AL Central lead small as Indians open divisional stretch

Cleveland plays Central in 22 of next 24 games

Alex Hooper
May 28, 2018 - 3:06 pm
May 27, 2018; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians center fielder Greg Allen (1) is doused with water after hitting a game-winning home run in the fourteenth inning against the Houston Astros at Progressive Field.

© David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

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Cleveland, OH (92.3 The Fan) – The Cleveland Indians has the middling American League Central right where they want it. Behind them.

The deficit is not where the two-time defending division champions want it, though, just 3.5 games ahead of the 23-29 Detroit Tigers and 21-27 Minnesota Twins entering play on Monday.

The Central is historically one of the worst divisions in history to date, and the team with World Series aspirations has not created the gap that they should have in that time.

They now have that chance, with 22 of their next 24 games coming against the Tigers, Twins, Chicago White Sox (16-34) and Kansas City Royals (18-35).

Cleveland built their 102-60 record in 2017 on the backs of the Central, going 50-26 against their own division, resulting in a 17-game gap between themselves and the Wild Card bound Twins. Even the Royals posted an 80-82 season, only five games out of that Wild Card spot.

This will not be the case in 2018, as the only team with realistic playoff aspirations being the Twins, who have lost their last four, and already sit nine games out of the second Wild Card. Minnesota welcomes the Indians for a four-game set at Target Field starting Thursday, and travel back to Progressive Field on June 15th for a three-game tilt.

The Indians are already 10-5 against the Central in 2018, right on pace with their winning percentage from 2017. Replicating that pace through this stretch would push them to 25-12 against the Division and 41-32 overall, not including the upcoming two-game home series against former divisional rivals in the Milwaukee Brewers.

(Milwaukee moved to the NL Central in 1998, at which point the Tigers jumped from the AL East into the Central.)

In 2017, the Brewers and Los Angeles Angels were the only team to have a winning record against their division and not make the post-season, while the New York Yankees and Colorado Rockies made the playoffs when going 42-34 against theirs.

The 2015 Pittsburgh Pirates were the last playoff team to have a losing record against their division, going 34-42 against the NL Central. That same season, both AL Wild Card teams, the Yankees and Houston Astros, went .500 against their respective divisions.