Since the Indians punched their ticket to the 2020 postseason with a 5-3 extra-innings walk-off win over the White Sox on Tuesday and secured home-field advantage in the American League Wild Card Series with an 8-6 win over the Pirates on Sunday, let’s take a look at some playoff-focused questions surrounding the Tribe.
What could the postseason roster look like?
SP: Shane Bieber, Zach Plesac, Carlos Carrasco, Aaron Civale, Triston McKenzie
RP: Brad Hand, James Karinchak, Nick Wittgren, Oliver Pérez, Phil Maton, Cal Quantrill, Adam Plutko, Cam Hill
C: Roberto Pérez, Sandy León, Austin Hedges
1B: Carlos Santana
2B: Cesar Hernandez
SS: Francisco Lindor
3B: José Ramírez
DH: Franmil Reyes
LF: Josh Naylor
CF: Delino DeShields
RF: Tyler Naquin
Bench: Oscar Mercado, Jordan Luplow, Mike Freeman, Yu Chang
Could this roster change?
Absolutely. The Indians could easily decide to carry an extra bullpen arm, especially if the Tribe would advance beyond the AL Wild Card Series. Though Civale and McKenzie will be relief options for the AL Wild Card Series, the team may require to shift them back into a starting role for the longer AL Division Series and AL Championship Series, if the team were to get there. In that case, Cleveland could certainly decide to add another relief arm into the mix.
Who else could be considered for the roster?
The Indians released the 12-man player pool they will carry throughout the postseason on Monday afternoon. Should the Indians make a roster change, the Tribe has three starting pitchers (Logan Allen, Sam Hentges, Scott Moss), three relievers (Kyle Nelson, Dominic Leone, Adam Cimber) and six position players (Daniel Johnson, Bradley Zimmer, Domingo Santana, Jake Bauers, Ernie Clement and Beau Taylor) to choose from.
What will the rotation look like?
Shane Bieber will toe the rubber for Game 1 against Gerrit Cole. The Indians waited until the weekend to determine which games Carlos Carrasco and Zach Plesac would pitch after Bieber, and it announced on Sunday that Carrasco would start Game 2 and Plesac would take Game 3, if needed.
If the Tribe advances beyond the first round, Civale will shift back into the starting rotation, and McKenzie could be another starting option, too.
The Indians found a way to crawl back up the postseason standings after dropping from the top of the leaderboard to the bottom during its eight-game losing streak. The Tribe secured home-field advantage on Sunday with a win over the Pirates (and a White Sox loss to the Cubs), which handed them the No. 4 overall seed. The team will have a workout day on Monday, and it will need to determine its 28-man postseason roster by 10 a.m. ET on Tuesday.
What is the Wild Card round schedule?
Game 1 is set for Tuesday, Sept. 29, with Games 2 and 3 (if necessary) following on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1. There are no days off in this round.
Who will the Indians play in the first round?
The No. 4 Indians will host the No. 5 Yankees in the three-game AL Wild Card Series, beginning on Tuesday. Of the plethora of possible outcomes the Indians could've had entering Sunday, facing New York at Progressive Field may have been among the most favorable.
Though the Yankees boast a powerful lineup, a Bieber-Carrasco-Plesac starting trio would be a tough task for any offense. The Yanks have also struggled on the road this year, going 11-18 as opposed to 22-9 at home. After getting through Gerrit Cole in Game 1, the Tribe’s offense could have its best chances against New York's starting pitching, as opposed to other contenders.
Who could be a breakout candidate?
Though it may sound odd to have one of their most acclaimed power hitters considered to be a breakout candidate, Santana could be the most likely to fall into this category. The Tribe’s cleanup hitter hit .187 with a .654 OPS in the first 59 games of the season before a 3-for-3, four-RBI day in the season finale.
Can the Indians win it all?
The inconsistent offense remains Cleveland's biggest question mark. But as Indians manager Terry Francona always says, a team can never be counted out if it has strong pitching. And that’s exactly what the Indians have. A Bieber-Plesac-Carrasco trio would be dangerous in a three-game series, and the Tribe’s pitching depth in Civale and McKenzie could prove an advantage if the team advances to the five-game ALDS or the seven-game ALCS, as both rounds will not have any off-days. No matter how the offense fares, the Indians’ pitching will at least give them a chance to be able to make a run.