Just two more wins.
Say it again. The more you say it, the more you can believe it. The Cleveland Indians are just two more wins away from winning the World Series.
Cleveland has become the center of the sports universe in 2016, first raining destruction on a 52-year championship drought when the Cleveland Cavaliers rallied from a 3-1 deficit to defeat the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals in June. Now, the Indians are looking to end a four-month title hangover and their own 68-year drought by supplying the city of Cleveland and its fans with another championship parade.
In Friday’s 1-0 Game 3 victory that gave Cleveland a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series over Chicago, the Indians used some clutch hitting and some dynamite pitching from all four men to step on the mound against the Cubs to quiet a Wrigley Field crowd hosting its first game in 71 years. But the offense had its struggles, leaving base runners all over the place through the first five innings. The team needs to play more consistent and complete games if it wants to leave the Windy City up in the series or even with the Commissioner’s trophy.
Dreams became reality on Tuesday night as the city of Cleveland hosted one ring ceremony and raised a championship banner while playing for another title next door.
A strong start from Corey Kluber set the tone in Game 1. He worked into the seventh inning, giving up four hits while striking out nine in a performance rivaled by only Bob Gibson and Allie Reynolds before him. Despite the high strikeout rate, Kluber was economical with his pitches overall, needing just 88 to get through the six-plus innings while conserving his arm some in the event that manager Terry Francona would turn to Kluber in a Game 4 situation on short rest as opposed to working him on normal rest in the Wrigley finale on Sunday.
The Indians now lead a World Series for the first time since winning Game 7 of the 1948 season, a memorable year for Tribe fans who can recall that season and hold it high as one of two years in franchise history that the team claimed the championship of the world. A win by the Indians would give them a two-game advantage or better in the World Series for just the fifth time in franchise history (Games 6 and 7, 1920; Games 4 and 6, 1948).
The moment baseball fans across the world have waited for is finally here – the 2016 World Series kicks off from downtown Cleveland on Tuesday night as the Indians play host in the Fall Classic to the Chicago Cubs in the annual best-of-seven competition.
In a series chock full of storylines, most notably the lengthy droughts both clubs have suffered through in the pursuit of a world’s championship on the diamond, two teams who have proven to be the best of their collective leagues will take the field with one goal in sight – to bring home a championship to their long suffering fans.
For the Indians, their return to the World Series is just 19 years in the making, but the club has lost each of its previous three trips to the big show after winning in 1920 and again in 1948. The journey for the fans at Wrigley Field is significantly more public knowledge as the lovable losers, owners of the top record in all of baseball this season at 103-58, have reached the promised land ten times now since becoming the Cubs in 1903, but not once since 1945 until this month. Chicago won back-to-back World Series in 1907 and 1908 before losing in 1910, 1918, 1929, 1932, 1935, 1938, and 1945.
For the first time since September 28, the Cleveland Indians lost a game when they were defeated by the Toronto Blue Jays, 5-1, in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series on Tuesday. In the span to follow, they won each of their final three games to close out the regular season (and missed a game due to rain in Detroit), then swept the Boston Red Sox in the American League Division Series before taking a commanding three-game lead in the ALCS over the Blue Jays.
Now, in order to claim the American League pennant and advance to the World Series, the Blue Jays will have to do something to the Cleveland club that has yet to happen to them in 2016 – the Indians must lose four consecutive games. With their backs against the wall, the Blue Jays got enough offense and a dominant pitching effort on Tuesday afternoon in the 5-1 victory over the Indians to extend the ALCS to a Game 5. Aaron Sanchez outlasted Corey Kluber, and the productive Indians bullpen was touched for three runs in the late innings to make a close game a little bit more lopsided at the end of the day.
The season is on the line for the Blue Jays. The Indians know that they need just one win over the next three games in four days to clinch their first pennant since 1997.
The Cleveland Indians have cornered the Boston Red Sox, who find themselves with their backs against the wall after their best two pitchers have thrown in the first two games of the American League Division Series.
If there is a bright spot for the Red Sox, the series has shifted to Fenway Park, where the club was 47-34 during the 2016 season, one game better than their efforts on the road. Cleveland struggled at times on the road, but finished the season with a 41-39 record away from home. The Red Sox were 4-2 against the Indians during the regular season, outscoring them 31-18 in the process, but they are in a deep hole in the ALDS after two losses while their high-powered offense has been outperformed, 11-4.
If it feels like every time the Cleveland Indians are in the postseason that they face the Boston Red Sox, you are only partially right.
For the fifth time in 12 playoff trips, the Indians will meet up with the Red Sox. Previous series have not been short of some entertaining ball games for both sides, and this season should prove no different.
