What was once a formality is now official: The Cleveland Indians are the 2017 AL Central champions. Saturday's win over the Royals (CLE 8, KC 4) combined with the Twins losing to the Blue Jays (TOR 7, MIN 2) clinched Cleveland's second straight division title.
This is the first time the Indians have won back-to-back division titles since winning five straight from 1995-99. Cleveland clinched a postseason berth earlier this week, so their ticket to the playoffs was already punched. Given their big division lead over Minnesota, it was only a matter of time until they clinched the division, and now they've done it.
Astros and take over the best record in the AL. Here are the current AL overall standings:, though they got right back on the horse with Saturday's win. The winning streak allowed them to jump the
- Indians: 92-57
- Astros: 90-58 (1 1/2 games back)
- Red Sox: 85-63 (6/12 games back)
- Yankees: 82-66 (9 1/2 games back)
The race for the best record in the AL is essentially a two-team race. Realistically, there's just not enough time remaining for the Red Sox (or Yankees) to get back into the race. Clinching the best record in the AL ensures home field advantage through at least the ALCS.
The Indians won their second straight AL Central by being perhaps the most well-rounded team in baseball. Check out their run creation and run prevention numbers:
- Runs scored per game: 5.04 (8th in MLB)
- Runs allowed per game: 3.54 (1st in MLB)
No other team in baseball ranks in the top eight in both runs scored and runs allowed per game. Cleveland woke up with a 48-45 record on July 20, and in the 56 games since, they are 44-12 and have baseball's best record by a mile. Their plus-226 run differential this season is 47 runs better than any other team.
After losing to the Cubs in extra innings of Game 7 of the World Series last year, the Indians are focused squarely on winning a championship. This isn't some small market feel good story. This team is a powerhouse that expects to win a title. Winning the AL Central was just one step toward that goal.