2017: This Year is Next Year
It doesn’t get much more exciting than a closeout game in the playoffs, but one thing is for certain – it does horrible work on the heart, the mind, and the stomach, especially if you’re a fan of the team that lost a 2-0 lead.
The Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees will play one final game on Wednesday night to declare a winner in their American League Division Series matchup, one that has teetered in favor of the home club throughout the first four games. To the benefit of the Indians, they have returned to their home at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario in downtown Cleveland, hoping to defend their home turf and, more importantly, their title as the reigning champions of the American League while punching their ticket to an American League Championship Series meeting with the Houston Astros. The Tribe has not lost three consecutive games since the start of the second half of the season, when it lost four straight wrapped around the All-Star break.
With last season’s Game 7 loss in the World Series to the Chicago Cubs, the Cleveland Indians took over a title desired by none across the Major League Baseball landscape – the team with the longest active championship drought in the game.
A heartbreaking defeat last November, after overcoming every obstacle thrown their way in the final months of the season, added another year of suffering to the long history of the Indians. After bringing home the hardware in each of the franchise’s first two World Series appearances in 1920 and 1948, the Tribe has dropped four opportunities since, in 1954, 1995, 1997, and 2016, and had a couple of other close calls along the way.
In between those trips was a lot of pain and a lot of what some might call despair, a term back to the forefront of the Cleveland lexicon this week after Sports Illustrated’s senior baseball writer Tom Verducci wrote the Indians’ epitaph after a 1-0 loss on Sunday, their first of this postseason.
It’s win or go home time for the Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees as a poor defensive showing from the Tribe led to six unearned runs and the Yankees rode a dominant performance from Luis Severino in a 7-3 rout to force a Game 5 in Cleveland on Wednesday.
Home field has been all the advantage throughout the playoffs thus far, but especially in the contest between the Indians and Yankees, as both teams have won their hosted games through four games of the series. It was the collapse of the usually sound Indians defense on Monday that led to a half dozen unearned runs, forcing an early exit from starting pitcher Trevor Bauer, who made the start on just three days’ rest.
The 2017 calendar was injury-plagued for Indians outfielder Brandon Guyer and his most recent setback has resulted in the need for surgery.
The Indians announced on Monday evening that the 31-year-old outfielder will undergo left wrist surgery on Wednesday, October 11, in Scottsdale, Arizona, to repair an extensor tendon in his wrist. A time table for rehabilitation will be established after the surgical procedure.
Despite what you might have read or been told Monday morning, what Cleveland Indians fans witnessed Sunday night was an incredibly well-pitched and well-fought playoff game, and not the “latest chapter in a tortured history¹” of a Cleveland franchise “intimately connected with pain²”.
For Game 3 of the American League Division Series, Major League Baseball fans were actually treated to a pitchers’ duel (a rarity in the postseason thus far) as Masahiro Tanaka and Carlos Carrasco each took shutouts deep into the night. One mistake, hit over the short porch in right by New York’s Greg Bird off of Cleveland’s All-Star left-hander Andrew Miller, provided the game’s only run as the Yankees staved off eliminated with a 1-0 playoff classic win over the Indians.
In a game dominated by stellar pitching by both ball clubs, a leadoff solo home run by New York’s Greg Bird off of former teammate Andrew Miller in the seventh inning provided the only run of the contest and the Yankees held off a late Cleveland Indians rally in a 1-0 final on Sunday night.
The victory guaranteed at least one more day in the Yankees’ season as they fended off elimination in the American League Division Series and avoided a sweep at the hands of the Tribe, who lost for just the fifth time in the last 40 games and were shut out for the first time since July 14 in Oakland, the first game of the second half of the season.
If momentum is a thing in Major League Baseball, one would have to think it is firmly on the side of the Cleveland Indians. They will look to ride that wave to an American League Division Series clinching win on Sunday night in the Bronx as the Indians face off with the host New York Yankees.
