With the Indians well ahead in the American League Central, fans might be looking forward and trying to imagine how this team will perform in the playoffs.
Sunday’s game, a 7-4 loss to the Kansas City Royals, didn’t offer many hints.
Let’s start with Danny Salazar, who might be considered for the fourth starting slot in the playoff rotation.
Based on his recent performance, Salazar would seem to be a lock to participate as a playoff starter. Based on Sunday’s performance, maybe not. It seemed clear that Salazar was not at his best from the start. In a playoff situation, he never would have lasted into the fifth inning or been given a chance to allow 12 hits, a walk and six runs. He probably would have been gone after allowing a third run in the third inning, creating a long day for the bullpen.
Even the effort allotted by the Indians might be different in the fall. With recurring leg injuries for much of the season, Jason Kipnis is said to have been told by manager Terry Francona to take it easy, not putting undo stress on his legs that could put him back on the disabled list. Neither man would admit it, but this amounts to not hustling and any reasonable person must accept this. Why risk another DL stint for the chance of turning a single into a double on August 20? Better to hang onto first base and wait for a less stressful chance to circle the bases.
You won’t see logic like this in the playoffs. Kipnis will be sprinting all out, every play when they get to October.
This is a key distinction of baseball over other sports. Other athletes will huff and puff before their only game in a week and talk about “giving 100 percent”, blah, blah, blah. With 162 regular-season games, a month of spring training and another month of playoffs, any baseball player or manager knows the importance of pacing and making sure effort is reserved for the truly important moments.
So does this game represent a sneak peek at the playoffs? No. Write it off as the end of an exhausting and successful 11-game road trip.
Only Francisco Lindor got more than one hit and the Indians were never competitive on Sunday. They got beaten by Cheslor Cuthbert (.226), who got two hits, including a homer; Jorge Bonafacio (.258), who got three hits Sunday and Jason Hamel (4.37) who improved to 6-9.
None of those guys will be in playoffs this fall.
So don’t tax your tired little mind finding meaning in this game. The Indians are 6.5 games ahead of the Royals and five ahead of the Twins.