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Indians claim pitchers Edwin Escobar, Tim Cooney; Chris Gimenez outrighted

By Ryan Lewis Published: November 18, 2016

The Indians on Friday claimed left-handed pitchers Edwin Escobar and Tim Cooney off of waivers and outrighted catcher Chris Gimenez from the 40-man roster.

Catcher Francisco Mejia, one of the Indians’ top prospects, was also added to the 40-man roster.

Escobar, 24, went 6-3 with a 4.55 ERA in 16 starts for Reno, the Triple-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks, in 2016. He tossed 23 2/3 innings for the Diamondbacks primarily out of the bullpen, posting a 7.23 ERA.

Cooney, 25, missed the 2016 season after needing right shoulder surgery. In 2015, Cooney made his major-league debut with the St. Louis Cardinals, owning a 3.16 ERA in 31 1/3 innings pitched across six starts.

Gimenez was a likely roster casualty with Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez both healthy heading into 2017. Gimenez hit .216 with the Indians and most notably helped Trevor Bauer to simplify his pitch selection, which eventually led to his best stretch of the season.

Escobar and Cooney give the Indians some additional pitching depth on the 40-man roster, which with Mejia’s addition is again at 40.

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Indians’ Corey Kluber finishes third in Cy Young voting; Rick Porcello edges Justin Verlander

By Ryan Lewis Published: November 16, 2016
KluberAP

Indians ace Corey Kluber fell short of winning his second American League Cy Young Award in three seasons, as he took third place behind Boston’s Rick Porcello and Detroit’s Justin Verlander.

The voting results were announced Wednesday night on MLB Network and BBWAA.com. Porcello received eight first-place votes and 137 points overall. Verlander garnered 14 first-place votes and 132 points, making it the second-closest race since 1970. It was also the first time in the AL that the pitcher who received the most first-place votes didn’t win.

Kluber took third, receiving three first-place votes and 98 points. He and Porcello were the lone pitchers to be named on every ballot. Andrew Miller also received one third-place vote.

Kluber this season went 18-9 with a 3.14 ERA and 227 strikeouts in 215 innings pitched. He also led the AL with a 3.26 FIP, per FanGraphs.

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Indians’ Terry Francona named 2016 American League Manager of the Year

By Ryan Lewis Published: November 15, 2016
TitoAP



The Indians have already picked up manager Terry Francona’s options for the 2019 and 2020 seasons, ensuring he remains in Cleveland for the foreseeable future. On Tuesday night, he received some additional recognition for his work guiding the Indians in 2016.

Francona was named the 2016 American League Manager of the Year, as voted upon by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. It’s the second time in four years Francona has won the award, making him the eighth AL manager to win multiple times. He received 22 of the 30 first-place votes and was the lone manager to appear in the top-3 of every ballot.

Texas Rangers manager Jeff Banister and Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter finished second and third, respectively. Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell also received first-place votes.

“The really good thing about winning this is it gives me an opportunity to brag about our players, our coaches and the organization,” Francona said Tuesday night. “My reward is watching our guys play the game and building the relationships with them and those types of things. I want our players to win the awards. So when something like this happens, I think the reason it happens is because coaches, players, front office, they do their job so well and I end up winning an award.”

In his four years in Cleveland, Francona has led the Indians to a 352-294 record, the best AL record in the span, as well as two trips to the postseason, one AL Central title and one AL pennant.

Francona also now has 12 consecutive winning seasons between Boston and Cleveland, the longest active streak in the major leagues, including two World Series titles in three trips. It’s the longest such streak since Joe Torre had 14 straight winning seasons between the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers.

The BBWAA Awards only take into consideration the regular season. Though, Francona received near universal praise for his management of the Indians’ pitching staff in the postseason. But the Indians are still in the wake of their Game 7 loss in the World Series to the Chicago Cubs.

Francona is also recovering from hip surgery that he underwent just a few days after Game 7. He felt a bit different following the World Series than he did after the Indians’ loss in the 2013 Wild Card Game.

“That’s the interesting thing about emotions,” Francona said. “That’s why you don’t plan them out ahead of time because you don’t ever quite know how you’re going to feel. I remember after the Wild Card Game in [2013], I was devastated. And after this one, one, I knew I was getting my hip done. They put you under anesthetic, that’ll help you forget about stuff in a hurry. But I didn’t feel as bad—losing hurts. But I thought our guys really gave everything they had, and I meant that when I said it. And so, that helped me a lot.”

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Indians OF Tyler Naquin finishes third in American League Rookie of the Year voting

By Ryan Lewis Published: November 14, 2016

Indians outfielder Tyler Naquin finished third in American League Rookie of the Year voting, as announced Monday night on MLB Network and BBWAA.com.

Naquin hit .296 with a .372 on-base percentage, 14 home runs, 18 doubles, five triples and 43 RBI after earning a spot on the Indians’ Opening Day roster following Abraham Almontet’s suspension for performance-enhancing drugs.

Naquin parlayed that opportunity into a strong rookie season, highlighted by his inside-the-park walk-off home run against Toronto on Aug. 19.

Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Michael Fulmer took home the award, earning 26 of the 30 first-place votes. Fulmer went 11-7 with a 3.06 ERA and 132 strikeouts in 159 innings pitched.

New York Yankees catcher and designated hitter Gary Sanchez finished second after slugging 20 home runs with a 1.032 OPS in only 53 games.

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Catching up with the Indians: Options picked up, Anderson’s surgery, awards week, rivals selling

By Ryan Lewis Published: November 14, 2016
CarlosSantanaAP

In the nearly two-week period since the Indians walked off Progressive Field after Game 7 of the World Series, there’s been plenty of news around baseball as the league continues its march into the offseason and toward the Winter Meetings in December. There was also this thing called a presidential election, but the baseball news will the take precedence here.

Here’s a quick recap of what happened just after the World Series ended and some recent news, including rumors within the division.

