Many fans around baseball are counting down to the start of 60 short matches which for the Cleveland Indians will begin on Friday, July 24.
The season will be more sprints than marathons, and one thing that will make 2020 very different from previous years is that the team can no longer just give a game.
In other words – every game is important. Now more than ever.
That’s why when you look at the Indian 2020 schedule, you know that the first part of it is the most important, and also the first third of the slate that will likely decide how well, or not so well, this team will become.
Manager Terry Francona said as much as this week that the players on the team would need to adjust quickly when playing in front of an empty stadium, and also adjust how far the difference would be from the previous season.
The only “fans” who will be on the Progressive Field are the players who will wear masks in the stands when they watch the match, again far different from last year when on certain nights the stadium was rocked with crowds sold out.
How quickly the Tribe players can adjust may only be the key to their success, but we must have a pretty good idea in the first 20 games of the season, which we will run for you at this time.
The first six matches were at home, which gave the Tribe an edge because the fact should have given them an idea of how different it was to play in an empty stadium.
The first six matches will highlight three opponents of the two AL Central teams that are well known by the Tribe, the Kansas City Royals and the Chicago White Sox.
The Royals are a team that is still very much in transition, and while likes Whit Merrifield and slugger Jorge Soler two excellent hitters, the rest of the lineup is lacking and the staff throws nothing to write home about.
Danny Duffy registered as ace, with Brad Keller and Jake Junis listed as number two and three for the beginning to be seen by the Tribe out of the gate.
Anything other than the 3-0 mark against the Royals to start the season is a disappointment. It’s hard to think that Kansas City will be anything more than a team that runs 20-40 or even worse in 2020.
Next up is the White Sox, a team that carries out a number of offseason movements to compete in Central India and the Minnesota Twins.
Yasmani Grandal, Edwin Encarnacion, Yoan Moncada and Leury Garcia are some beaters that will put pressure on the opponent’s pitcher.
Tribe Throwers will be challenged by this line, and let’s assume that the Indians go 2-1 in the first three matches against them, ending the first homestand at 5-1.
After that, this is six away games, four on Target Field against the Twin team which some say might be the best in baseball, at least in terms of lineups one to nine, and then two at the Reds in Cincinnati, a team that feels they are ready to turn in 2020.
The match against the Twins the past two years has been intense because it is a competition that is starting to become one of the best in the American League.
The Twins boast one heck of a lineup with Max Kepler, Nelson Cruz, Josh Donaldson, Mitch Garver, Byron Buxton and Eddie Rosario.
Their initial rotation is their weak point, with Jose Berrios become an ace. After that the Twins can be obtained, and that’s where they might fail in the title search.
The Reds have rearranged their lineup and rotation, with one of the big steps from last season being an agreement to pick up a former Indian starter Trevor Bauer.
He is listed as Reds number three in rotation, with Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray be number one and two.
Let’s assume in six road games after the Tribe homestand runs 3-3, placing them at 8-4 after 12 matches.
After two matches at the Reds, they took them away to Progressive Field for three, again in a match that was supposed to be fun against a team that was considered to be their National League rival.
Let’s think they are 2-1 up, putting them in 10-5 after 15 matches in 2020.
After home and home with the Reds, Indians travel to the north side of Chicago to face the White Sox for three matches.
Then they traveled home to host another Chicago team, the Cubs, for two matches on August 11 and 12.
The Cubs have a new look with a new manager, and while Tribe hasn’t seen them since their seven classic World Series games in 2016, people like their lineup are rather familiar.
Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Schwarber, and some men in second base named Jason Kipnis are the cast of faces in the lineup that Indian fans should know.
Let’s hope in five matches against two Chicago teams that India can manage to win three, putting them in 13-7 after 20 matches.
This is not a record that will make anyone start thinking of the World Series, but this is six games over 0.500, and hopefully after 1/3 this season will set the initial momentum to start playing better.
The possibility of winning the division will require 37-40 matches. Going 13-7 in the first 20 will put them in step for 39 wins.
Winning a lot early is good, but the biggest question is whether the team can set the pace and finish it well so that hopefully getting a ticket to baseball in October.
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