CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – 31 days, 28 games, six cities, six playoff teams, 19 wins. That was the Indians’ make-or-break August schedule.
The American League Central leaders entered the penultimate month of the regular season just two games up in the division before facing a gauntlet that included two series against the AL East-leading Red Sox. Six of the series on the schedule were against current Wild Card teams in the New York Yankees, Colorado Rockies and Minnesota Twins.
The Indians went on to win five series in August, splitting three more, good enough to put them 7 ½ games up on Minnesota in the division and 3 ½ games back of the Houston Astros for the best record in the American League.
There is something to be said for a hot month. But the defending AL Champions had a hot month when every game was bigger than any they had played to that point.
The Indians can relax a little bit now that they have a divisional lead that is large enough that it would take a complete collapse to lose.
But moreso, the Indians had their hot month against many of the same teams they may need to be hot against come October. The idea that the team put together a great month against a bunch of playoff team dispels the idea that they are just ‘hot.’
The Indians are good, again, despite reactionary ideas that the 2017 team was not what the 2016 team was.
Don’t forget about who was missing through the fantastic month, either.
Michael Brantley appeared in six games in August. Lonnie Chisenhall has not played since July 9th. Danny Salazar made four starts before hitting the DL. Andrew Miller snuck in three appearances around two trips to the disabled list. Jason Kipnis missed the last third of the month with his third DL stint.
There is no guarantee that any of those players return to contribute in September and October, but Indians fans now know what the team can do without them. They did something similar without Salazar and Carlos Carrasco in last year’s playoffs, and now they’re up to their old ways.
Again, the Indians have kept afloat because of their pitching. Their 19-9 record came despite an offense that ranks in the middle of the league in wOBA and wRC+, and in the bottom five in batting average. The pitching staff turned in the top FIP, xFIP and WAR in the league in August, with the second-best ERA.