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Indians, Cubs welcome back DH for Game 6; Lonnie Chisenhall feeling better

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 31, 2016

Back to Cleveland the World Series goes for Game 6 Tuesday nght, and with it comes the return of the designated hitter. It’s something that both sides can enjoy.

For the Indians, it means they don’t have to try Carlos Santana in left field to keep his bat in the lineup, which was a risky but successful proposition in Chicago.  For the Cubs, it means the return of Kyle Schwarber, a key bat in the middle of their lineup who wasn’t medically cleared to play left field and thus was relegated to pinch-hit duties the last three games.

“Yeah, I am [happy to see it return],” said Indians manager Terry Francona. “Now, they'll also have the DH, too, which I'm sure they're thrilled about. … It gives them a little more balance. It gives them some thunder that they'll situate right in the middle, which you have to respect.”

The way this series has set up, both the Indians and Cubs look to be welcoming the DH back with open arms. The Indians get to set up defensively as they wish and the Cubs’ lineup adds a power bat behind Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, making it even more formidable.

Though, the Indians’ experiment with Santana in left field worked out. He fielded a couple of routine fly balls and was largely untested. But it doesn’t mean the Indians necessarily enjoyed holding their breath.

“I thought Carlos did an amazing job,” Francona said. “He volunteered to do that. I was really proud of him. He's come a long way. Took a lot of work in that four- or five-day span for him to be out there, and I thought it was pretty cool. I'll be glad that we can DH somebody though.”

Feeling better

Lonnie Chisenhall is feeling better after falling ill hours before Game 5 in Chicago on Sunday.

Chisenhall spent most of the day at the team hotel before returning to the ballpark, and his condition had improved enough that he likely would have pinch-hit if the Indians reached the pitcher’s spot in the lineup in the ninth inning.

“He got there, I think, I think he got back about an hour, hour and a half before the game and while I was up there, I mean, he got a sandwich down, and he looked a lot better by the end of the night,” Francona said.

Chisenhall was covering his mouth in the clubhouse during media availability on Monday, though he’s expected to be fine for Game 6.

Positive presence

Michael Brantley hasn’t been able to help on the field, but he’s remained a steady presence in the Indians’ dugout and clubhouse.

He’s mentored Francisco Lindor. He’s given hitting and instructional advice when he can. He’s been involved—in varying degrees—in the club’s three celebrations since September. He’s continued to act as one of the leaders in the clubhouse the team pulled aside around last year’s trade deadline to discuss the Indians’ future and identity.

“I just feel like I’ve learned a lot through the years that I’ve been here,” Brantley said of giving advice to some of the younger players. “I’ve been with most of these guys for a while. Anything information-wise I can give or help throughout the course of a game that I've learned or I see, I try to help them out. It’s not the ideal situation for me. I’d love to be out there playing. But at the same time, I’ll do whatever I can to help this team win.”
 

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Josh Tomlin prepares for Game 6 start on short rest against Cubs’ Jake Arrieta

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 31, 2016

Josh Tomlin has been a stabilizing force for the Indians through their run to the World Series. Tuesday night, he’ll take the mound for Game 6 with a chance to secure the Indians’ first World Series title since 1948 in front of their home fans.

And, he’ll try to do it on short rest for the first time since 2010. But that could be a simpler task than normal after Tomlin needed only 58 pitches to get through 4 2/3 scoreless innings in the Indians’ 1-0 win in Game 3 in Chicago.

Tomlin is essentially preparing for this start as any other on normal rest. Part of it is the low pitch-count from Game 3. Part is that he’s been so consistent, owning 1.76 ERA with 11 strikeouts in 15 1/3 innings pitched in the postseason.

“The preparation on the field really doesn't change that much,” Tomlin said. “You listen to your body a little bit more on days like today and days like the couple days leading up to it just because you know you don't have that bullpen day or that longer bullpen day. And you probably don't get in two lifts, but I think you just listen to your body, do what you're capable of doing in the days leading up to this.”

Tomlin is the longest-tenured player in the Indians’ organization. He spent most of the year as the Indians’ No. 5 starting pitcher. He lost his spot in the rotation in August. Now, he takes the ball in the biggest game of his life with the Cubs countering with Jake Arrieta, their former Cy Young Award winner who was terrific in Game 2.

