Bumps, bruises, and schedule stand in Cleveland Indians’ way

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The Cleveland Indians have made their own luck this season with countless improbable comebacks and walk-off wins. And that self-made luck must continue.

After the latest rainout against the Twins, the Indians toughest challenge will perhaps be the schedule.

44 days remain until the regular season ends on September 28. In that time, the Indians will play 45 games, including two double headers, while getting just three days of rest. In fact, from September 1 until September 28, the Tribe plays every day except September 12, and plays two games on the 20th. Suffice it to say, the Indians won’t get much rest for the remainder of the season.

The tough remaining schedule starts with pivotal back-to-back road series against the White Sox and Tigers. The Indians need a series win to keep the Sox back in 3rd place, and the team needs to start gaining more ground on the Tigers.

With so many games in so few days, bumps, bruises and injuries are inevitable. The silver lining? This team has been dealing with these all season. Grady Sizemore is possibly out for the season, Shin Soo Choo just returned from extended time on the DL, and Travis Hafner spent significant time on the DL early in the season. Michael Brantley has been sick and suffered from a sore wrist, and now Jason Kipnis has a sore side, sitting out two games (well, one and 2 innings). These injuries contributed to an extremely difficult June and July that most Tribe fans probably want to forget.

How exactly is that silver lining again?

In short, the Indians have taught themselves to succeed – or perhaps simply not fail – while dealing with significant injuries. And though Brantley and Kipnis are still sore, and Sizemore is out indefinitely, the worst is (knock on wood) over. Choo appears healthy, and though he has yet to swing the bat with great force, it’s hard to believe his bat will stay silent for long.

The Kipnis and Brantley injuries are concerning, but the Indians finally have enough depth to deal with them. With Choo back and after the Fukodome trade, the Indians have four capable outfielders – Choo, Fukodome, Brantley, and Ezequiel Carrera. Carrera can handle the pressure well enough for Brantley to rest and get healthy.

On the infield, call in Jason Donald, the player ready to cover for Kipnis when needed. Donald was supposed to be the starting third basemen this season prior to a spring training injury, and is certainly capable of filling in the role. Kipnis insists that his injury isn’t serious, which is a comforting thought. But with Donald on the bench, Manny Acta can rest Kipnis until he’s fully healthy without losing much sleep.

And so when the Tribe hit the bumps and bruises that are inevitable during their improbably difficult stretch, the bench will finally have the backup the team has needed all season to pick up the slack.

Take the significant increase in backup support, and add to it the fact that the Indians star players are playing well as ever. Cabrera has hit safely in 14 of his last 15 with a .357 average, 3 home runs, and 10 RBI’s. Carlos Santana is hitting .300 with 3 home runs and 12 RBI’s in his last ten games.

With that kind of production in the heart of the lineup, plus some help from younger and newer players, the Indians offense will likely continue their stretch of positivity (the team has won five of it’s last seven games). The Indians haven’t played well on the road against division opponents well this season, however, and that trend will need to reverse in August/September.

The road to October goes through Detroit. The Tribe has nine games, six on the road, remaining against, to borrow a significant nickname, “that team up North.” It seems fitting that if Cleveland wants to overtake Detroit and represent the Central in the playoffs, the team will have to focus, injuries and exhaustion aside, on beating the Tigers on the field first.

 

-Jamie Arkin

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