Options open

The Indians picked up Carlos Santana’s 2017 club option valued at $12 million, keeping him in Cleveland for at least one more season. They also exercised manager Terry Francona’s club options for the 2019 and 2020 seasons.

As for their free agents, the Indians chose not to extend a qualifying offer to Mike Napoli. He, Rajai Davis and Coco Crisp—who had his $13 million club option declined, though that was a formality—are open to signing with any team. Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti has said that the club expressed interest in keeping Napoli and Davis in Cleveland.

On the mend

Pitcher Cody Anderson underwent an arthroscopic debridement of his right elbow last week after being diagnosed with an impingement in the back of the elbow joint. Dr. Keith Meister, out of Dallas, performed the surgery.

Anderson will being a throwing program in approximately eight weeks and is expected to be ready for the start of the 2017 regular season. Anderson was moved to the bullpen for the latter part of the year after struggling at the beginning of the season, though the club has maintained that he is viewed as a starting pitcher in the long-term view.

Glove it

Francisco Lindor last week won his first Rawlings Gold Glove in his first first year of eligibly as the best defensive shortstop in the American League. He also took him the Platinum Glove, given to the best defensive player in each league regardless of position.

Mathlete

It’s well-known that Trevor Bauer has an analytical, numbers-based approach to many things, baseball being one of them.

Of course, direct math is also something he’s well-versed in as well. A younger fan, who was asking some questions about his drone, eventually asked if he could help out with her math homework. And, he did.

 

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Francisco Lindor wins first career Gold Glove

By Ryan Lewis Published: November 8, 2016

Francisco Lindor’s calling card as he ascended up the minor leagues was his terrific defense. Now, he has he some major-league hardware to show for it.

Lindor on Tuesday night was named the Gold Glove recipient among American League shortstops, beating out the Los Angeles Angels’ Andrelton Simmons and the Detroit Tigers’ Jose Iglesias, who were also finalists.

It’s Lindor’s first career Gold Glove in his first year of eligibility, as he fell just a few games shy of qualifying for the award in 2015. With it, he became the first Indians shortstop to win a Gold Glove since Omar Vizquel in 2001. He also became the youngest shortstop to win the award since Detroit’s Alan Trammell in 1980.

“It’s an honor, it’s a blessing, and I thank the people from Rawlings, and the coaching staff and teammates throughout the year that helped me,” Lindor said live on ESPN, the network that announced the winners. “It’s an honor, it’s a blessing just to be here, be nominated, and then now [to] win, it’s huge. Words can’t describe how great I [feel] right now. I can’t wait to show it off to my pops.”

Lindor finished the year with a .982 fielding percentage and committed 12 errors. Per FanGraphs, Lindor led AL shortstops in defensive rating (27.8) and Ultimate Zone Rating (20.8). Per ESPN’s statistics, he was best shortstop in baseball in turning balls hit up the middle into outs, with 13 above-average plays made. He was also second to Simmons in Defensive Runs Saved with 17.

It was a coming-out party of sorts for Lindor in 2016, as he earned his first All-Star selection, played well on the World Series stage and now has his first Gold Glove after leading full-time AL shortstops with 6.3 WAR. And, the best news for the Indians: it was his first full season in the big leagues, and he won’t turn 23 until Monday.

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Indians’ Corey Kluber, Tyler Naquin, Terry Francona named award finalists

By Ryan Lewis Published: November 7, 2016

Indians starting pitcher Corey Kluber, outfielder Tyler Naquin and manager Terry Francona were all named award finalists by the BBWAA Monday night.

Kluber, who won the 2014 American League Cy Young Award, is a finalist to win his second, along with Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander and Boston Red Sox pitcher Rick Porcello. Kluber this season went 18-9 with a 3.14 ERA and 227 strikeouts in 215 innings pitched but missed his final start of the season with a mild quad strain.

Naquin earned a spot on the Indians’ Opening Day roster and went on to hit .296 with 14 home runs and 43 RBI en route to being named a finalist for the AL Rookie of the Year. Tigers pitcher Micheal Fulmer and New York Yankees slugger Gary Sanchez are also finalists.

Francona is expected to win AL Manager of the Year after guiding the Indians to a 94-67 record essentially without Michael Brantley and, in September, mostly without Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar. He’s joined by Texas manager Jeff Banister and Baltimore manager Buck Showalter.

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Indians opt to not extend qualifying offer to Mike Napoli, other free agents

By Ryan Lewis Published: November 7, 2016

The Indians on Monday opted not to extend a qualifying offer to Mike Napoli or any of their three free agents ahead of the 5 p.m. deadline to do so.

Napoli was the only genuine candidate to receive a qualifying offer by the Indians. Outfielders Rajai Davis and Coco Crisp also did not receive an offer.

Teams can extend their impending free agents a qualifying offer that represents a one-year contract and is valued by the average of the top 125 salaries in baseball from the previous season. This offseason, that number is $17.2 million. If players accept the qualifying offer, then they will make that amount for one season and are retained by their former team. If they decline the offer and sign elsewhere, their new team forfeits their first round pick—with the top 10 picks being protected in the first round—and their former team receives draft pick compensation.

Napoli had a terrific regular season for the Indians after signing a one-year, $7 million deal that turned out to be a bargain. He hit a career-high 34 home runs and led the club with 101 RBI while also garnering wide praise for his presence in the Indians’ clubhouse. Though, he disappeared in the postseason, hitting just .173 with one home run and three RBI through the Indians’ run to the World Series.

His defense during the season also wasn’t up to par with his previous performance at first base. He had -4 defensive runs saved, per FanGraphs, the first time since 2011 he had a negative value. His Ultimate Zone Rating also dove to -4.4 from 4.4 in 2015.

The Indians could have extended Napoli a qualifying offer and received compensation had another team signed him, but the possibility of him making $17.2 million for one year at age 35 might have been too big of a gamble. The qualifying-offer system each year has seemingly dragged down the value of a player or two who has trouble finding a new club while teams wish to keep their draft picks, bringing additional variables into the equation.

