Taking a Look Back At a Magical October At Progressive Field

The scene before Game 6 of the World Series on November 1. Photo Credit-Jeff Lansky

The scene before Game 6 of the World Series on November 1. Photo Credit-Jeff Lansky

This year has truly been a historic one for sports in the city of Cleveland. Stipe Miocic started it off by capturing the UFC Heavyweight title on May 14. The Lake Erie Monsters kept the ball rolling by winning the Cleveland’s first Calder Cup title since 1964. And of course, the Cavaliers brought home the city’s first professional sports championship in 52 years by overcoming a 3-1 deficit to the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. The Indians joined in on the fun by moving into first place in the AL Central in early June and they never looked back.

Tribe shortstop Francisco Lindor prepares to make a catch. Photo Credit-Erik Drost.

Tribe shortstop Francisco Lindor prepares to make a catch. Photo Credit-Erik Drost.

The Indians squared off with the Chicago Cubs in a World Series that lived up to the hype. It was a matchup featuring the two longest championship droughts in baseball with a combined 176 years without a World Series title. It was a classic World Series that was capped by a Game 7 for the ages. The Cubs had a 5-1 lead in the 5th inning until Carlos Santana and Jason Kipnis scored on Jon Lester. The Cubs extended their lead to 6-3 in the 8th inning and were just four outs away from a world title when Aroldis Chapman entered the game. Brandon Guyer hit a RBI double to cut the Cubs lead to 6-4 with two outs in the bottom of the 8th. Rajai Davis stepped up to the plate and smacked a dramatic two-run homer to tie the game at 6. The game would go to extra innings, but not before a 17 minute rain delay stopped play after the conclusion of the ninth inning. With the heart of their lineup due up, the Cubs came out firing as Ben Zobrist hit a RBI double that broke the tie in the top of the tenth. The Cubs would tack on one more run with a RBI single from Miguel Montero. Just like all season long, the Indians proved to be a resilient group to the end. Brandon Guyer drew a two out walk in the bottom of the tenth to get on base. Rajai Davis would strike again with a RBI single to pull the Indians within one run. The Indians magic ran out as Michael Martinez grounded out to end Cleveland’s quest for their first World Series title since 1948.

Indians outfielder, Rajai Davis. Photo Credit-Wikimedia Commons

Indians outfielder, Rajai Davis. Photo Credit-Wikimedia Commons

Despite a heartbreaking loss in Game 7 of the World Series, I have never been more proud of a Cleveland team than I am of this Indians squad. All year this team was counted out, but it never seemed to matter to them. Through the injuries to Micheal Brantley, Yan Gomes, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, and Trevor Bauer, Abraham Almonte’s 80 suspension to being the underdog in every playoff series, the Tribe overcame it all. When Terry Francona spoke to the media before Game 7, he said something that perfectly depicted the city of Cleveland and the Indians. He said “This city reminds me of our team a little bit. They got pushed around, now they’re starting to push back.” The Indians were pushed around by the Cubs in Game 6 and the same continued for the early part of Game 7 until Rajai Davis pushed back. Davis was struggling with a .121 batting average in the postseason, but he delivered in the biggest at bat of his life with his first career playoff home run. Davis and the Tribe would fight back again the tenth inning, but it wasn’t enough. This magical season didn’t end the way the Indians had hoped, but Cleveland fans should be extremely proud of their team for fighting until the very end. I always knew that Cleveland was a tough city, but if there is one thing that I have learned from this playoff run is that Clevelanders have fallen in love with baseball again. You can see it from the sold out watch parties at Progressive Field for the World Series road games or the thousands that packed Gateway plaza that went berserk when Rajai blasted his improbable homer.

