Sunday, September 4, 2011

It's Go Time

If the Indians are going to extend their remarkable season of being a contender while missing half their starting lineup, they are going to have to find a way to win two out of three, or even - and this is really talking crazy, considering the opponent's starting pitcher in the third game - sweep the Tigers in the three-game series that begins Monday at Progressive Field.

Could the Indians still win the division without winning two or three of the games in the Detroit series? Yes. But it would then take an almost historic collapse by the Tigers. Winning the first two games of the series is almost a must for the Indians, because Justin Verlander will start the third game of the series for the Tigers.

If the Indians lose this series, or if they get swept they would fall 7 1/2 or even 9 1/2 games behind Detroit (assuming the Tigers beat the White Sox Sunday night). That would be virtually an insurmountable lead.

That the Indians are even in the converstation for a division title with less than a month left in the season is in itself astonishing. The lineups the injury-riddled Indians have been running out there the last two weeks have been glorified Class AAA lineups. For most of those games the Indians had five players on the disabled list who would have been in the starting lineup if healthy.

Not only that, but those five players are were arguably (with the exception of Asdrubal Cabrera, who was not one of them) the Indians' five best players. Take five players, period, out of the starting lineup of the Tigers, Yankees, Red Sox, or Rangers - much less take out their five best players, and those teams would have to be in full scramble mode to remain in contention, as have the Indians.

It's for that reason that I think the only question in the voting for the American League Manager of the Year Award is not whether or not Manny Acta will win it, but whether it will be unanimous.