INDIANAPOLIS - What a difference 10 days can make. When the sun rose on Friday, Aug. 4, the Indianapolis Indians found themselves in second place in the International League West Division for the first time since May 18. Fast forward to the league's final off day of the regular season, and the Tribe are back in first owning a comfortable 4.5-game advantage over Columbus with 22 games to play.
The Indians have reeled off wins in eight of their last nine games on the strength of the pitching staff. Indy has allowed a total of 12 runs over the nine-game stretch, with the rotation of Steven Brault, Clay Holmes, Drew Hutchison, Nick Kingham and Tyler Glasnow posting an 8-1 record and an astounding 1.19 ERA in 60.1 innings pitched.
If the Clippers manage to chase down the Tribe and finish in a tie for first at the end of the regular season, the two will play a one-game playoff on Tuesday, Sept. 5. The team to host that potential winner-take-all game is determined on the following criteria:
- The team with the most wins in the head-to-head season series.
- The Clippers currently hold an 11-8 advantage in the season series with three games remaining, all at Victory Field from Aug. 25-27. The Tribe must sweep that three-game set to move the tiebreaker on to…
- The team with the highest winning percentage during intradivisional play.
- As of today, Indy owns a 28-26 record against IL West foes while Columbus is just one-half game better at 29-26. Indianapolis has 16 games remaining against the IL West (4 vs. LOU, 3 vs. COL, 5 @ LOU and 4 @ TOL); Columbus has 15 divisional games left (4 @ TOL, 3 @ IND, 4 vs. TOL, 4 vs. LOU). If the two finish with the same divisional record, the home-field tiebreaker for the one-game playoff would move to…
- The team with the highest winning percentage against the other two division winners.
- Unfortunately for the Tribe, if criteria manages to get this far, Columbus will host the one-game playoff. The Clippers went 5-2 against the IL South's sure-fire winner, Durham, and they also went 3-3 against Scranton/W-B who is on the brink of another IL North Division title. Indy went 4-6 against the Bulls and 2-4 against the RailRiders.
If the Indians can hang on to their IL West lead or win a potential one-game playoff over Columbus, Indy would have these four teams on its radar for the 2017 postseason.
Durham Bulls (73-47, 13.5-game IL South lead)
Magic Number: 10
Vs. Indianapolis in 2017: 6-4
Vs. Indianapolis Last 5 Years (Playoffs Included): 24-22
Vs. Indianapolis All-Time (Playoffs Included): 104-106
What Got Them Here: Durham's pitching staff has been elite this season, striking out a league best 1,203 batters through 120 games (10.0 SO/game). They own the third-lowest team ERA in the IL at 3.35, despite playing half their games at Durham Bulls Athletic Park where the ball tends to fly. Durham's offense is no slouch, as they are second in the league in both doubles (231) and stolen bases (110) and third in runs scored (553). Shortstop Willy Adames, just 21 years old, has slashed .267/.361/.400 in his first Triple-A season, and he's a highlight reel waiting to happen defensively. When Adames goes, the Bulls go. A promotion to Tampa Bay, who finds themselves in the American League Wild Card race, is not a far-fetched thought, however. Durham lost one of its two catchers in a trade with Seattle last week, as Mike Marjama is now in Tacoma. He was a key cog in the Bulls' lineup. The backstop hit .274 with nine home runs and 51 RBI in 72 games played.
Potential Governor's Cup Opponents
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (77-43, 8.5-game IL North lead)
Magic Number: 13
Vs. Indianapolis in 2017: 4-2
Vs. Indianapolis Last 5 Years (Playoffs Included): 21-17
Vs. Indianapolis All-Time (Playoffs Included): 87-75
What Got Them Here: Ten days back, the RailRiders' division lead was a slim 2.5 games over Lehigh Valley. After an 8-2 stretch over their previous 10 contests coinciding with an IronPigs 2-8 skid, that advantage has swelled to 8.5 games. Sitting in third place through the month of April despite a respectable 12-10 record, the RailRiders find themselves ahead of the IL North pack with three weeks to play thanks to an 18-10 record in May, 19-11 mark in June and 19-8 record in July. The RailRiders own the league's best record, despite losing top prospects like outfielder Dustin Fowler, utilityman Tyler Wade, outfielder Clint Frazier, infielder Gleyber Torres and starter Caleb Smith to either the big leagues, injuries or trades. Their bullpen has been lights out as well, noted by the fact that they are 61-0 when leading after seven innings. The 2016 Governors' Cup Playoff MVP, Jake Cave, has carried the offense lately. After joining the team from Double-A in mid-June, the 24-year-old has hit an absurd .345 (70-for-203) with 13 home runs, 11 doubles and 33 RBI in 52 games.
Lehigh Valley IronPigs: (69-52, T-2nd place, IL North, tied with Rochester for 1st in the IL Wild Card)
Vs. Indianapolis in 2017: 3-3
Vs. Indianapolis Last 5 Years (Have never met in playoffs): 14-21
Vs. Indianapolis All-Time (Have never met in playoffs): 39-36
What Got Them Here: Lehigh Valley went a remarkable 24-5 in the month of May to surge into first place in the IL North, only to see Scranton/W-B surpass them a month ago. The IronPigs were led by a power-packed lineup consisting of the league's two biggest home run threats, Dylan Cozens and Rhys Hoskins. The latter is the frontrunner for the IL MVP award, as he paces the league in long balls (29), RBI (91), extra-base hits (57), slugging percentage (.581), runs scored (78) and total bases (233). As predicted, Hoskins was a call-up waiting to happen, and he earned that promotion to Philadelphia this past Thursday. Closer Pedro Beato earned a well-deserved promotion to Philadelphia on July 29 after recording a league-high 27 saves in 29 opportunities, but he was placed on the 10-day DL with a left hamstring strain the very next day. Beato began a rehab assignment on Saturday.
Rochester Red Wings: (69-52, T-2nd place, IL North, tied with Lehigh Valley for 1st in the IL Wild Card)
Vs. Indianapolis in 2017: 4-4
Vs. Indianapolis Last 5 Years (Have never met in playoffs): 15-22
Vs. Indianapolis All-Time (Have never met in playoffs): 78-79
What Got Them Here: Rochester has played its best baseball as of late, going 40-19 over its last 59 games to pull into a tie with Lehigh Valley for the IL Wild Card spot. The Red Wings have won on the heels of their pitching staff, a unit that owns the league's lowest ERA at 3.20. Indiana University's Aaron Slegers is the only pitcher with 13 wins in the league, and he's earned every one of them with a 3.18 ERA, the sixth-lowest mark among qualifying IL pitchers. He and southpaws David Hurlbut (8-7, 3.69) and Nik Turley (5-4, 2.83) would make a formidable playoff rotation against Scranton/W-B in the semifinals.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.