Indians second baseman, Jason Kipnis. Photo Credit-Erik Drost

Indians second baseman, Jason Kipnis. Photo Credit-Erik Drost

Indians fans have reason to be excited as the future is very bright at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario. For starters, All-Star outfielder, Michael Brantley is expected to resume baseball activities next month and he should to be ready for spring training. Starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco will soon begin “strength work” and will start a throwing program in December. The Tribe have already picked up Carlos Santana’s $12 million option for next season as well as the 2019 and 2020 team options for manager Terry Francona. The Indians did not extend a qualifying offers to first baseman Mike Napoli or Davis, but they have interest in bringing back both. The most exciting thing about this team is that the majority of the roster is under team control for the foreseeable future. Brantley, Andrew Miller, Cody Allen, and Brandon Guyer are under control through 2018. Carrasco, Danny Salazar, and Jason Kipnis are under control through 2020 and the young superstar Francisco Lindor is under team control through 2021. This young team is built to contend for years to come. Baseball is a tough game to have repeated postseason success, but I believe the Indians will come back stronger from this season. The 2015 Kansas City Royals came back from a Game 7 loss in the 2014 World Series to win the whole thing the next season. This Tribe squad is built similar to that Royals team, which should give fans belief that the Indians can seal the deal next season. All season long the Indians gave Cleveland something to believe in and even though they fell short I have never been more excited for the future. This resilient bunch of ball players will be back on the grand stage soon and this time they will have some unfinished business.

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2016 World Series Preview: Indians-Cubs

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Indians: ALCS: Beat Toronto 4-1
Cubs: NLCS: Beat Dodgers 4-2

Game 1: Chicago at Cleveland Tuesday, October 25 at 8:00 p.m.
Game 2: Chicago at Cleveland Wednesday, October 26 at 8:00 p.m.
Game 3: Cleveland at Chicago Friday, October 28 at 8:00 p.m.
Game 4: Cleveland at Chicago Saturday, October 29 at 8:00 p.m.
Game 5: Cleveland at Chicago Sunday, October 30 at 8:00 p.m. (if necessary)
Game 6: Chicago at Cleveland Tuesday, November 1 at 8:00 p.m. (if necessary)
Game 7: Chicago at Cleveland Wednesday, November 2 at 8:00 p.m. (if necessary)

Cubs third baseman, Kris Bryant. Photo Credit-Wikipedia

Tonight the matchup that baseball fans have been hoping for all season begins, as the teams with the two longest World Series droughts square off in The Land. The Chicago Cubs have not won the World Series since 1908 and are making their first appearance in the Fall Classic since 1945. The Cleveland Indians look to win their first championship since 1948 as they return to the World Series for the first time since 1997. With two lengthy title droughts on the line, this year’s World Series is shaping up to be epic. The Indians jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the ALCS thanks to terrific outings from starting pitchers, Corey Kluber and Josh Tomlin. In Game 3, starter Trevor Bauer attempted to pitch after slicing open his right pinkie while repairing his drone just days earlier. What followed was a scary scene, as Bauer’s stitches opened up and he was removed from the game after 21 pitches. Tribe skipper, Terry Francona showed why he is arguably the best manager in baseball by once again turning to his bullpen to carry his team to a 4-2 victory.

The pen was led by Andrew Miller who went on to win the ALCS MVP with some crazy numbers. Miller allowed zero runs on three hits in 7 2/3 innings pitched with 14 strikeouts and no walks. In the NLCS, the Cubs found themselves down two games to one to the Los Angeles Dodgers after being shut down by Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill. Chicago’s bats came alive outscoring the Dodgers 23-6 over the next three games to punch their ticket to their first World Series in seventy one years. The Indians are once again facing an offense that is red hot, but as they have shown so far this postseason they are more than capable of facing the challenge.

Key Matchup

Danny Salazar delivers a pitch against the Yankees. Photo Credit-Arturo Pardavilla III

The matchup to watch for in this series is Cleveland’s starting pitching against Chicago’s offense. Chicago’s powerful lineup got off to a slow start in the NLCS, but finally turned it around in Game 4. The Cubs responded to a 6-0 loss in Game 3 by drubbing the Dodgers 10-2 in the next game. First baseman, Anthony Rizzo was 1 for 11 in the first three games of the series until he hit a home run and two singles for 3 RBI’s in Game 4. Rizzo would go on to add two more RBI’s in the final two games of the series. Shortstop Addison Russell joined Rizzo in the scoring frenzy with 2 home runs and 4 RBI’s in Games 4 and 5. The Cubs ranked third in the majors in scoring this season with an average of 4.99 runs per game.

