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The Cleveland Indians won the AL Central by beating the AL Central

It sounds obvious, but it’s a big deal.

Ed Zurga/Getty Images

The Cleveland Indians are in the 2016 postseason. Not only are they in the 2016 postseason, but they are there as the No. 2 overall seed in the American League. Despite several key injuries before and during the season, as well as some prolonged slumps from key players, the Indians are hosting the American League Divisional Series.

A lot has been made about the Indians’ success against the Detroit Tigers this season, as well as their inability to beat the Minnesota Twins early on in the year. On a smaller scale, the Indians won home-field advantage in the ALDS because they swept the Kansas City Royals in their last series. But in a much larger way, it was their overall domination of the AL Central that landed them their first division win in nine years.

How the American League Central was won

For all of those early season struggles against the lowly Twins, the Tribe did manage to put up a winning record against Joe Mauer and company — 10-9 by the time the season ended. But it was a long road to get there.

Maybe there is just some kind of bad mojo in Minnesota that only affects the Indians — other teams sure did not have the same trouble this season.

It started last year, when Chris Johnson was bitten by a spider and was sent to the disabled list without superpowers. It’s also the place where Michael Brantley first injured his shoulder last September. For one reason or another, the Tribe’s bad luck in the presence of the Twins continued into 2016.

Things started terribly for the Tribe in head-to-head matchups against Minnesota. They were 5-4 through July against a team that was basically out of contention before the calendar even turned to May. While the Twins could not hit or pitch against anyone else, they always found a way to win against the Indians. Whether it was Max Kepler hitting three [redacted] home runs in one game or Joe Mauer ruining everything like he always does. The Indians just could not get over the hump until August.

The Indians struggled in their early-August series against the Twins, going 1-3 and being outscored 16-35 in the three losses. That final game of the series, a 9-2 Tribe win, looked like an aberration, but it was more of a sign of things to come.

Including that August 4 victory, the Indians won six of their last seven against the Kansas City Royals with the only loss being a 2-1 walk-off loss. Indians pitching could still never seem to shut the Twins down for a full game — besides a shutout on August 29 — but the offense frequently made quick work of the Twins’ biggest weakness. In those final seven head-to-head matchups, the Indians scored 35 runs to the Twins’ 17.

Cleveland had no such trouble with the former division, and World Series, champion Kansas City Royals. They started 7-1 against the world champs before a four-game skid evened things out a bit. After that, though, the Tribe ripped off six-straight wins, including the sweep of the final season series.

By the end of the season, with the excellent winning streaks against the Royals and some late-season struggles against the Tigers, the Indians finished 14-5 against the Royals and 14-4 against the Tigers.

Three of those four losses to the Tigers came in the final four games and another could have potentially happened if Monday’s 1:10 p.m. ET game needed to be played. But, seeing as the Indians won Sunday afternoon and the Boston Red Sox lost, the Tribe already have home-field advantage in the ALDS wrapped up, making the game pointless.

Last (and sort of least) is the Chicago White Sox, who the Indians were great against early on in the season but struggled to contain towards the end of the season. The Indians won eight of their first 10 against the Sox, including a 13-2 shellacking of James Shields.

In those first 10 games, Indians pitching held the Sox to two or fewer runs seven times. In the final nine games, in which the Indians were just 3-6, Tribe pitchers held the White Sox to fewer than three runs just once on September 15. They lost that game, 1-2.

Being great against your division doesn’t guarantee anything, but it definitely helps

The Indians were 49-26 against all American League Central opponents, the third-best mark of any team against their own division. They trailed only the Chicago Cubs, who went 50-25 against the National League Central, and the Washington Nationals, who battered the National League East all season long to the tune of a 51-25 record.

Only one division winner did not have the best intra-divisional record in their respective division: The Los Angeles Dodgers. Los Angeles was 43-33 against the National League West, while the second-place San Francisco Giants were 45-31 against division opponents while narrowly avoiding a historic collapse in the second half of the season.

Considering no other AL Central teams made it to the postseason, this intra-divisional domination will do them little good in the next month. But it’s worth noting just how dominant the Indians were over the Royals, Tigers, White Sox, and even the Twins towards the end.

Don’t @ me with your hot takes

You can make up a narrative that the Indians "only" won the AL Central because they beat their AL Central opponents, but that’s dumb. That’s like bunting in the third inning when you’re up by two runs — don’t do it.

If the Indians did not dominate their AL Central opponents or were even average against a couple of them, all we would hear is that the Indians lost their division because they couldn’t beat their division. That’s exactly what happened last year when the third-place Indians were 32-43 against the AL Central.

Well, not this year. This year the Indians won the AL Central by beating the AL Central and now they have a chance to show the rest of the world how they did it.

In summary, just pretend the Indians are national treasure, Bob Ross, and the rest of the AL Central are his paintbrush.

RIP devil