COMMENTARY | With each passing day, it's looking more and more like there will a party crasher in the American League playoffs this fall.
With less than a week left in the regular season, the Indians seem like a lock to return to the postseason for the first time since 2007, and these are three reasons why:
Gotta Love That Schedule
Despite a few times during 2013 when it looked like Cleveland's playoff chances were unlikely at best, Tribe fans knew the Indians had an ace in the hole if they could hang close to the wild-card leaders until Labor Day.
The September schedule.
On paper, it looked extremely possible the Tribe could win 20 games in the last month of the season, and Cleveland is not disappointing thus far in September. A 15-6 mark this month has put the Indians in a position where they control their own destiny, and Cleveland's final six games are against the Chicago White Sox and the Minnesota Twins -- a pair of teams that are about as bad as it gets in the American League. Expect at least four Tribe wins in these two series.
Other Wild-Card Contenders Are Fading
A hot and heavy AL wild-card race that saw six teams separated by just 2.5 games as recently as September 19 was pared down somewhat over the weekend.
The Baltimore Orioles were swept in four games by the wild-card-leading Tampa Bay Rays, putting them five games behind the Tribe for the second wild-card spot. It's safe to say the O's won't be returning to the playoffs in 2013 having to face such a deficit.
The New York Yankees sit four games back of Cleveland, so while they still have a bit of a chance to get in, their playoff hopes will likely end in their upcoming three-game series against the Rays.
The Kansas City Royals have played excellent since the All-Star break, and their last six games are against the Seattle Mariners and the White Sox, but one wonders if a three-game deficit is too much ground to make up in too short of a time.
The Texas Rangers Are A Mess
The Rangers sit just a game back of the Tribe, but they have been abhorrent this month. Texas is just 6-15 in a September that began with it sitting atop the AL West.
Rumors circulate almost daily out of Arlington about the future of Rangers manager Ron Washington, as this is the second straight September Texas fans have seen their team collapse down the stretch.
Even though the Rangers did manage to hang on for a wild-card spot after faltering in the final weeks of 2012, don't expect it to happen in 2013. The way Texas is playing right now, even their final series of the regular season -- a four-gamer against the mediocre Los Angeles Angels -- looks difficult at this point.
Shaun Heidrick is a Yahoo Contributor who has followed the Cleveland Indians for over 25 years.
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