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Indians can clinch playoff spot as early as tonight

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A look at how the Tribe could head into the playoffs with just a week left in the regular season

Kansas City Royals v Cleveland Indians Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images

With a big shout out to the expanded playoffs, the 2020 Cleveland Indians could lock up a spot in the postseason as early as tonight. All they need is a win over the White Sox and an Astros victory over the Mariners.

The Indians can do their part relatively early with a 6:10 p.m. ET start against the White Sox, but the Mariners and Astros do not play until 9:10 p.m. ET. Even if champagne showers were permitted in the age of COVID-19, they probably wouldn’t happen at midnight with another game coming up the next day.

By winning tonight and watching the Astros dispatch the Mariners several hours later, it would ensure that the worst the Indians could do is lose every game from here on out and dead cat bounce their way into the postseason at 30-30 as the No. 8 seed.

Playoff seeding currently sits as follows, with division winners making up the first three seeds, runner-ups as the No. 4 through No. 6 seeds, and the two Wild Card teams as the final two seeds:

  1. Tampa Bay Rays (35-19)
  2. Chicago White Sox (34-19)
  3. Oakland Athletics (33-20)
  4. Minnesota Twins (33-22)
  5. New York Yankees (31-22)
  6. Houston Astros (27-26)
  7. Cleveland Indians (29-24)
  8. Toronto Blue Jays (27-26)

Overall the Indians have seven games remaining — four against the White Sox and a three-game season finale against the Pirates. If all goes well, they will most likely find themselves as the No. 7 seed. There’s a possibility that the White Sox will be the No. 2 seed, meaning a rematch of the upcoming series in a three-game Wild Card starting in Chicago on Sept. 29.

If the Indians beat up on the White Sox and knock them out of AL Central contention over the next four days, they could instead face the Twins, a team they went 3-7 against this season. Most recently they were swept and outscored 19-9 in the midst of their eight-game losing streak earlier this month.

At worst, assuming they don’t find a way to slip out of the playoffs altogether, the Indians could fall to the No. 8 seed and face the top-seeded Rays in the Wild Card. Or, again, the Indians could be matched with the White Sox if they make up their 0.5 game deficit to the Rays between now and the end of the regular season. If the Indians fall to the eighth seed it means they probably lost most, if not all, of their four-game set against the White Sox so it seem pretty likely that Chicago surges up the standings as well.

The A’s are their third potential matchup, but Oakland has looked flat since losing Matt Chapman and they have a tough stretch of the Dodgers and those surly Mariners to finish off the year. They are most likely locked into the three seed and would be playing whoever the sixth seed is (i.e. the lowest-ranked division runner-up).

No matter who the Indians play, it will be a three-game away series for the Wild Card, then off to the playoff bubble in San Diego for a best-of-five series if they squeak by.