The Indians can still sign any of their free agents to new deals. They have already expressed interest in keeping Napoli and Davis in Cleveland and have had discussions with them.

“It’s important to recognize, and I’ve said it before, that we have a desire to have both guys back,” said Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti. “And I think they share that desire to return.”

Davis was on a one-year deal with a base salary of $5.25 million. At 35-years-old—he turned 36 during the World Series—he led the American League in the regular season with 43 stolen bases.

Crisp didn’t reach the applicable number of plate appearances or games played in 2016 and had his $13 million vesting option turned into a club option for the 2017 season, which was declined by the Indians.

All three players can now sign with any team free of any draft pick compensation considerations.

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Takeaways from meeting with Indians’ Chris Antonetti, Mike Chernoff

By Ryan Lewis Published: November 4, 2016

Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti and general manger Mike Chernoff held their end-of-the-season meeting with reporters on Friday.

In the wake of the excitement and disappointment of the Indians’ Game 7 loss to the Chicago Cubs in the World Series, the Indians now are set to head into the offseason.

Here are some takeaways from the meeting.

— Like everyone else, Antonetti and Chernoff went nuts when Rajai Davis hit his eighth-inning home run to tie it in Game 7.

“I almost fell out of the booth that we were in,” said Chernoff.

— On the pain of the loss, Antonetti said, “I mean, we are all hyper-competitive people. We all wanted to be hoisted that World Series trophy, so it hurt when we lost. It hurt on a personal level for us individually, it hurt when you look around the organization and Paul and Larry who care so much and are native Clevelanders and have been in Cleveland for their entire lives and care so much about winning. Tito and the players, the entirely of the organization, you can't help but feel that pain. But with the benefit of a couple days, you can begin to think about a great sense of pride and accomplishment in what our team was able to overcome. And all of the hard work from an inordinate number of people, from our scouts to our development staff to our front office to our trainers, our clubhouse guys. Every single person in the organization contributed to our success. We went to Game 7 of the World Series, that in and of itself is an accomplishment. No the ultimate one we're striving for, but still a great organizational accomplishment.”

— The Indians have expressed interest in bringing back both Mike Napoli and Rajai Davis, and have had discussions with both.

Antonetti: “Obviously, the offseason is just getting started for us, but we have a lot of decisions to make and I think both for Raj and Mike we expressed our desire to potentially to have them back and we recognize they both have alternatives, based on the years that they had but we're certainly open to exploring different ways where both of them could be back here.”

— The Indians are still working through decisions regarding the $17.2 million qualifying offer as it pertains to Napoli. They have until Monday to make those decisions. If the Indians extend Napoli a qualifying offer and he accepts, then he’ll be paid that amount on a one-year deal. If he declines and another team signs him, the Indians will receive draft pick compensation.

— The Indians on Friday exercised the club options in manager Terry Francona’s contract for the 2019 and 2020 seasons. Antonetti said Francona did a “masterful job” this season.

“I mean really throughout the regular season, the postseason, the way in which Tito is constantly thinking about how to place individual players in a place to be successful to most impact the team is extraordinary,” Antonetti said. “He's does that first and foremost by building really deep relationships with guys where they know he cares, he has their best interest in mind and is always going to find a way for them to be in their best versions of themselves. He talks about that all the time, he wants to be able to have a reason to brag about guys and he's constantly thinking about ways to do that. But I think just to focus on the job he's done in the postseason, I think is selling Tito short. He's done that from the day he got here. And as high as our expectations were for Tito when we hired him, he's gone beyond that, having a chance to work with him and work alongside him every day, it's really fortunate to have him."

— The Indians also promoted Carter Hawkins and Matt Forman to assistant general manager. Hawkins will continue to oversee player development. Forman will continue to oversee much of the club’s scouting and acquisition processes. Both will now also have a larger voice in other areas. Derek Falvey left to be the Minnesota Twins’ chief baseball officer.

— Michael Brantley is on schedule for his rehab. The expectation is that he’ll resume baseball activities at some point in December and be “fully ready” for spring training. The Indians are also planning on him being an everyday player while also trying to plan for contingencies. Brantley is still interested in being an outfielder instead of moving to first base.

— The Indians see Tyler Naquin as being able to play all three outfield spots. Roster composition could be the determining factor in where he sees the most time.

— The plan for Carlos Carrasco is that he should be able to start throwing in December and have a relatively normal offseason.

— Carrasco and Salazar could be two players asked to play in next spring’s World Baseball Classic, among others. The Indians haven’t gotten that far to have discussions or receive requests for them to participate.

Said Antonetti: I think generally we’re really supportive of the WBC and think it’s a great opportunity for players to represent their countries and we’re cognizant of the impact it’s had for Major League Baseball and growing the game, but on a player-specific level, we haven’t gotten to that point.”

— The Indians could have an interesting spring with Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez both healthy. With those two healthy, it’s viewed as one of the Indians’ strengths.

Antonetti: “I think we feel similarly this year as we did last year, which is, that’s a position of strength for us where we have two really good, high-quality, capable major league catchers. And Yan had some adversity this year, with a couple of injuries he really couldn’t control, but we still feel very confident with him and his ability to lead the pitching staff behind the plate. And then Roberto had some challenges of his own with his injury, us having to cut short that rehab, but he returned and came back and led a pitching staff all the way through game 7 of the World Series, which says a lot about him as a catcher and his leadership. So it’s a a position of strength for us moving forward.”

— Jose Ramirez isn’t necessarily locked into playing third base everyday. The club values his versatility and while the current construction would have him at third base, his ability to play multiple positions allows the Indians to look for different ways to improve the roster. As with anything, they’re leaving the door open to explore those options should they arise.

— After the Game 7 loss, Antonetti and Chernoff were walking around the clubhouse, talking and shaking hands with players. Here was their message, per Antonetti: “We all talked individually, but that was what I shared with them. 'Hold your heads high, we have a lot to be proud of.' Each guy had their own story and how they contributed. Corey Kluber and what we asked him to do and the workload that he bore, not only during the regular season, but during the postseason, that's extraordinary. Because the last game didn't end the way we all hoped, that doesn't take away from what he did. Those were the types of messages that I think I conveyed.”

