Someone’s baseball playoff hopes will end

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With just over a week and change until the 2019 Major League Baseball regular season reaches its conclusion, the Cleveland Indians are running out of time to wiggle back into a postseason spot.

At this point, they can forget about the American League Central division title — which they had won in each of the previous three years — as they sit a sizable five games behind the Minnesota Twins. However, they’re still just 1.5 back of the second Wild Card spot, currently held by the Tampa Bay Rays.

At least they have it better than their opponent this weekend, the Philadelphia Phillies, who will be playing in a critical interleague series for the second consecutive week. Their playoff chances are almost on life support right now, being 5.5 games out of the National League’s second Wild Card berth and having to stave off multiple teams to secure it.

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One of these clubs may walk out of Progressive Field after Sunday’s action with their postseason dreams severely bruised. Let’s try to figure out how the three meetings will play out.

Drew Smyly vs. Zach Plesac (Friday): There’s no question Smyly has been one of the NL’s biggest surprises since latching on with the Phillies in July. After posting a disastrous 8.42 ERA and 1.91 WHIP during his time with the Texas Rangers earlier this season, Smyly instantly turned it around in Philadelphia, even logging an ERA (4.14) that is less than half of what he had in Arlington. His strikeout rate (9.61 K/9) is up again, too.

Plesac has also been a nice surprise, being 8-6 with a 3.64 ERA and continuing a long-running theme in Cleveland of rolling out quality young starting pitching. However, his 5.06 FIP indicates tougher times could be ahead, especially when it contrasts so much from his ERA. Smyly won’t do enough on his end to lead to a low-scoring outcome. OVER

Jason Vargas vs. Shane Bieber (Saturday): The right-hander affectionately also known as “Not Justin” has been one of the league’s better breakout stories of 2019. Bieber, this year’s All-Star Game MVP, enters this assignment at 14-7 with an impressive 3.26 ERA and 1.03 WHIP while also ranking tied for third in the big leagues with his 245 strikeouts.

Vargas was also enjoying notable success for a lengthy period at one point but it seems like the 15-year veteran has lost his momentum as the season winds down. After a handful of solid performances to begin his tenure with the Phillies, a different story has unfolded since, with the left-hander yielding more than three runs in four of his last five outings. OVER

Vince Velasquez vs. Adam Plutko (Sunday): Plutko is another one of these young Indians hurlers that has come up and done the job to help fill the void left by Corey Kluber (injured), Trevor Bauer (traded) and Carlos Carrasco (health).

At the same time, he likely awaits the same fate as his teammate Plesac, as evidenced by his concerning 5.40 FIP. That number is well above the right-hander’s 4.42 ERA, which points to regression ahead. He’s only registering a poor 6.08 K/9 as well.

Going for Philadelphia in Sunday night’s series finale is Velasquez, who continues to be inconsistent in his fifth major league season. He still has good stuff — illustrated by his 9.81 K/9 — but the righty’s bugaboo has been keeping the ball in yard. Velasquez is actually serving up a career-worst 2.08 HR/9 and may have issues with the Cleveland batting order. OVER

Last week: 1-1

Season: 42-34

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