Every offseason, every Major League Baseball team has tough decisions to make. Most teams – even the good ones – rarely start a new season with every player that they had the year before. Expiring contracts, contract options, and free agency are facts of life for all MLB clubs.
That is why this past season felt so special for the Cleveland Indians. Very few tough decisions had to be made last winter. The ones that were ended up being greeted with happy returns. Mike Napoli had to go, but the Indians upgraded with Edwin Encarnacion. Rajai Davis was not retained, even after his near-heroics in the 2016 World Series. Cleveland did not miss a beat without him. Those players represented the only difficult decisions that the Tribe’s deep thinkers needed to make last offseason.
It will not be so easy this winter.
Cleveland has more free agents and contract options to consider this time around. At the core of every decision the team makes this winter, may be the greatest debate of all – the question of Jay Bruce or Carlos Santana?
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.
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.
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.
In the final game of the regular season, the Cleveland Indians did what they have done consistently over the last five weeks, winning a 3-1 decision over the Chicago White Sox in the final warm-up before the team heads into the postseason.
The game may have felt like a formality with nothing riding on this contest with the division clinched and home field advantage locked up against all playoff contenders with the exception of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Despite little at stake, the Indians got three early runs, some promising pitching performances, and, most importantly, escaped the day with no injuries.
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.
The Indians and Carlos Carrasco took full advantage of a Minnesota Twins lineup missing plenty of its regulars on Thursday as Cleveland rolled to a 5-2 victory and its 100th win of the 2017 season.
Less than 12 hours after the Twins celebrated a remarkable run to the postseason when they claimed the final playoff spot in the American League, Minnesota returned to the field looking to deal the Indians their first series loss since July 31-August 1 in Boston. A lineup full of bench pieces and late season call-ups would not be up to the task as Carrasco shut the Twins down in his final playoff tune up.
The Indians’ rookies and minor league call-ups enjoyed some friendly superhero themed hazing prior to their flight to Seattle on Thursday. The Tribe will look for more on-the-field heroics as the team will take on the Mariners in Cleveland’s final road series of the regular season.
The Indians (96-57) will continue their pursuit of the best record in the Majors after pulling within a game of the Los Angeles Dodgers (97-56) after an incredible run beginning in the last week of August. The team is 27-1 in its last 28 games and sits just four games short of 100 wins on the season, which would mark just the third time in franchise history that the Indians have reached the century mark in victories. They added three more wins to their season total during the week, completing a season series sweep of the Los Angeles Angels to guarantee at least a .500 road trip while extending their road winning streak to a franchise record 14 straight.
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.
Is there anything that this Cleveland Indians team cannot do?
Finding themselves down in the ninth inning for the first time in a 22-game span, the Indians rallied down to their final out to tie the game against Kansas City closer Kelvin Herrera and won the game on a walk-off single the next inning down the right field line by Jay Bruce as the Tribe clinched a trip to the postseason for the second straight year in a 3-2 come-from-behind victory over the Royals on Thursday night.
With a 5-3 win over the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday afternoon, the Cleveland Indians made history, exceeding the Oakland A’s American League record for consecutive wins in a season with 21 (set in 2002) while matching the Major League record of 21 (set by the Chicago Cubs in 1935).
The Indians (90-56) have cut their magic number down to four, with the Minnesota Twins scheduled to play San Diego at 8:10 PM ET from Target Field. One hundred wins are in sight for the club, as they need to go just 10-6 in their final 16 games to reach the century mark for the first time since 1995 and just the second time in club history (111 in 1954). The Indians finished the season with a 13-6 record against the Tigers, outscoring them 110-62.
The streak remained alive on Saturday afternoon as the Cleveland Indians overcame an early deficit with runs in three straight innings and added an insurance run late on the way to a 4-2 win.
The Indians (86-56) extended their franchise record for consecutive wins to 17 straight with the victory, as Cleveland guaranteed itself its fifth straight series win. Including ties, the Indians have not dropped a series since losing two games and having a third rained out on July 31 and August 1 in Boston against the Red Sox.