The red-hot Indians have won four straight, 11 of 12, and are a major-league best 32-11 since July 31. Cleveland has pulled to within 3 1/2 games of the first-place Chicago White Sox—trimming 11 1/2 games off Chicago’s lead that reached 15 on Aug. 1.
The Indians also improved to 12-3 in September and stayed a half-game ahead of the New York Yankees for the wild card. Cleveland has six games remaining against the reeling White Sox, who have dropped seven of nine and will host a three-game series against Cleveland starting Monday.
“It’s up to us,” Lee said. “For a while, I thought it was out of reach and I was just thinking about the wild card, but the White Sox have fallen apart lately. It’s possible.”
C.C. Sabathia starts for Cleveland, hoping to bounce back from his first loss in eight starts. The left-hander did not have his best control against Oakland on Monday, walking five in six innings, but allowed only one run and four hits while striking out seven in a 2-0 loss.
“I didn’t have the command I had in the last month or month and a half,” said Sabathia, who was 7-0 with a 2.37 ERA since his last loss on July 30. “I had to battle the whole time I was out there. It seemed like I was in trouble every inning. I didn’t pitch my game.”
Kansas City manager Buddy Bell, Cleveland’s bench coach earlier this season before being hired by the Royals, is not shocked by the Indians’ success.
“It’s all about pitching,” he said. “If you get good pitching, you have a chance, and they’ve got some hitting over there, too. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s not what you would call a huge surprise. I could see it progressing.”
Emil Brown hit a three-run homer for the Royals, who have lost 10 of their last 15.