Chernoff added, “We stand for a lot, we try to stand for a lot as an organization. We try not to back down from a challenge. We try to be resilient and persevere through adversity and we try to do it collectively. We saw a team that embodied that throughout the year, certainly through the postseason and especially in Game 7 of the World Series. So I think in a lot of ways it was something that hopefully our team, our organization and the fans can take pride in. As challenging and as tough as it is to lose that last game, I do think there's a lot to be proud of and that was the message we tried to give each of the players.”

— On if the revenue from a postseason run can help with future payroll and offseason plans, Antonetti said, “I think it helps. The Dolans have been very consistent in how they're operated the team and that any revenues that we're able to generate get invested back into the team. Advancing in the postseason certainly will help that. … I’m not sure how much impact the new minority owner will have. As Paul has said, that's not going to fundamentally change how we operate. But to the extend our revenues increase, whether it's through postseason ticket sales or increased ticket sales for next year, that will have a positive impact on it.”

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Indians reportedly pick up Carlos Santana’s $12 million club option for 2017 season

By Ryan Lewis Published: November 3, 2016

The Indians are reportedly picking up Carlos Santana’s $12 million club option for the 2017 season.

Santana, 30, was at the end of a five-year, $21 million extension that included the club option for the upcoming season. He made $8.25 million, per Baseball Prospectus, in 2016.

This turned out to be an easy decision for the Indians. Santana this past season hit .259 with a .366 on-base percentage, 34 home runs, 31 doubles, 87 RBI and 89 runs scored. Per FanGraphs, he gave the Indians 3.7 WAR, the best season of his career, just beating the 3.6 he had in 2013.

His 2016 production, along with him not turning 31 until April, made his price tag of $12 million for a one-year commitment a solid value compared to the open market. Currently, he’d be the highest-paid Indians player in 2017.

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2016 World Series: Indians fall short to Cubs in Game 7, but Cleveland sports fans remain optimistic

By Michael Beaven Published: November 3, 2016

CLEVELAND: Baseball fans wearing Indians and Cubs jerseys and hats wondered around Progressive Field and the streets of Cleveland after midnight early Thursday amazed at what they just witnessed.

The Cubs snapped their 108-year World Series title drought by clinching the 2016 crown with an 8-7 win in 10 innings over the Indians.

Game 7 lasted nearly four and a half hours, and featured a rain delay and dramatic home runs hit by Dexter Fowler, David Ross and Javier Baez of the Cubs and Rajai Davis of the Indians.

“The most amazing part of this run is that we didn’t have our No. 2 and No. 3 starter throughout the entire playoffs,” Indians fan Peter Pudner said in reference to injuries that kept Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar out of the rotation.

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Cubs 8, Indians 7: Ryan Lewis’ 32 Walk-Off Thoughts on a wild Game 7 and an improbable October

By Ryan Lewis Published: November 3, 2016
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Here are 32 Walk-Off Thoughts after the Indians fell to the Chicago Cubs 8-7 in Game 7 of the World Series Wednesday night.

1. The Indians came so close. So very painfully close. When, really, they weren’t supposed to be anywhere near the the World Series. The Indians were supposed to be a good team that lost too much from its active roster and succumbed to the Boston Red Sox’s league-best offense, or the Toronto Blue Jays, and surely to the Cubs well before Game 7.


2. But there was Rajai Davis lining a two-run home run to left field, completing a three-run comeback in the eighth. There were the Indians, in the bottom of the ninth of Game 7 in the World Series, up to bat in a tied ballgame.

3. That’s the lasting impression of the Indians’ 2016 postseason. That Terry Francona, a couple of healthy starters and the bullpen took a team without its No. 2 and No. 3 starters—both Cy Young contenders—and its No. 3 hitter to within one more run, play, pitch of winning it all. They pushed until the meter was full, then pushed some more.

4. The Indians played the last month with their backs against the wall, proving Vegas wrong along the way. They fought, clawed, scrapped their way to extra innings in Game 7 while throwing their starters in Games 4, 5, 6 and 7 on short rest. They were able to get through October. But they couldn’t add November, too.

5. Cody Allen was upset with the loss but looked at it from both sides. He sounded as if he’d start the regular season today if Major League Baseball would let him. He wants another crack at it. It’ll be along wait until February.

6. Said Allen, “We're going to have Brantley back. We're going to have Danny back, Carlos back. The season's been over for 40 minutes and we're chomping at the bit to show up in Arizona. I can honestly say, I am ready to get to Arizona, because I want to get this thing started again.”

7. It was a quiet Indians’ clubhouse after the loss. Allen was dejected, of course. He was also proud of how the Indians fought back.

8. Said Allen, “It stinks. It absolutely stinks right now, but I couldn't be more proud of every guy in this room. We were so close to winning that whole thing, but we just ran into a buzzsaw. You look at the arms they were running out there, their lineup top to bottom, that is a really, really good team. That's probably going to go down as one of the better teams in baseball history. They won 103 games in a really tough division. We were on the losing end of it, but that's going to probably be looked at as one of the greatest World Series of all-time. It absolutely stinks right now, but we didn't go out there and beat ourselves. We just got beat by a really good team.”

9. Kipnis echoed that sentiment, saying, “ "There is nothing for us to hang our heads about. We fought our asses off the whole time. We overcame every single thing they could throw at us. We had injuries. We had you name it, and  not once did we use it as an excuse. All we did was put our noses to the ground and kept fighting. We took a very good ballclub to extra innings of Game 7 of the World Series so I don't think I’ll be hanging my head for too long. I'm very proud of what we've done.”

10. The Indians are in a fairly unique position of being able to have a successful postseason without winning it all. They were effectively playing with house money and, surely, less than full deck. Kluber, Tomlin, Bauer, Miller, Shaw and Allen held the weight of an entire pitching staff on their shoulders as long as they could against three of baseball’s better lineups.

