COMMENTARY | Back in April, who would've thought September would be this entertaining for fans of the Cleveland Indians?
A young group with a first-year manager in Terry Francona, the Tribe were predicted to be a .500 team, at best, by most MLB pundits heading into 2013. The Indians have far exceeded those expectations, though, and are in the middle of an absolute logjam in the race for the American League's two wild card spots in the 2013 MLB Playoffs.
As of September 19, just 2.5 games separate the six teams that have realistic chances of earning a wild card spot. The six teams are divided evenly amongst the haves and the have-nots. On one hand, you have the New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays and the Texas Rangers -- three teams that are no strangers to postseason baseball. On the other side of the fence, there's the Baltimore Orioles, Kansas City Royals, and the Tribe. Baltimore did make the playoffs last season, but other than that, success has been hard to come by for these three franchises over the past few years.
Knowing that such formidable competition stands in the way of the Indians reaching the postseason, the big question is: Will the Tribe be able to finish at the top of the wild card heap and grab a playoff spot in 2013?
The answer is yes, but it will be a nerve-wracking week and a half for Tribe fans.
The biggest reason that the Indians should be able to reach the playoffs lies in their remaining schedule. Cleveland's last ten games are against the Houston Astros, Chicago White Sox, and the Minnesota Twins -- the three worst teams in the American League. It's not a stretch to think that the Tribe can win at least seven of these matchups.
Assuming the Indians take care of business against their remaining opponents, their hopes for reaching the playoffs will be helped somewhat through attrition amongst the other five wild card contenders. Tampa Bay, in particular, has a brutal schedule that will see them face the Orioles and Yankees in back-to-back series. Texas has a three-game set against the Royals starting on September 20 that could spell doom for the playoff aspirations of one of those two teams.
Hopefully, Tribe faithful will fill the seats at Progressive Field for the series' versus the Astros and White Sox, and give their hometown team a little more motivation to snag that wild card spot. Poor attendance has plagued the Indians all year -- the Tribe averaged less than 12,000 fans per game in an important three-game series against the Royals earlier this month -- so it would be nice to see Clevelanders show the Indians a little more love as they enter a stretch run that promises to be one that Tribe fans will talk about for years to come.
Shaun Heidrick is a Yahoo Contributor who has followed the Cleveland Indians for over 25 years.
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