Last year, the Cleveland Indians made one of the biggest free agent signings of the winter. The guaranteed $60 million for three years doled out to slugger Edwin Encarnacion was the richest contract handed out in club history.
So, as this winter’s hot stove season starts to heat up, what will the Indians do for an encore performance? Is there another splashy signing in the near future? The reality is there does not need to be and probably will not be.
For the Indians, this winter is and should be more about taking care of their own free agents than going outside the organization to bring in another big-time player.
The Cleveland Indians’ postseason dreams may have come to a crashing halt with the nightmare scenario of losing slugger Edwin Encarnacion in the first inning of Game 2 in the American League Division Series, one lost in five games to the New York Yankees.
They may have also started much sooner than that, despite the club winning the first two games of the ALDS.
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.
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.
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.
Colder weather could not cool off the Cleveland bats on Friday night as the Indians opened the final series of the regular season with a 10-1 rout of the Chicago White Sox from Progressive Field.
Trevor Bauer took the mound for the Indians in his final start of the season as he prepared for the playoffs. Chasing down a personal statistical accomplishment, he would fall just short of that goal, but he added another win to his career-best totals while ending the Tribe’s Friday losing skid at two.
Danny Salazar made his case for a role on the Indians’ postseason roster with four and two-thirds innings of strong starting pitching and the Cleveland bats provided just enough offense as the Tribe held on for a 4-2 win over the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday night
The Indians (99-59) held off the Twins offense one night after it erupted for 17 hits against the Tribe pitching staff. With a chance to secure an on-the-field celebration of a trip to the 2017 playoffs, the Twins instead had to postpone their party for several hours until the Los Angeles Angels fell 6-4 in extra innings to the Chicago White Sox, punching Minnesota’s postseason ticket.
In a game that was not highlighted by the most quality pitching seen, the Minnesota Twins rallied back from a 6-4 deficit as Brian Dozier cleared the wall in right with a three-run shot in the top of the eighth off of Bryan Shaw and Minnesota held on to defeat the Cleveland Indians, 8-6, from Progressive Field on Tuesday night.
The Twins (83-74) reduced their magic number to clinch the American League’s second wild card spot down to one game. The Los Angeles Angels pulled out a victory over the Chicago White Sox, 9-3, to keep their hopes alive in the battle for the final playoff spot in the junior circuit, forcing the Twins to postpone any celebrations of their first trip to the playoffs since 2010 for at least one more day. They have now won five games in a row and improved to 6-1 while playing in Cleveland this season. They used 17 hits on the night to keep the bases clogged, giving them ample opportunity to mount a late comeback.
Corey Kluber was on the mound for Cleveland on Sunday. That should answer any questions about whether the Tribe won its series from the Seattle Mariners or not in the club’s final road game of the regular season.
The Tribe right-hander strengthened his already strong Cy Young case with a quality start and his 18th win of the year. His offense stepped up after two fifth-inning Mariners runs briefly tied the game, helping to overcome the error that made the unearned runs possible.
Edwin Encarnacion and Francisco Lindor each homered and the Cleveland relief corps handled the rest on Thursday as the Indians completed the three-game sweep in Anaheim of the Los Angeles Angels, 4-1.
It was a “bullpen day” kind of effort on the mound for the Indians (96-57), who used six different pitchers to wrap up the season series sweep of the Angels while remaining a game in back of the neighbor Los Angeles Dodgers for the best record in all of baseball. The win increased the Indians’ club record for consecutive road wins to 14 in a row while putting the Tribe at a 27-1 mark in its last 28 games. That feat has been accomplished just three times in Major League Baseball history.
The Cleveland Indians played spoilers once again as they defeated the Los Angeles Angels, 6-5, from Angel Stadium in Anaheim on Wednesday night.
The final score was a little closer than the Indians may have wanted, but the end result was the same as it had been in 26 of the team’s last 27 games. Another victory moved the Tribe to 95-57, but even more importantly, Cleveland is now one game behind the Angels’ California neighbor, the Los Angeles Dodgers (96-56), who dropped a 7-5 final in Philadelphia to the Phillies. The Indians maintained their lead over Houston (93-58) for the best record in the junior circuit, with the Astros victorious over the Chicago White Sox Wednesday.
The Angels (76-75) missed a chance to pick up a needed game in their own playoff pursuits, as the Minnesota Twins were shelled by the New York Yankees earlier in the evening. The Twins lead the Angels by a game and a half for the second AL Wild Card spot.
While some debate whether the Indians have peaked too early, Cleveland has continued to go to the field and continue to do what it does best – win. It was another big win for the club on Tuesday night, as it opened its final road trip of the regular season with a 6-3 win over the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim.
The Indians (94-57) once again made 100 wins a possibility as the team pulled within six wins with eleven to play from becoming just the third squad in franchise history to hit the century mark in victories in a season. If they can accomplish the task, they will join the 1954 and 1995 teams as the only others to do so. The Indians would need to go 6-5 in its remaining games to reach the win plateau.
The Tribe has now won 25 of its last 26 games.