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Proud Indians hope to follow Royals' model, win World Series next year

By Marla Ridenour Published: November 3, 2016
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CLEVELAND: There were no heads hanging in the Indians' clubhouse.

No players sitting facing their lockers, trying to comprehend what happened.

They'd lost 8-7 in 10 innings to the Chicago Cubs Wednesday night in Game 7 of the World Series, blowing a 3-1 Series lead.

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Indians fall to Chicago Cubs 8-7 in extra innings in wild, historic game 7

By Ryan Lewis Published: November 2, 2016

The Indians’ wild, improbable ride through October has ended, and their bid to give Cleveland its second championship parade this year came up just short.

The Indians nearly pulled off one of the great comebacks in World Series history Wednesday night, erasing a three-run deficit in the eighth. But, in extra innings, the Cubs finally got the best of them, and the Indians couldn’t respond a second time in an 8-7 loss in Game 7 of the World Series.

Four and a half months after the pure elation of the Cavaliers’ title, Cleveland fans felt a kind of pain on the reverse end of the spectrum, a dream season falling just short, and the second time in 19 years a World Series Game 7 ended in heartbreak.

True to form, the Indians were down most of the night but fought back. They trailed the Cubs 6-3 with only four outs to go and with Aroldis Chapman on the mound, time quickly running out and Cubs fans counting down the minutes until their celebration could begin.

Then, absolute bedlam.  

With Jose Ramirez on first, Brandon Guyer ripped a double to center field to cut the Cubs’ lead to 6-4. That was nothing for what was to come.

Rajai Davis, who received the start over Tyler Naquin, then drilled a two-run home run to the Home Run Porch in left field to tie it 6-6, pulling off an improbable comeback in the eighth inning of Game 7. Progressive Field rocked. The Indians, trailing nearly the entire night, once again had defied the odds.

A throwing error by Yan Gomes in the top of the ninth put the go-ahead run on third with one out. Bryan Shaw struck out Javier Baez on a failed bunt attempt, and Francisco Lindor made a terrific play up the middle to keep it tied and send it to the bottom of the ninth.

But, the Indians couldn’t put anything together against Chapman. After a short rain delay, the Cubs put the finishing touches on their dream season in the top of the 10th inning.

With two runners on and one out, Ben Zobrist sent a double down the left-field line off Shaw to put the Cubs up 7-6. Miguel Montero then added an RBI-single, the decisive blow in a heavyweight fight for the title.

But, the Indians kept fighting in the 10th. Guyer reached first with a two-out walk, took second base and then scored on Davis’ RBI-single to center field. The Cubs then turned to Mike Montgomery to face Michael Martinez, who grounded out to end it.

With that, the Cubs mobbed each other behind the mound, and a 108-year drought was ended while the Indians were denied their perfect ending.

The Cubs took the lead on the fourth pitch of the game, instantly sending a ripple through the Progressive Field crowd, which featured plenty of Chicago fans. Corey Kluber left a 2-1 offering over the middle of the plate, and Dexter Fowler hammered it for a solo home run to dead center field.

It was the first leadoff home run in Game 7 of the World Series in baseball history and the first leadoff home run Kluber had allowed all season.

The Indians came back to tie it in the third. Coco Crisp opened the inning with a double to left field and scored on Carlos Santana’s RBI-single just over the glove of Anthony Rizzo and into right field.

But for the first time in the postseason, a lineup was able to knock around Kluber, in part thanks to further poor defensive play by the Indians’ outfield in the series.

Kris Bryant opened the fourth with a single and Anthony Rizzo was hit by a pitch. With runners on the corners and one out, Addison Russell sent a fly ball to shallow center field. Davis’ throw home forced Perez to leap in the air just enough to allow Bryant to slide under the tag and put the Cubs up 2-1.

Willson Conteras then drove a double off the wall in center field to add another run in the inning. Davis might have had a play on it but took a step in before charging back to the wall.

Kluber’s first pitch in the fifth inning was crushed by Javier Baez for a solo home run, giving the Cubs a 4-1 lead as Hendricks continued to pitch well and Jon Lester, the Game 5 starting pitcher, warmed in the Cubs’ bullpen.

The Cubs continued to add on against Andrew Miller. With Rizzo at the plate, he and Bryant expected a hit-and-run to perfection. Bryant took off and Rizzo lined a ball into right field for an RBI-double.

It put the Cubs up 5-1 against the two pitchers the Indians rode through the postseason, in part stunning the home crowd.

The Indians punched back in the bottom of the fifth with some help by the Cubs. Carlos Santana walked and Jason Kipnis singled, with both advancing on an error by Davis Ross. With both in scoring position, a wild pitch by Lester bounced away from Ross, hitting off his mask and easily allowing Santana to score. As the ball trickled away, Kipnis charged around third as well, diving head-first just ahead of the throw to cut the Cubs’ lead in half and make it 5-3 with a play reminiscent of Kenny Lofton’s famous dash from second in the 1995 ALCS against Seattle.

Ross answered in the top of the sixth by taking Miller deep to center field, blasting a solo home run to again extend the Cubs’ lead out to 6-3. Kluber and Miller combined to allow six runs on 10 hits and struck out only one batter in 6 1/3 innings pitched, a sharp reversal from their postseason performances prior to Wednesday night.

But, the 2016 Indians as a club stayed true to their nature, punching back until time finally ran out.

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Notebook: Rajai Davis starts in center field over Tyler Naquin in Game 7

By Ryan Lewis Published: November 2, 2016

After the miscues in the outfield in Game 6, Rajai Davis received the start in center field over Tyler Naquin in Game 7.

Naquin, a rookie, played a role in a two-run misplay in the Indians’ Game 6 loss.

“I think Nake’s pressing a little bit,” Indians manager Terry Francona said prior to Wednesday’s Game 7. “And during the regular season, it’s one thing where you kind of maybe let him get through it. I just don't know that, with one game left, and Kluber’s pitching, just trying to put a premium on making sure we catch the ball and also, we need to score.”