“I haven't really thought about it on a personal level,” Tomlin said. “I think about it as an organizational level and a team level, and how honored and how hard we've worked to get to this point. It means a lot to not just to 25 guys that are in that locker room but the organization as a whole. There's been a lot of guys that have been here a long time and never got to experience anything like this.”

Even holding a 3-2 lead and at home, it’s a tall task to finish off the 103-win Cubs.

“We understand it's not just about getting here, it's about trying to win as well,” Tomlin said. “There's nobody in that clubhouse that's complacent. It's not like we have a 3-2 lead, it's just going to happen. That's not the mindset we take at all. We have a game to play [Tuesday], and we're going to try to go out there and try to win that game. If not, we'll come back the next day and try to win that day.”

Should Tomlin deliver another quality start, the Indians’ task then becomes hitting Arrieta, which almost didn’t happen at all in Game 2, when he took a no-hitter into the sixth inning.

“We can only get better versus Arrieta,” said Jason Kipnis. “He no-hit us through however long. So, we've got to figure to improve on that a little bit. If you look, Tomlin's been great after losses for us. He's been pretty much our stopper. So, it's going to be a good matchup. It'll be a fun game. It'll be a tough one to win. I'm looking forward to it, though.”

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Cubs 3, Indians 2: Ryan Lewis’ 16 Walk-Off Thoughts on 2 errant pitches, a similiar blueprint, more

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 31, 2016

Here are 16 Walk-Off Thoughts after the Indians fell to the Chicago Cubs 3-2 in Game 5 of the World Series Sunday night at Wrigley Field.

1. Two errant pitches, Jon Lester and Aroldis Chapman extended the World Series on Sunday night.

2. Trevor Bauer cruised through the first three innings of Game 5. Then, like a switch, the Cubs drilled a couple of pitches and reached on a well-placed dribbler and bunt to put together their only scoring inning of the game. The first was a solo home run by Kris Bryant that tied it 1-1. The second, which was the very next pitch, was a double off the wall in right field by Anthony Rizzo.

3. Both pitches were hammered. One tied it, one put the go-ahead run in scoring position. Outside of those back-to-back pitches, pitching coach Mickey Callaway liked what he saw from Bauer. But those two pitches and that three-run fourth ended up being all the Cubs needed.

4. Said Callaway, “Two mistakes in the fourth. Didn’t get the ball up enough to Bryant and he made him pay. And the first pitch to Rizzo, he’s been swinging early and often and he didn’t really get that up where he wanted to either. Other than that in that inning, he executed some good pitches. They had a good two-strike approach. That’s when you get those little choppers and things like that, when you battle hard with two strikes and you’re putting the ball in play. And then a great bunt by Baez. Other than that, those two pitches, I thought he threw the ball pretty well and his stuff was really good.”

5. Indians manager Terry Francona agreed that Bauer looked great overall, but those two pitches caught too much of the plate. Bauer saw that two-pitch sequence differently, saying, “No, I executed the pitch. I can't control what happens when the ball leaves my hand. I threw it exactly where I wanted to. Roberto didn't move his glove at all and he hit it, so good for him. I executed everything that inning except for the hit that Zobrist got. Bad luck, I guess.”

More: Corey Kluber having historic October; Lonnie Chisenhall gets sick; $44 worth of ice cream

6. Bauer should be available out of the bullpen in Cleveland, per Callaway. Bauer’s start to the night—one hit, five strikeouts in the first three innings—gave some additional confidence that the could be used if needed. And, the Indians and Cubs are entering an all-hands-on-deck situation.

7. Said Callaway, “Oh yeah. I’m sure he’s going to be begging Tito to have him in the pen. I’m fairly certain he’ll be out there with his spikes on in these last two games.”

8. The Indians’ offense this postseason hasn’t been great, but the pitching staff has been so strong that it’s been just enough and therefore, not as glaring. The two postseason losses for the Indians entering Game 5 were both scores of 5-1. In this one, the offense had its chances to pick up a few runs but couldn’t as the bullpen held the Cubs in place and within striking distance.

9. After the Cubs’ three-run fourth, the Indians threatened in the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth innings. They came away with one run in those four chances.