The Indians have faced two explosive offenses in the Red Sox and Blue Jays so far this October and they will once again have their hands full with Chicago. The Indians will have their ace, Corey Kluber on the mound for Game 1 with Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin starting the next two games. The order that Bauer and Tomlin pitch depends on the status of Bauer’s pinkie. The Tribe will also have ALCS Game 5 hero, Ryan Merritt available to pitch as well as Danny Salazar who has been out since September 9 with a right forearm injury. I believe that Salazar could be the “X Factor” in this series for Cleveland. He will obviously be on a pitch limit, but he could give the Indians a few solid innings of relief. The key for the Indians will be to get at least five innings out of their starters and then give way to their prolific bullpen.

Lansky’s Crazy Stat

Seven of the eight teams to win the ALCS in 5 games have gone on to win the World Series (The Minnesota Twins in 1987 and 1991, Oakland Athletics in 1989, New York Yankees in 1996, Anaheim Angels in 2002, and the Chicago White Sox in 2005). The lone exception was the New York Yankees in 2001.

Bonus Stat

The Indians and Cubs have gone a combined 176 years without a World Series title. The Cubs drought has lasted for 108 years. while the Indians last world title came 68 years ago.

Prediction

Indians first baseman Mike Napoli swings at a pitch during ALDS Game 3. Photo Credit-Arturo Pardavilla III

The Indians will win the World Series in seven games. The Tribe are the underdogs for the third time this postseason and it is evident that they like it that way. Francona’s team has thrived in this role and I expect them to do it again. There will be a lot of ups and downs in this series and it is important for Cleveland’s pitching staff to weather the storm of any offensive attacks from Chicago. The Cubs have shown that they can put up a ton of runs in a hurry so the Indians will need significant contributions from sluggers Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana to add runs of their own. The Cubs have one of the best rotations in baseball with John Lester, Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks, and John Lackey. Lester has allowed 72 stolen bases since the start of last season. The Indians led the American League in stolen bases so their ability to run the bases will be pivotal in this series.

Just like the previous series, if the Indians can take the lead after 5 or 6 innings they can control the game with their bullpen. One team’s painful title drought is going to come to an end and I believe it will be the Indians. The Tribe have overcome every obstacle that has been in their way this year: injuries to Michael Brantley, Salazar and Carlos Carrasco and Bauer’s pinkie in Game 3. So what if the majority of the country is rooting for the Cubs to break one of the longest title droughts in American sports history, the Indians have used their doubters as fuel all year. The Tribe have been through too much to give in now and they are ready to bring home another title for Cleveland.

Views From The 216 Part 2: Indians-Blue Jays ACLS Preview

alcs-2016

Indians: ALDS: Swept Boston 3-0
Blue Jays: ALDS: Swept Texas 3-0

Season Series: Cleveland won 4-3
Game 1: Toronto at Cleveland Friday, October 14 at 8:00 p.m.
Game 2: Toronto at Cleveland Saturday, October 15 at 4:00 p.m.
Game 3: Cleveland at Toronto Monday, October 17 at 8:00 p.m.
Game 4: Cleveland at Toronto Tuesday, October 18 at 4:00 p.m.
Game 5: Cleveland at Toronto Wednesday, October 19 at 4:00 p.m. (if necessary)
Game 6: Toronto at Cleveland Friday, October 21 at 8 p.m. (if necessary)
Game 7: Toronto at Cleveland Saturday, October 22 (if necessary)

After a dominating sweep of the Boston Red Sox, the Cleveland Indians are back in the American League Championship Series for the first time since 2007. The Tribe open up the LCS against the hard hitting Toronto Blue Jays tonight at Progressive Field. Cleveland came into the American League Division Series as underdogs to a Boston team that led the league in runs scored during the regular season, but that didn’t seem to matter to the Indians. Cleveland’s pitching rotation shut down the explosive Red Sox allowing only 7 hits from Boston’s “Big 4,” (David Ortiz, Jackie Bradley Jr., Mookie Betts, and Hanley Ramirez). Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin stepped up with big performances in Games 1 and 3, while Corey Kluber pitched like the ace he is after battling a mild quad strain during the final week of the regular season.