The Indians also were preparing to see left-handed closer Aroldis Chapman and potentially left-handed starting pitcher Jon Lester out of the bullpen in the all-hands-on-deck situation of a decisive Game 7. Davis would be the likely candidate to receive those at-bats.

“Raj, he’s going to be in there anyway,” Francona said. “I just thought you can tell [Naquin] is pressing a little bit. Nobody has a crystal ball. It’s not punishment, it’s just trying to win.”

Ratings boost

Per SportsBusiness Daily, Tuesday night’s Game 6 of the World Series on Fox drew 23.4 million viewers. It was the highest-rated Game 6 since, coincidentally, the 1997 World Series between the Indians and Florida Marlins, which drew 23.7 million viewers.

Not-so-sweet dreams

Francona doesn’t always sleep well before games, particularly in the postseason. His late-night adventures this World Series continued prior to Game 7.

A few nights ago in Chicago, Francona ordered $44 worth of room-service ice cream at 3:30 in the morning. In an impressive feat, he finished the order but has since had to stay away from it.

On Tuesday night, Francona had a nightmare and woke up in pain. But, it wasn’t as bad as it originally seemed as he was yanked out of his sleep.

“Unfortunately, this is true. I had a nightmare—I mean a nightmare—that somebody broke my ribs,” Francona said. “That was the nightmare. And I woke up, and my ribs hurt. And I rolled over. I had fallen asleep on the remote control. But I mean it was sticking [in there]. I got up and I was like, what the F***? It was like a big mark. And for about an hour, I was like, I wonder if I broke my rib.”

But, that wasn’t all.

“And I had like, peanut butter, was on my glasses. It was a bad night, man,” Francona said, laughing.  

Francona often becomes so busy with his managerial duties during the day that he doesn’t have a chance to eat until later at night. At 5 p.m. on Wednesday, he still hadn’t eaten.
“I just either forgot or whatever, I got too busy,” Francona said. “So normally when a game starts, I’ll think, ‘OK, you know what, I’ll have a salad tonight.’ By the seventh inning, I’m like, ‘Man, I want everything greasy I can find.’ Then it just escalates from there.”

First pitch

Indians 2016 Hall-of-Fame inductee Jim Thome threw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to Game 7. He joined other Indians greats to throw out the ceremonial first pitches at Progressive Field in the World Series, including Kenny Lofton (Game 1), Carlos Baerga (Game 2) and Dennis Martinez (Game 6).

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Chicago closer Aroldis Chapman protects five-run lead in Game 6, which Cubs win 9-3

By Michael Beaven Published: November 2, 2016

CLEVELAND: More than a few spectators and baseball analysts were surprised to see Cubs left-handed relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman stride towards the mound Tuesday night at Progressive Field to protect a five-run lead.

Cubs right-handed starter Jake Arrieta pitched effectively over 5 2/3 innings, limiting the Indians to three hits and two runs. Manager Joe Maddon called on Mike Montgomery to get the next three outs, and then turned the ball over to Chapman with the Cubs up 7-2 with two outs and runners on first and second in the bottom of the seventh inning.

After the Cubs earned a 9-3 victory over the Indians to even the World Series at three games apiece, Maddon was asked why he made the decision to bring in his closer in a non-save situation, and his answer made sense.

“The middle of the batting order was coming up, [Francisco] Lindor, [Mike] Napoli, [Jose] Ramirez possibly,” Maddon said. “I thought the game could have been lost right there if we did not take care of it properly. . . . If you don’t get through that [part of the Indians batting order], there is no tomorrow.”

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Video: Mike Napoli still confident about Game 7

By Marla Ridenour Published: November 2, 2016

Video: Tyler Naquin on crucial outfield mistake

By Marla Ridenour Published: November 2, 2016

Video: Josh Tomlin on short outing in Game 6

By Marla Ridenour Published: November 2, 2016

Cubs 9, Indians 3: Ryan Lewis’ 22 Walk-Off Thoughts on miscommunication, Game 7, aggressive Cubs

By Ryan Lewis Published: November 2, 2016

Here are 22 Walk-Off Thoughts after the Indians’ 9-3 loss to the Chicago Cubs Tuesday night in Game 6 that forced a winner-take-all Game 7 Wednesday night.

1. There really isn’t anything better than postseason baseball. There definitely isn’t anything better than a Game 7 in the World Series. We’ll get to see that Wednesday night in Cleveland.

2. The Indians trying to end a 68-year drought, give Cleveland its second championship parade in four and a half months and finally put the Cubs away. The Cubs trying to end a 108-year drought and pull a similar kind of comeback that the Cavaliers just accomplished against the Golden State Warriors to win their title.

3. The Indians are looking to end this miracle of a year of 2016 with a title for the underdog city, newly named Believeland. The Cubs are looking to end this miraculous 103-win season with a championship for the lovable losers. It's about as poetic as baseball can get.

4. It would be a cruel coincidence for the Indians to fall after having a 3-1 deficit to reverse how the Cavaliers won it all. Then again, the Indians are mostly playing with house money after most thought they wouldn’t make it out of the ALDS.

5. The Indians will throw Corey Kluber on short rest again. The Cubs will throw Kyle Hendricks, who had a good outing in Game 3. Both are Cy Young candidates. Game 7s are always ones for the ages. This should be no different.

6. Said Indians manager Terry Francona, “That's a good feeling, and I know they love their guy, too, as they should. It's Game 7. You've got two really, really good pitchers, and it will be exciting. Like I said before tonight's game, it's an honor to even be a part of it, and we're going to give it everything we have. I can't imagine a better group of guys to go through something like this with. I'm looking forward to it already.”

7. Kluber has already had a historic postseason. He has a chance to elevate himself into some truly rare air with a strong outing and an Indians win, which would be his third in this World Series. He has a 0.89 ERA this postseason, the second-best of all-time with at least 30 innings pitched in a single postseason. The Indians are giving him the ball for his second straight start on short rest.

