Hello all, and welcome to the first (and probably last) installment of Late Night Tribe.
This post is up so late because I simply ran out of time before I had to go to work; I hope it gives you something to read during the workday on Tuesday, though, as I’m sure you’re all excited for what should be a decisive week in this bizarre, frustrating, and somehow wonderful 2013 season. After the Indians committed (at least) four errors on Sunday, the team enjoyed an off-day today as they head to Atlanta. The Braves, as you may know, are the class of the NL East and feature a deep rotation and bullpen (highlighted by closer Craig Kimbrel) and a potent offense with Justin Upton, Freddie Freeman, and Brian McCann. This is a very good team and the folks down in Atlanta have every right to be dreaming of a championship.
But this is the type of team the Indians are going to need to beat if they want to be playing meaningful games in late September and October; the Tribe’s schedule through September is pretty easy (with games against the Mets, the Royals, the White Sox, the Twins, and he moribund Astros), but the next 9 games will likely define the season for this team. The Indians embark on a 6-game road trip against the aforementioned Braves and the Detroit Tigers (of whom nothing new needs to be said) before heading home for three more against the Baltimore Orioles. All three of these teams are playoff material, and it’s time for the Indians to prove they are, too.
Normally, I would profile starting pitching match-ups, but I don’t think that is the best way to profile the upcoming road trip. By all metrics, the Indians are an inferior team to both the Atlanta Braves and the Tigers (and perhaps the Orioles, too, but I wouldn’t personally go that far), and so they must embrace their underdog role. They cannot take any play or any at-bat for granted; if they start giving extra outs and extra baserunners to these two teams, the Tribe could find themselves in a deep hole as they head into the easy part of their schedule. If the team plays up to its potential for this next week, however… if the team doesn’t make mistakes defensively and has a good approach at the plate, they can beat either of these two teams on any given night.
Being completely realistic, I would be thrilled with a 3-3 road trip, but the Indians need to aim higher. While they should aim to win every game they play, I think the team will not be satisfied with anything less than a winning road-trip, which likely means winning two series on the road against two of the best teams in the game. Can they do it? Sure.
Will they do it? My heart tells me yes, but my brain…
…what does my brain know, anyway?
For the Tribe, this is the time to establish themselves.