucial time of the year for Major League Baseball. While the season is drawing to a close for may teams, the Cleveland Indians are looking ahead toward the 2018 MLB playoffs.
While they ruled their division for the majority of the regular season, the deciding game came on Sept. 15, when they defeated the Detroit Tigers by a final score of 15-0. Though the Tigers did not offer much resistance, challenge awaits.
The Boston Red Sox have yet to actually clinch their division, but are favored to hold off the New York Yankees and win the American League East. The Sox have clinched a trip to the postseason, but need to keep the Yankees at bay to secure the AL East. The Houston Astros have ruled the American League West for most of the summer, but a late hot streak by the Oakland Athletics threatens the Astros’ bid to clinch the division.
Roster moves in Cleveland are part of the preparation process for the playoffs. The acquisition of infielder Josh Donaldson from the Toronto Blue Jays has given the Indians another powerful bat in the lineup and solid defense at third base. The insertion of Donaldson in the depth chart moved Jose Ramírez to second base, and traditional second baseman Jason Kipnis to center field. Donaldson’s addition solves depth problems that have hindered the Indians throughout the latter half of the summer.
On the mound, Corey Kulber and Carlos Carrasco spearhead the pitching rotation. Mike Clevinger, Shane Bieber, and Josh Tomlin round out the starting five. Though Clevinger and Kluber have both been reliable throughout the regular season, Tomlin has struggled all summer and Bieber does not have as many starts as the others. Starting pitcher Trevor Bauer is coming off an injury, and could possibly return further into the postseason.
Bullpen depth is another issue that could hurt the Indians on their road to into October. Closer Brad Hand, newly acquired from the San Diego Padres, adds another strong arm to a relief crew that has struggled throughout the season. Veteran reliever Andrew Miller has recently returned from injury, but Miller alone cannot carry Cleveland through the final innings of playoff baseball.
Finishing games strong will be the key to the Indians’ success in the 2018 postseason. They have proven that they can score runs, and starting pitching has been reliable, but too many regular season games have been lost due to the bullpen giving up unnecessary runs. Though they dominated their division throughout the regular season and earned themselves a spot in the playoffs, the Indians will need to pull together some more consistent pitching if they are to be serious World Series candidates.