The crowd at Progressive Field stands for Game 1 of the ALDS on October 6. Photo Credit-Jeff Lansky

The crowd at Progressive Field stands for Game 1 of the ALDS on October 6. Photo Credit-Jeff Lansky

Cleveland’s bullpen proved to be crucial in Game 1 after manager Terry Francona made the brilliant decision to go to both Andrew Miller and Cody Allen early to carry the team to a win. The Tribe’s pen stepped up once again and weathered the storm of a late offensive attack by Boston in Game 3 to punch their ticket to the ALCS. On the offensive side of the diamond, the Indians were carried by the bottom half of their order throughout the series. Roberto Perez, Lonnie Chisenhall, and Coco Crisp all hit home runs while solidifying the theme of this year’s team: any player can step up on any given night. The Indians will once again have their hands full with another top offensive team in the Blue Jays. Toronto is peaking at the right time and if any pitching staff could answer the call it would be Cleveland’s dominate staff.

Key Matchup

Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista takes a swing against the Baltimore Orioles on April 24, 2012. Photo Credit-Keith Allison

Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista takes a swing against the Baltimore Orioles on April 24, 2012. Photo Credit-Keith Allison

The matchup to watch for in this series is between Cleveland’s bullpen and Toronto’s sluggers. The heart of the Blue Jays batting order features reigning American League MVP, Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion, and Jose Bautista. All three players have been on a tear so far this postseason and they look to keep their hot streak alive against the Indians. Encarnacion was the hero of Toronto’s Wild Card win against the Baltimore Orioles with a three-run walk off homer. He went on to hit two more home runs in the ALDS and has a .375 batting average through four postseason games. Donaldson leads Toronto with a .500 batting average and five doubles including the one that put him on base to scoring the series clinching run against the Texas Rangers in Game 3 of the ALDS. Joey Bats rounds out Toronto’s powerful trio with two home runs and 5 RBI’s.

Cleveland has a tough challenge ahead, but they have the pitching staff to counter the Blue Jays potent offense. Indians relievers Andrew Miller, Dan Otero, Bryan Shaw, and Cody Allen allowed just 2 runs in 10 and 1/3 innings against the Red Sox in the ALDS. Pitching has been the Tribe’s greatest strength this season, but with the injuries of starters Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar the importance of the bullpen has never been bigger. Francona’s decision to go to Miller and Allen early in Game 1 against Boston set the tone for the series. The Indians know they can get seven plus innings from Corey Kluber, but when Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin are on the mound the goal is to get at least five solid innings of pitching before the bullpen can come in to finish the game. This is exactly what the Tribe got in the ALDS and the goal remains the same against the Blue Jays. Sometimes the only way to fight fire is with fire and that is what the Indians will do in this series with their bullpen. The acquisition of Andrew Miller at the trade deadline solidified the Indians as championship contenders and since his debut he has been their biggest weapon. Miller shut down Boston’s high powered offense allowing just two hits with seven strike outs in four innings. I expect Miller to be the neutralizer once again against another offensive juggernaut.

Lansky’s Crazy Stat

This year’s ALCS matchup marks the second time a Cleveland team and a Toronto team have faced off in a league semi-final this year. The Cavaliers defeated the Toronto Raptors in six games in the Eastern Conference Finals in May. This is the first time NBA and MLB teams from the same city will meet in a league semifinal in the same year since 1969 when the LCS was established in baseball.

