Different, yet familiar.
The MLB Playoffs have a new look this season amidst COVID-19 by introducing a new postseason format featuring sixteen teams rather than 10. Within the new Wild Card Series tournament, the Indians are the fourth-seeded American League team facing off against the fifth-seeded New York Yankees. Despite the new postseason structure, there is something that strikes up déjà vu regarding the Indians’ flashy end to the regular season and securing a playoff berth. This season’s Indians look very similar to the 2013 Indians, the difference-maker, in the end, will be if Cleveland pitching can rise to the occasion and if bats can stay aggressive from the sizzling end to the regular season.
The Indians snapped an eight-game losing from early September with a series win over the Tigers and then eventually sweeping the White Sox, ranked 2nd in the AL Central, in emphatic fashion. Games 2 and 3 of the White Sox series at the end of the regular season saw two walk-offs. First, Ramírez clinching a seat in the playoffs followed by Jordan Luplow the next night. Ultimately, the series showed the Indians’ offense finally working together and synchronizing with pitching and defense. Offense, in particular, had been struggling, but players like Ramírez, Hernandez and Santana stepped up in a big way to provide some much-needed firepower.
The Indians also raced to the postseason finish line in the 2013 season. Cleveland capped off the regular season with a 10-game winning streak to secure a place in the American League Wild Card Game after inconsistent play and having their worst month in the season during August. Like this year, the Tribe hosted the Wild Card Series in Cleveland at Progressive Field, but the season came to a disappointing end with an uncompetitive loss to the Rays, 4-0. With no help from the offense, Danny Salazar had a very unimpressive game pitching, giving up a home run in the top of the third and a two-run double in the fourth.
The make-or-break for the Tribe to not repeat history from the 2013 Wild Card Game will be for the bullpen to remain their strength under playoff pressure and bats to stay hot. Tuesday night’s game was set to be a pitching duel between this year AL Cy Young favorite Shane Bieber and Yankee’s ace Gerrit Cole. Despite Bieber having a triple-crown this year, the Yankees were all over his first-pitch fastball resulting in nine hits and seven runs in just five innings. Apart from Jose Rámirez’s double RBI and Josh Naylor’s home run, the Tribe couldn’t get anything going against Cole. Indians’ relief pitching was abysmal to end the night, giving up an additional five runs as the Indians would go on to lose, 12-3.
As I said, this year’s MLB playoffs are different and thankfully the Wild Card Series is best-of-three rather than single-game elimination like in previous years. On the brink of a first-round exit, Carlos Carrasco and the Indians have to learn from Bieber’s performance and the 2013 postseason to keep their season-ending momentum from coming to a screeching halt once again.