8. Said Andrew Miller on having Kluber on the mound, “Obviously it’s a big plus. All of our pitchers have thrown the ball really well but he’s the guy for us. I don’t think any team could draw up a better starting pitcher for a Game 7 than Corey Kluber, and fortunately we’ve got him.”

More from Marla Ridenour: Wary Indians fans should trust Corey Kluber in Game 7

9. As for Game 6, the first inning was a virtual nightmare for the Cubs to give Jake Arrieta a three-run lead.

10. Josh Tomlin’s curveball had been a weapon in Game 3 against the Cubs, but he hung one to Kris Bryant, who absolutely crushed it. It was a poor pitch to a great hitter. Then Anthony Rizzo and Ben Zobrist each added hard-hit singles.

11. But, it looked like the Cubs would only get one until Tyler Naquin and Lonnie Chisenhall miscommunicated and let a harmless fly ball turn into a two-run double with an error.

12. After the game, Naquin said he should have caught it. Chisenhall said he took the aggressive angle, and he should have caught. Francona said that as the centerfielder, it should have been Naquin’s ball.

13. Here are their explanations:

Naquin: “It was just loud at there. It was kind of one of those in-betweeners. Lonnie got a good break, I got a break, it’s just one of those deals, one of those deals you wish you could take back. In the moment, me being the center fielder, I need to take charge on that, not rely on that. That’s my mistake.”

Chisenhall: “I should’ve caught that ball. I made the aggressive move on it. The ball was moving towards me. Somebody’s got to catch it. It should’ve been me.”

Francona: “Lonnie went hard after it, as he should, but it's Naquin's ball. He was playing on that side and he's the center fielder. And I think at the end there, as Lonnie was kind of pulling off, Naquin was yelling, "It's yours. You got it." It's pretty loud anyway. I think we kind of told Nake especially playing on that side, that's his ball. Just take charge and take it. Kind of made it hard on Lonnie because you've got to go hard until you hear something.”

14. That made it 3-0 and suddenly the Cubs had a sizable advantage with Arrieta on the mound. And those two nearly ran into each other in the second inning on a ball that Chisenhall caught with Naquin sliding behind him at the last second. Naquin laid on the ground for a moment, clearly exasperated.

15. Francona talked before the game about not starting Rajai Davis in the outfield. It’s possible that Naquin’s shakiness in centerfield in Game 6 forces a lineup change in Game 7. The Indians didn’t want to stray from what they’ve done or how they’ve lined up, but Wednesday night, there really is no tomorrow.

16. Then, the knockout blow in the third. Dan Otero entered with the bases loaded and the Indians desperately trying to limit the damage, and with one out keep it a three-run game. Instead, it was broken wide open. Russell hammered the first grand slam in Cubs World Series history—as well as the first one the Indians had given up—and it was 7-0.

17. Tomlin still had a great October, all things considered. But, pitching on short rest for the first time in six years, he just wasn’t as sharp, and the Cubs’ lineup jumped on him. It was, perhaps, an effect of the Indians having only three healthy starting pitchers from the regular season. Tomlin had a 1.76 ERA in the postseason entering that start and threw 4 2/3 scoreless against the Cubs in Game 3. But, he couldn’t do it twice.

18. The only real silver lining for the Indians was the interesting decision by Cubs manager Joe Maddon to bring in Aroldis Chapman in the seventh inning. The Cubs led 7-2 and their season ends with a loss, and being aggressive with relievers has been the motto of this postseason. Though, it might have been a message that Chapman is the only reliever Maddon trusts to not be able to save him for additional work in Game 7.

19. Chapman threw 20 pitches, so he’ll still be available a bit in Game 7. But, Maddon didn’t want to wait around and see what happened, bringing in Chapman with two outs in the seventh and then letting him start the ninth.

20. Said Maddon, “I don't think so. I mean, 7th inning there because they came up, the middle of the batting order was coming up, Lindor, Napoli, Ramirez possibly, all that stuff. So I thought the game could have been lost right there if we did not take care of it properly. Also there was a threat that we would score more runs, which we did, and just did not have enough time to get Stroppy warmed up after the two-run home run by Rizzo. … So when things happen that quickly sometimes there's a day that you could just let your guy go out there and take him out before the next hitter, but that's not part of the landscape anymore. So we had to get him ready. … So first of all, the meaty part of their batting order, if you don't get through that, there is no tomorrow. Then second of all, just trying to get Stroppy ready and have Aroldis pitch to one hitter. I think he ended up with 20 pitches, so don't think that was much more impactful than 16.”



21. The Indians, likewise, have their bullpen set up and well rested for Game 7. Miller is available for as many pitches as he can throw. Likewise with Cody Allen. If the Cubs have a lead, they’ll face Chapman. The Indians were glad to at least force one more look at him and 20 pitches out of his electric arm.

22. Said Jason Kipnis, “A little bit. That's us fighting back, putting a little pressure, they're saying, 'Hey, they've got a big lead, but let's get something out of this game.' Whether it's setting yourself up with some good swings that you could take positivity over into tomorrow, or getting into their bullpen, which we did, making them use Chapman and throw a decent amount of pitches, even if it just means that we have some guys who have seen him a little bit more and can have a different approach against him the next day. There are some silver linings. But at the same time, we want that win.”

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Indians manager Terry Francona puts responsibility on Tyler Naquin for outfield blunder

By Marla Ridenour Published: November 2, 2016

CLEVELAND: Lonnie Chisenhall said he and Tyler Naquin haven't had an in-between ball in the postseason.

Its timing was lousy.

With two out and one run home in the first inning of Tuesday's Game 6 of the World Series, a ball off the bat of Addison Russell dropped between right fielder Chisenhall and rookie center fielder Naquin for a two-run double. Quickly trailing by three, the Indians played from behind the rest of the night and fell 9-3 in Game 6 of the World Series.

The two teams square off in the deciding Game 7 Wednesday at 8 p.m. at Progressive Field.