Prediction

Indians pitcher, Andrew Miller. Photo Credit-Erik Drost

Indians pitcher, Andrew Miller. Photo Credit-Erik Drost

The Cleveland Indians will win the ALCS in six games. There will be no sweep this time as the Indians have a large task at hand against the Blue Jays. The Indians have had no problem producing runs so far this postseason thanks to contributions from the bottom half of their order. I expect sluggers Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana to join in on the scoring this series. Toronto has great starting rotation with Marco Estrada, J.A. Haap, and Marcus Stroman, but they lack the bullpen depth that Cleveland has. With the uncertainty of reliever, Francisco Liriano’s avabaility for the ALCS, the Blue Jays may rely heavily Jason Grilli and closer, Roberto Osuna, which can work to the Indians advantage. To me this series comes down to Toronto’s offense against Cleveland’s bullpen. If the Tribe’s relievers can successfully shutdown and contain the Blue Jays sluggers the Indians will have a great shot at reaching their first World Series since 1997.

Reverse the Curse: The Indians Quest for a Title

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This past March, Sports Illustrated picked the Indians to win the World Series in their annual MLB preview. This is not the first time that SI picked the Tribe to win the title. In 1987 the sports magazine picked the Indians to win their first championship since 1948. Appearing on the cover were Cleveland sluggers Joe Carter and Cory Snyder. SI heralded the Tribe as “the best team in the American League.” The Indians were the exact opposite of that finishing in last place in the American League East. Not only are the Indians victims of the “SI Cover Jinx” but they are also believed to be cursed. Similar to the “curse” that was placed on the Red Sox, the Indians have the “Curse of Rocky Colavito.” The curse came from the unpopular trade of Colavito to the Detroit Tigers for Harvey Kuenn in 1960.

The 2015 Indians are much better than the 1987 squad even if their record doesn’t show it now. The Tribe are currently in last place in the Central Division with a 12-21 record. The Indians are not playing to their full potential so far this year. The beautiful thing about baseball is that it is a very long season. The Indians have plenty of talent and I think a trade or two could help this team make a deep playoff run. On paper Cleveland’s offense is loaded with 2014 MVP candidate Michael Brantley, Yan Gomes, Jason Kipnis, Michael Bourn, and Carlos Santana. All of these players have low batting averages and are capable of better production. The Tribe’s  biggest offseason move was the acquisition of slugger, Brandon Moss. Moss has struggled so far with a .238 batting average and five home runs. He showed some promise on April 25 against the Tigers, homering twice and driving in seven runs. The Indians pitching staff could use run support and some increased production from Moss would be huge.

2015

The Tribe’s biggest strength this season is their pitching staff. The Indians ace is 2014 American League CY Young Award Winner, Corey Kluber. Kluber has had a tough start to the season with a 1-5 record. He picked up his first win of the season on Wednesday against the Cardinals and he was lights out. Kluber put on a clinic striking out 18 batters over eight innings while allowing only one hit with no walks. He earned a game score of 98, which is incredible considering that the average score is 50. Kluber should have more than one win right now, but he has gotten no run support from his teammates. If Kluber can build off of his dominating performance and get some run support, the Indians will start to win more games. The Tribe have three other solid pitchers in Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer, and Carlos Carrasco. Salazar and Bauer are two young guns that have a wicked fastball, but both have struggled early on this season. Salazar has a ERA of 3.27, while Bauer has a 4.19 ERA. Carrasco is off to a decent start with a 4-3 record, but has an ugly 4.89 ERA. It is only the second month of the season and I believe that the pitching staff will get into a groove and start to improve.

The Indians have won two World Series titles in franchise history. The first came in 1920 in a 5-2 best of nine series win over the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Indians were led by player-manager and Hall of Famer, Tris Speaker. The Tribe won their second championship in 1948 against the Boston Braves 4-2. The Indians had arguably one of their greatest rosters of all-time that year with Hall of Famers, Bob Feller, Larry Doby, Bob Lemon, Satchel Paige, and Lou Boudreau. Even though the Indians do not have any future Hall of Famers currently on their roster, they have a lot of promise. If the Indians can give their pitchers run support and improve defensively, this team could make a playoff run.

It has been 67 years since the Indians won a World Series. It is a drought that has seen three losses in the fall classic, including a heartbreaking game 7 loss to the Florida Marlins in extra innings in 1997. I do not think that the Tribe will win the World Series this year with their current roster. I believe that within the next five years the Indians will break the Curse of Rocky Colavito and capture their first World Series Title since 1948.