10. Said Mike Napoli, “They [the bullpen] gave us a chance to try to scrap out some runs. We got some opportunities, we just didn’t come through. They brought Chapman in pretty early and shut us down. They did everything they had to do to keep this series going. Like I said, we’re going to get back home, have a nice day off tomorrow and get a good workout in and get back after it.”

11. The Indians, in a way, got a taste of their own medicine. Lester threw six strong innings and the Indians couldn’t put together anything against Chapman over the final 2 2/3. Those two accounted for 26 of the Cubs’ 27 outs. It’s the same blueprint the Indians have used—get 5-6 innings from the starter, hand it off to Andrew Miller for two innings or so and then get to Cody Allen. It should have looked familiar.

12. Said Francona, “That was pretty good pitching right there. Chapman, he fell behind 3-0 and he’s got a 99 get-me-over [fastball]. You know, that's pretty impressive. Sometimes you've got to respect what the other team can do, too. Sometimes they beat you. I didn't think we beat ourselves. I thought they beat us.”

13. Francisco Lindor wasn’t surprised Chapman entered a game in the seventh inning for the first time in four years. “We've seen it with Miller. We've seen it with Allen. We've seen it with Shaw. That's part of the game. When you have a good reliever like that, you're going to bring him in as soon as you think you have a chance to win.”

More from Marla Ridenour: Indians upbeat, confident heading home

13. So the series will turn back to Cleveland, and the Indians have a chance to win a championship in front of their home fans, with the Cubs trying to force a winner-take-all Game 7. Josh Tomlin on short rest will go in Game 6 against Jake Arrieta. If the Cubs force a Game 7, Corey Kluber, on short rest again, will take the mound against Kyle Hendricks.

14. “To take two out of three, obviously we put ourselves in a situation to win it tonight, but they’re a good ball club, said Mike Napoli. “They did what they had to do. We’re going to get a good off day tomorrow, get back out there and try to do it in front of our fans.”

15. Either the Indians will celebrate in Cleveland Tuesday or Wednesday night with a parade to follow, or the Cubs will do exactly what the Cavaliers did to the Warriors and come back from a 3-1 deficit to win on the road, which would create a painfully coincidental ending for Cleveland fans to this baseball season. Either the underdogs prevail and continue Cleveland’s dream 2016, or the lovable losers get their dream storyline after being the best team in baseball all year.

16. Said Lindor, “We wanted to finish it here, but that's part of the game. We know they've got a good team. We know they weren't going to sweep the series. No one said it was going to be easy. We have to continue to play the game the right way and take care of business.”

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Indians upbeat, confident heading home with 3-2 Series lead

By Marla Ridenour Published: October 31, 2016

CHICAGO: Indians' shortstop Francisco Lindor admitted there was no way he could hit any of the three 100 mph-plus pitches from Aroldis Chapman he looked at in the eighth inning.

Right-hander Trevor Bauer had a few brief words for a Cubs fan taunting him in the background of his post-game interview. The fan yelled, "One more game, Bauer, one more game," figuring it meant another Chicago victory.

Facing elimination, the Cubs scored all their runs in the fourth inning off Bauer and made some standout plays in the field, especially in foul ground.

But despite the Cubs' 3-2 victory in Game 5 of the World Series Sunday night at Wrigley Field, the Indians headed home confident and upbeat.

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Indians doomed by three-run inning, fall to Chicago Cubs 3-2 in Game 5 to extend World Series

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 30, 2016

The World Series will be returning to Cleveland for Game 6.

A three-run rally in the fourth inning was enough for the Cubs with Jon Lester and Aroldis Chapman recording 26 of their 27 outs, as the Indians’ offense threatened but was unable to close the gap in a 3-2 loss in Game 5 of the World Series at Wrigley Field on Sunday night.

Josh Tomlin will take the mound on short rest against the Cubs’ Jake Arrieta Tuesday night at Progressive Field.

The Indians struck first in the second inning Sunday night. After Lester quickly retired the first five batters he faced, Jose Ramirez drilled a solo home run to left field to put the Indians on top 1-0.

But, for the first time this postseason, the Indians lost a lead and couldn’t get it back.

Trevor Bauer cruised through the first three innings. In the fourth, the Cubs’ bats woke—or better yet, warmed—up in the cold Chicago air.

