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What's left to watch for in the final weekend of the year for the Indians?

The Indians are 99% sure not to make the playoffs, but there are other things to keep an eye on this weekend.

Jason Miller

I don't advise holding out any hope for the Indians to make the playoffs, but they have not quite been mathematically eliminated. If they can sweep their home series against Tampa Bay this weekend, and if the A's end up being swept by Texas, and if the Mariners don't win more than two of their three games against Anaheim, the Tribe will find itself tied for the second Wild Card spot. If you treat every game as a coin flip (not accurate, I know, but work with me here) there is a 1.37% chance of all those things happening.

The coin flip odds are that either the Indians will lose and/or the A's will win tonight, and that will be that for the possibility of a return trip to the postseason. So, beyond that 1.37% chance, what are the top five things still worth watching for?

1) Corey Kluber's quest to win the AL Cy Young Award

Kluber and Seattle' Felix Hernandez are the only guys with a merit-based case for winning the award. Felix has far greater name recognition, and I think he has to be considered the favorite, but by giving up 8 runs in his most-recent start, he left the door open for Kluber.

Voters looking at the three stats that have traditionally mattered the most will see Felix with an edge in ERA (2.34 to 2.53), while Kluber has the edge in strikeouts (258 to 241) and also in those beloved pitcher wins (17 to 14). Voters looking at newer metrics will see Felix ahead in ERA+  (156 to 147), but Kluber ahead in FIP (2.39 to 2.61), bWAR (6.9 to 6.4) and fWAR (7.0 to 6.0).

The differences between the two are all slim (Felix has thrown 3 more innings than Kluber, speaking of slim margins), certainly slim enough for a dramatic performance by either pitcher this weekend (for better or for worse) could make the difference. Kluber is set to pitch tonight, Felix on Sunday afternoon.

2) Michael Brantley's push for 200 hits and 100 RBI

Brantley is up to 199 hits, meaning he needs just one more dying quail to fall in, one more ground ball with eyes to find a way through, or one more 430-foot home run into the hedges in order to become the first player since Kenny Lofton in 1996 to reach 200 hits for the Indians. He's also currently 3rd in the AL in batting average at .329, and could become the first Indian to finish that high since Roberto Alomar placed 3rd with a .336 average in 2001 (which is also the last time an Indian hit better than .316).

Brantley is also at 97 RBI, putting him 3 shy of being the first Indian with 100 in a season since Victor Martinez and Travis Hafner in 2007.

3) The pitching staff's quest to break the all-time strikeout record

The Indians have struck out 1,419 batters so far this season. The MLB record is 1,428, set by Detroit last season. With Kluber on the mound there's a decent chance the record is broken tonight. If not, then almost certainly tomorrow. If the Indians pitch 27 more innings this seasons, they'll need 24 more strikeouts to also set a new record for highest K/9.

4) Carlos Santana's home runs

It is highly unlikely that Santana will hit the 3 home runs he needs to become the first Indian with 30 in a season since Grady Sizemore in 2008, but it wouldn't be the first time he hit 3 in a series. The odds are also long (but not quite as long) that Santana will hit the 2 home runs he needs in order to reach 100 for his career, which would make him the 24th player in franchise history to hit that many for the team, and only the 9th to do it in his first five seasons of his career.

5) Michael Bourn leading the league in triples

Bourn currently leads the American League with 10 triples. Mike Trout and Chicago's Adam Eaton each have 9, so unless one of them has a big weekend, Bourn will become the first Indian since Kenny Lofton in 1995 to lead the American League.

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