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Indians blown away by Cubs 9-3 in Game 6; Winner-take-all Game 7 Wednesday night

By Ryan Lewis Published: November 1, 2016

There will be a Game 7.

The Indians, looking to close out the series at home, were pounded by the Chicago Cubs 9-3 in Game 6 Tuesday night, again failing to secure their first World Series title since 1948.

It sets up a winner-take-all Game 7 Wednesday night at Progressive Field. Corey Kluber will take the mound on short rest against the Cubs’ Kyle Hendricks. Kluber also started the Indians’ wins in Games 1 and 4, the latter being on short rest.

With the Cubs’ Jake Arrieta on the mound, Game 6 was effectively over in the third inning, as Josh Tomlin was knocked around, the Indians’ defense committed their most costly misplay of the postseason and Addison Russell delivered the knockout blow against Dan Otero.

Tomlin had found success with his curveball against the Cubs earlier in the series. But in the first inning of Game 6, he left one too far out over the plate to Kris Bryant, who crushed it for a solo home run to quickly put the Cubs up 1-0.

Anthony Rizzo and Ben Zobrist each followed with singles. Tomlin then induced Russell to hit the routine fly ball to right-center field he needed to escape the inning with limited damage.

Except Tyler Naquin and Lonnie Chisenhall had a miscommunication and let the ball drop between them, allowing two more runs to score and the Cubs to open up a 3-0 lead. Naquin and Chisenhall, to open the second inning, then nearly collided on another fly ball that Chisenhall caught as Naquin slid behind him.

Tomlin again ran into trouble in the third inning when a walk and two singles loaded the bases with one out. The Indians turned to Otero to try to keep it a three-run game. Russell, though, hammered a grand slam to center field, breaking open the Cubs’ advantage to 7-0.

The Cubs had never previously hit a grand slam in the World Series. The Indians have never allowed one in the World Series. It was a haymaker, and the hit that began to turn the attention toward Wednesday night.

For the second time this series, the Indians struggled with Arrieta, who took a no-hitter into the fourth inning. That was broken up by Jason Kipnis, who doubled off the wall in left-center and scored on Mike Napoli’s single to center field.

Naquin later in the inning came to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs but struck out swinging to end the threat and hold the score at 7-1.

An inning later, Kipnis homered to left-center field to make it 7-2. It was his fourth home run and ninth RBI this postseason. Both are team highs.

Danny Salazar entered his second game this series and threw two scoreless innings while striking out four. The Indians stayed away from the back-end of their bullpen, setting it up behind Kluber for Game 7.

The Cubs, with a 7-2 lead, went to Aroldis Chapman in the seventh inning with two runners on and two out. Chapman induced a ground ball off the bat of Francisco Lindor and after covering first came up limping. He stayed in the game, worked the eighth inning and began the ninth despite the large lead, needing 20 pitches to record his four outs.

In the ninth, Rizzo capped the Cubs’ night by blasting a two-run home run to right field off of Mike Clevinger. With Chapman out of the game in favor of Pedro Strop, Roberto Perez in the bottom half of the inning hit an RBI-single to right field but was thrown out trying to advance to second base.

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Cubs switch around lineup, Indians stay true to their postseason path in Game 6

By Ryan Lewis Published: November 1, 2016

The Cubs were able to again have slugger Kyle Schwarber in the lineup for Game 6, thanks to the series returning to Cleveland and being played under American League rules.

Schwarber, who made a name for himself in last year’s playoffs with his power but then tore his ACL two games into this season and was unable to return until the World Series, was unable to play in Chicago besides some pinch-hitting duties because he wasn’t medically cleared to play the outfield.

The Cubs batted him fifth in Games 1 and 2, just after the heart of the order. In Game 6, Cubs manager Joe Maddon changed things up, putting him in the No. 2 spot ahead of Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo.

Francona joked that it might have been their doing that gave Schwarber some momentum last year, which then resulted in him being one of the bigger storylines of the World Series upon his return from injury.

In 2015, Schwarber collected four hits, including a home run and a triple, and four RBI in four games against the Indians.

“I think we’re the team that got him going,” Francona said. “They called him up and they were going to send him back. He did so well here that they couldn’t. So, I feel semi-responsible. If he goes to arbitration, he can take me with him.”

The Indians, meanwhile, decided to stay true to their path in Game 6. Francona debated starting Rajai Davis in the outfield but chose to stay with his against-right-handed lineup the Indians have employed this postseason, which features Tyler Naquin, Coco Crisp and Lonnie Chisenhall.

Davis stole three bases in Game 5 and pestered Aroldis Chapman, eventually forcing several mound visits. But the Indians didn’t think the time was right to start altering what they’ve done to get this far.

“We tell the players so much that, one of our big goals or challenges, is to be who we are,” Francona said. “This is kind of who we are. I don't want to start trying to pull stuff out of a hat.”

Game 6 memories

In Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, Boston catcher Carlton Fisk hit his legendary home run down the left-field line, motioning as if to will it to stay fair.

A 16-year-old Francona, watching at home with his dad, started celebrating along with Fisk and the Red Sox on TV.

“When the ball hit the foul pole I jumped up and went bananas,” Francona said. “And I remember my dad was like, ‘I didn’t know you were a Red Sox fan?’ And I said, ‘I’m not. I had the square at school. I won $100!’ I was so happy.”

Throwback

The Indians on Tuesday hosted Eddie Robinson, the last living member from the club that won the World Series in 1948.

Robinson, 95, had two hits and drove in the eventual game-winning RBI in the eighth inning of the Indians’ 4-3 Game 6 win against the Boston Braves that ended the series.

Rooting interest

As Francona was leaving his hotel to come to the ballpark on Tuesday, an employee was struggling with some room service carts and he stopped to help. Unsuspecting of who he was, Francona was asked a pretty important question.  

“She was like, 'Thanks,' and she goes, 'Man, this place is crazy. Who do you want to win,’” Francona said, laughing. “[I said,] ‘I’m going to go with the Indians.’ That was funny.”

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