RECORDS: Indians 28-29 White Sox 26-29
GAMETIMES: Thursday and Friday 7:10, Saturday and Sunday 1:10
TV: Thursday, Saturday, Sunday NBCSN, Friday WGN
PREPARING THE VIKING FUNERAL: Let’s Go Tribe
PROBABLE INDIANS LINEUP
Francisco Lindor – SS
Oscar Mercado – CF
Carlos Santana – 1B
Jordan Luplow – RF
Jose Ramirez – 3B
Roberto Perez – C
Jake Bauers – 1B
Greg Allen – LF
Mike Freeman – 2B
PROBABLE SOX LINEUP
Leury Garcia – CF
Yoan Moncada – 3B
Jose Abreu – 1B
Yonder Alonso – DH
James McCann – C
Eloy Jimenez – LF
Tim Anderson – SS
Yolmer Sanchez – 2B
Charlie Tilson – RF
An actual torch-passing would be overselling it by a factor of three. And there are no torches for teams that aren’t leading the division, or even close, or even .500. So it’s not that. But there is something about the Sox being able to pass Cleveland in the standings at the end of this four-game set on 35th this weekend. They’re only a game behind, so any kind of series win would do it. That doesn’t mean that the Sox are in any way primed to charge at the Twins, and last weekend pretty much proved that. What it does signify is that Cleveland’s era of lording over the Central is almost certainly over, and their window of contention might be as well. What they do with that is going to become the main question on the Cuyahoga the next couple months.
The Sox have played The Tribe enough this year that you’re intimately familiar with the issues. Two-fifths of their rotation is on the shelf for an extended period of time in Mike Clevinger and Corey Kluber. Three if you wanted to count Danny Salazar among the starters, though that’s a stretch.
What is healthy hasn’t been any damn good, at least not with lumber in their hands. Lindor appears to be emerging from his early season malaise, but other than Santana everyone else has looked like the guy playing the Gashouse Gorillas before Bugs took over. Jordan Luplow has ground the Sox bones into his bread but hasn’t done jack or shit against anyone else. Another kid in Bauers has been given the first base job to win, and he’s hitting .215. Put plainly, they rank third-from-last in runs in the AL and team wOBA, which is at a gruesome .298. Even a reclamation of Ramirez probably isn’t enough to save this team. Luplow and Bauers converting their promise to tangible might be enough, but there probably isn’t time to wait for that.
Which puts Cleveland on the precipice of having to cash in on what they can and start over. They have both Ramirez and Lindor through 2022, which is a start (assuming Ramirez isn’t a smoldering corpse permanently). What could they turn in at the deadline and try and collect chips on? Kluber has two team option years left, neither of which are even $20M, which would make him awfully attractive. Though he may not want to go unless teams guarantee they won’t pick those up. Trevor Bauer has one more arbitration year left, and even though he’s Captain Space Brain some team will find that attractive. With Clevinger and Bieber around for a while, those are blows the Tribe could soak up and survive, you would think. Carrasco has an extremely team-friendly deal and could net them a Quintana-like package. Except he’s already 32, though he did just have a 2.94 FIP last year. There are pieces.
The Sox will see another kid who could make up for the blow of whatever pitchers the Indians move along, and that’s in Zach Plesac. Plesac rocketed through the system this year, starting in Double-A but needed only six starts there with a 0.98 ERA to move up a level. Then in three AAA starts he struck out 22 while walking one, so here he is. The only let-up for the Sox is that Bauer hasn’t been all that good, they’ve already lit him up once, and then Gasoline Alley Jefry on Saturday afternoon.
It’s not a torch passing. But it is one team watching it all close while the other is trying to jimmy theirs open (phrasing?). What we’re saying is there’s symbolism here if you want to find it. Or don’t. We don’t are.