The Indians (94-67) enter the series as underdogs against the mighty Red Sox (93-69) lineup that finished tops in the Majors with 878 runs scored while leading the game in all three triple slash numbers (.282/.348/.461) as a team. While the Boston lineup got plenty of hype and credit for what they did, the underrated Cleveland lineup scored the second most runs in the league while putting up a .262/.329/.430 slash. The Tribe pitching staff was slightly better than the Sox, finishing second in the league in ERA as a team, for starters, and for relievers, while their ALDS opponent was third in starting ERA, fourth in team, and fifth in relief.
For the first time in nine years, the Cleveland Indians will be playing in the American League Division Series after winning the AL Central. The last time such a feat occurred, the Tribe beat the New York Yankees three games to one before falling to the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS. After that, the Tribe has only once reached the postseason, losing the Wild Card Game in 2013 to the Tampa Bay Rays.
Those are postseason facts you probably already knew. They are ones that would be included in a normal playoff series preview. Other facts that would be probably be included in a regular preview are: the Tribe went 2-4 against the Red Sox this season, all-time the Indians hold an 11-8 advantage over Boston in the postseason, David Ortiz had a spectacular year, and the Indians are missing two of their three best starters.
However, this is not a regular series preview. It will not mention those things. If you would like to read a regular preview, our own Bob Toth will have one out on Thursday before Game 1. What follows is a unique look at the ALDS, featuring stats, splits, and trends you might not have thought about concerning the Tribe’s matchup versus the Red Sox.
A three-run eighth inning, capped by a two-run double from Francisco Lindor, pushed the Cleveland Indians past the Kansas City Royals, 6-3, on Saturday afternoon.
Every game matters for the Indians, who are looking to claim home field advantage in their upcoming ALDS series with the Boston Red Sox, and the Cleveland club has refused to slow down or give up despite a slew of injuries that has knocked out three-fifths of its starting rotation.
Trevor Bauer was on the mound for the Tribe, making his final start of the regular season. He pitched a good ball game, save it for a two-run sixth inning that allowed the Royals back into the game.
Detroit hit a pair of tie-breaking home runs before rains delayed and ultimately ended the game after just five innings of play as the Tigers defeated the Cleveland Indians by a 6-3 score on Wednesday night.
While the loss put a damper on the Indians’ pursuits of the top spot in the American League for home field advantage throughout the playoffs, the loss did spare another four innings of work in what again amounted to a bullpen game for the Tribe. Zach McAllister made the start, working two good innings before a pair of relievers ran into trouble with extra base hits.
Cleveland grabbed an early 1-0 lead against Detroit’s Michael Fulmer, one of the leading AL Rookie of the Year candidates. Jason Kipnis drew a one-out walk and advanced on a throwing error from Fulmer before Carlos Santana doubled him home to put the Indians on the board.
Cleveland wasted several early opportunities and the use of the bullpen for nine innings proved to be detrimental as the Chicago White Sox spoiled Fan Appreciation Night by dealing the Indians an 8-1 loss on Saturday.
After seeing the Detroit Tigers lose in a dramatic five-run ninth inning comeback by the Kansas City Royals earlier in the afternoon, the Indians could not reduce their magic number to one later in the day, failing in a feast-or-famine kind of a game from the pitching staff and the offense.
Chicago took a 2-0 lead against the first reliever of the night, Cody Anderson, before Cleveland had a chance to come to the plate. Tim Anderson singled to start the game, moved to second on a wild pitch, and scored on a double to right by Melky Cabrera. Jose Abreu made it two runs with a single to right before he was thrown out trying to advance.
After taking the series opener against Chicago on Friday night against right-hander Miguel Gonzalez, the Cleveland Indians will face a pair of White Sox left-handers, Jose Quintana and Carlos Rodon, in the final two games of their series and homestand before hitting the road to wrap up the 2016 regular season schedule.
Once upon a time, the sight of a left-handed pitcher on the mound for the opposition would have felt like a death sentence, a near guaranteed loss, for the Indians. As recent history would have it, those feelings were justified as the Indians had not played very good baseball against lefty starting pitching. Those woes have led to an increasingly louder and louder cry for the elusive “right-handed power bat” in recent years, something the Indians found in the affordable offseason signing of the right-handed hitting Mike Napoli.
Quietly, those losing ways against lefties have very much become a concern of the past as the Indians have been one of the best teams in baseball against southpaw pitchers in 2016.
After nine innings of scoreless baseball, Minnesota’s Joe Mauer delivered a two-out walk-off single off of Joe Colon in the bottom of the 12th to give the Twins a 2-1 win over the Cleveland Indians on Saturday night.
In what turned out to be a well-pitched performance on both sides, early single runs from each club provided all of the scoring until the third inning of bonus baseball, when the Twins evened up the season series with the Indians at nine wins apiece.
Colon became the tenth Indians pitcher of the night in a bullpen game for Cleveland and retired James Beresford and Byron Buxton on just four pitches before the dangerous Brian Dozier stepped into the box and singled to center. Colon balked Dozier to second after a 1-2 pitch that Mauer fouled off and the lapse proved fatal for the Tribe as Mauer would work the count full before dropping a single into right to score Dozier from second with the winning run.