If a team is able to put up six runs against Corey Kluber, there should be no circumstance in which that team loses. In the same game that the Indians also lost star slugger Edwin Encarnacion with what look like a horrific right ankle injury, the Indians methodically chipped away at a five-run Yankees lead, cutting the gap to one on a grand slam from Francisco Lindor, an eighth inning solo shot from Jay Bruce to tie the game, highly effective relief pitching in between, and a perfectly placed walk-off single down the third base line by Yan Gomes in the 13th inning to give the Indians an improbable 9-8 come from behind victory in a game that will be talked about by many for years, if not decades, to come.
As he takes the mound Sunday night at Yankee Stadium, Cleveland Indians starter Carlos Carrasco is sure to hear plenty of boos from what can be raucous and loud crowd for visiting teams to deal with. This New York crowd is sure to be extra amped up for their home team, returning from the first two games at Progressive Field, with the Tribe holding a commanding 2-0 series lead in the best-of-five American League Division Series. Those Yankees fans will not want to see Carrasco pitch like an ace, as he has done so many times over the past few seasons.
All of that will be perfectly fine to Carrasco. He will be simply happy to be pitching in a playoff game Sunday after an excruciatingly long wait. One of the longer-tenured and certainly talented Indians players, Carrasco had to sit idly by while his teammates enjoyed the breakthrough success of winning and A.L. championship in 2016.
Last September, the Indians were humming along, well on their way to winning the American League Central Division championship and well on their way to the playoffs. Cy Young winner in 2014, Corey Kluber, and Carrasco were primed to form a formidable one-two postseason punch that would be hard for any team to topple. Then, disasaster struck for the Tribe’s No. 2 starter.
Things have not gone the way that Yan Gomes would have wanted them to over the last couple of years. Signed to a big contract extension in 2014, he has struggled with his performance at the plate, dealt with several injuries, and watched as his playing time has dwindled into a time share with fellow backstop Roberto Perez. Late season injuries deprived him of a significant role for the Indians in their incredible run through the postseason in 2016, as he appeared solely in the World Series and was 0-for-4, grounding into a double play and striking out twice.
He made sure his first start of the 2017 playoffs was one that he and Indians fans everywhere will not soon forget. His 13th inning walk-off single down the left field line capped six unanswered runs by the Indians as they completed an improbable comeback win over the New York Yankees to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five American League Division Series Friday night.
In 2007, CC Sabathia was on the mound for Cleveland in the postseason at the tail end of a Cy Young Award winning year for the Indians as he became the second Tribe pitcher to ever bring home the top pitching award of a season. Seven years later, Corey Kluber joined him on that short list when he became the fourth Indians hurler to be recognized as the American League’s top pitcher.
On Friday night, the two will square off from opposite sides in Game 2 of the American League Division Series.
Trevor Bauer brought a no-hitter into the sixth, Jay Bruce was involved in producing all four Cleveland runs, and the familiar bullpen tandem of Andrew Miller and Cody Allen closed out Game 1 in usual fashion as the Indians blanked the New York Yankees with their 20th shutout of the season in a 4-0 victory on Thursday night in Game 1 of the American League Division Series.
All questions about Bauer starting the opener of the playoffs for the Indians were silenced as his excellent numbers against the Yankees in 2017 continued in his second ALDS Game 1 start in as many seasons for the Tribe. He contained a strong Yankees lineup all game long and got a big effort from one of the newest members of the ball club.
The wait has been excruciating, but that wait is now over. After a long three days off, the Cleveland Indians will return to the playing field on Thursday night as they host the American League Wild Card play-in game winners, the New York Yankees, in Game 1 of a best-of-five series in the American League Division Series.
The Indians (102-60) earned the right to play the home team, not only in the ALDS, but in the ALCS and in the World Series against all teams not named the Los Angeles Dodgers, after an incredible run through the final 100 games of the regular season schedule. Much is focused on the modern day record winning streak of 22 games that the team put together from the end of August into the middle of September, but the team went 71-29 in those final 100 games after a 31-31 start to the season. The Indians used impressive starting pitching, an offense that became more and more consistent and lethal as the season progressed, and a bullpen that found surprise contributions and survived several absences from one of its top arms, Andrew Miller.
The Indians won five of seven against the Yankees this season.