The Cleveland Indians were sure of a few things going into Sunday afternoon’s game with the Kansas City Royals. They clinched the AL Central title days ago, so they knew they were going to be in the postseason. They knew that since the AL West-winning Texas Rangers would be the first seed, they’d be playing the AL East-winning Boston Red Sox in the American League Division Series.
But there were a few things they didn’t know. They didn’t know whether they’d need to make up last week’s rained-out game with the Detroit Tigers, which would have meant a trip to Detroit on Monday. That game would have needed to be played if the Tigers had beaten the Atlanta Braves on Sunday and if the Baltimore Orioles or the Boston Red Sox had won their Sunday games, because that would have kept the Tigers’ chances of being a wild card team alive. Fortunately, the Tigers lost to the Braves.
But even then, they still might have needed to play the Tigers had the Red Sox won their game against the Toronto Blue Jays, in order to determine whether the Red Sox or the Indians would have the home field advantage in the ALDS. If both the Red Sox and Indians had lost, Game 162 would also be necessary for the same reason.
In this season in which the Baseball Gods have bestowed so many gifts upon the Indians, they chose to do so again on Sunday. All the stars and planets aligned the way the Indians wanted them to. They won their game with the Royals at Kauffman Stadium, 3-2. As previously mentioned, the Braves beat the Tigers. And in Fenway Park, the Blue Jays held on to beat the Red Sox. This was the best of all possible outcomes, because Game 162 would have cost the Indians a day of rest. And given the atmospheric conditions in Detroit lately, no one would have been surprised to see that game get rained out, too.
Indians starter Josh Tomlin went 7 1/3 innings for the win and for his fourth consecutive decent start. Tomlin allowed two runs, both earned. He gave up six hits and didn’t walk a batter. He did allow his first home run since August 30, a fifth-inning solo blast off the bat of Cheslor Cuthbert, which tied the game at 2-2. But Tomlin bore down after that and retired the next ten batters he faced before making way for Andrew Miller and Cody Allen, who both pitched scoreless relief.
The Indians didn’t generate much offense, but they scored enough runs to win. The first two runs scored on a two-run homer from Yan Gomes, who implausibly hit the first pitch he saw in his first at-bat over the left field wall. I’d say that Gomes probably won himself a place on the playoff roster with that blast. The third and final run came in the eighth inning, when Francisco Lindor hit a league-leading 18th sacrifice fly.
The win gave the Indians a sweep in the three-game series with the Royals and brought their record to 94-67. The Rangers finished at 95-67. Even if the Indians had had to play game 162 and won it, they too would have been 95-67, but since the Rangers had a better head-to-head record against the Tribe, they would still have been the number one seed. The win also gave the Indians a psychological boost, ending their regular season with three straight victories.
Game One of the ALDS will take place on Thursday at Progressive Field; the starting time has not yet been determined. Trevor Bauer will start for the Indians; the Sox will start Rick Porcello, Game Two, on Friday, will feature Corey Kluber and David Price.
Despite what Paul Hoynes may have to say, I think the Indians have a fighting chance to win the ALCS, especially since at most two games will be played at Fenway Park. The Indians have played well at home all season and if they win the first two games at home, and that could happen, then they’d be hard to stop. We’ll see!