CLEVELAND — Prior to the season, it seemed inconceivable the Indians would be sellers at the trading deadline.
But here they are, trailing the surprising Minnesota Twins — who are tied with the Astros for the best record in the American League — by 10 1/2 games in the Central Division standings following Sunday’s 7-6 loss to the Yankees and Minnesota’s 12-2 win over Detroit.
A wild-card berth is well within reach and likely still will be when the All-Star break arrives. But will that be enough for the front office to stay the course?
“With the way the wild card is now, it’s put general managers and probably ownership in very difficult situations. That’s honest,” manager Terry Francona said prior to Sunday’s game. “I’m gonna get an opinion. I’m glad I don’t have final say, because that is very difficult. The one thing I would say is, as a manager or coach, we want to win today. As a general manager or a president, they have to be a caretaker. And I understand that. And I think they have a very good understanding of that.”
It’s certainly been a more challenging season than expected thus far for the three-time defending Central Division champions. They’ve dealt with an inordinate amount of injuries to the rotation and glaring performance issues from key players.
“You know why it seems more (challenging)? Because it’s now,” Francona said. “Now always seems like it’s the most. That’s just the way it is. You try to live by certain things in this game because you don’t know what’s going to happen. So we tell guys in spring training, ‘We’re gonna get challenged. We don’t know where. We don’t know who.’ You don’t want to sound cold-hearted, but you know things are going to happen.
“So far this year more has happened than we would’ve liked. Things happen. That’s why I’m careful when somebody asks me, ‘Hey, what’s your goal for the year? What do you think about the end of the year?’ If we keep it in smaller segments, like today, it doesn’t make things daunting. I think it makes it easier to be good — or as good as you can be.”
No way, Jose
Slumping third baseman Jose Ramirez batted sixth in the series finale. It was the lowest he’s hit in the order all season and the lowest since he was in the same spot, June 14, 2017.
“Every time I think he’s going to turn a corner, he doesn’t,” Francona said of Ramirez, who entered Sunday batting .198 with only two hits in 25 at-bats over seven games in June. “I have so much belief in him that he will. It’s just been hard for him. It’s been a prolonged period and I know it’s got to be wearing on him. But I feel so strongly that he will figure it out. He has other people to help him. I just think he’s that good of a player.”
Ramirez hasn’t been any better in the field, entering Sunday with a team-leading 11 errors in 63 games.
The Indians are off today, capping the homestand with a two-game interleague series against the Reds that begins Tuesday night at 7:10.
Trevor Bauer (4-6, 3.93 ERA) opens the set for Cleveland against right-hander Luis Castillo (6-1, 2.38).
Zach Plesac (1-1, 1.86) makes his fourth start in the series finale Wednesday (1:10 p.m.), while Cincinnati counters with righty Anthony DeSclafani (2-3, 4.70).
The Indians paid tribute to the career of CC Sabathia with a ceremony and video montage prior to the series finale. Sabathia, who is set to retire at the end of the season, has made more starts (125) and thrown more innings (797 2/3) than any other pitcher in Jacobs/Progressive Field history. His 51 wins and (713) strikeouts rank second only to Corey Kluber (53 wins, 770 strikeouts) in ballpark history. Sabathia presented a check for $5,200 to Cleveland Indians Charities.