Kris Bryant, one of the leading MVP candidates in the National League, led off the inning by crushing a solo home run to left-center field, tying it 1-1 and sending Wrigley Field to its feet. On the next pitch, Anthony Rizzo drilled a ball off the right-field wall for a double. Ben Zobrist followed with a single to put runners on the corners.

After three quiet innings, the Cubs were hitting everything hard. One hit that wasn't was Addison Russell's infield single, but it was enough to give the Cubs a 2-1 lead. Bauer responded by striking out Jason Heyward. Javier Baez then laid down a picture-perfect bunt to load the bases. David Ross followed by driving a fly ball to left field, deep enough to score Zobrist and put the Cubs up 3-1.

The Indians failed to cut the lead in half in the fifth but succeeded in the sixth. Carlos Santana led off the fifth with a double but was stranded there by Lester, who induced two ground balls and stuck out Brandon Guyer to escape the inning.

In the sixth, Francisco Lindor, the Indians’ most consistent hitter this postseason, came through again. Rajai Davis singled and then stole second with one out. After Jason Kipnis was called out on strikes, Lindor lined a single to left-center to cut the Cubs’ lead to 3-2.

The Indians threatened in the seventh and eighth but were shut down by Aroldis Chapman, the hardest-throwing pitcher in baseball. He entered with Mike Napoli on second and one out in the seventh and proceeded to strike out Ramirez, hit Guyer with a 100-mph pitch and then induce Roberto Perez to ground out.

The tying run was stranded 90 feet from the plate in the eighth. Davis reached on an infield single in which Chapman didn’t cover first base. He then stole second and third, toying with Chapman the entire inning and forcing numerous mound visits. But, with two outs, Chapman struck out Lindor with a 102-mph pitch at the knees, again leaving the Indians one hit short.

Chapman closed the door in the ninth for an eight-out save to force Game 6, and an Indians offense that had been slow all October but just enough each night, this time, wasn’t.
 

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Corey Kluber having historic October; Lonnie Chisenhall comes down with illness

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 30, 2016

Few pitchers in baseball history have had an October like the one Indians ace Corey Kluber has put together this postseason.

Kluber has a Cy Young Award to his name already, but his performance through the Indians’ run to the World Series, so far, might end up being his defining moment to the national perspective.

In five starts, Kluber has allowed only three earned runs in 30 1/3 innings pitched for an ERA of 0.89. Among pitchers with at least 30 innings pitched in a single postseason, that is the second-best mark of all-time behind only the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Burt Hooton in 1981. No American League pitcher has been better with that many innings pitched.

Kluber’s 35 strikeouts put him in a tie with Orel Hershiser in 1995 for the Indians’ franchise record for strikeouts in a single postseason and in a tie for ninth overall. And his 15 strikeouts between Games 1 and 4 are a franchise record, besting Hershiser’s 13.

Kluber has put himself in rare air and among some of the better names in baseball history while leading the Indians’ beat-up pitching staff through October. The Indians feel it’s time to rank him among baseball’s elite instead of just another ace.

“He hasn't gotten his due,” said Jason Kipnis. “He's won a Cy Young and he still isn't necessarily a household name. I don't think he's going to have to worry about that any more. He's one of the better ones around. … He doesn't walk people, he competes, he fields his position, keeps his composure, he doesn't blame anything on his defense. Add that to his repertoire with how nasty he is, he's exactly what you want out of an ace.”

Two of Kluber’s five postseason starts—Game 4 of the ALCS in Toronto and Game 4 of the World Series—were his first two on short rest in his career. It further elevates the value he’s brought to a team with only three healthy starters from its rotation during the regular season.

“I think he’s certainly showing everybody how good he is,” said Andrew Miller. “He might be a little bit under the radar for some reason, but we’re glad we’ve got him. He’s as good as they come, he’s dominant. To go out and pitch on short rest, I think a lot of people don’t understand how difficult that is and he acted like it was a regular game.”

Under the weather

Outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall became sick a couple of hours before Sunday’s Game 5, enough that he went back to the team hotel to rest before the game. The Indians hoped to give him fluids just before the game to see if he could become available.

Chisenhall wasn’t likely to start in Game 5 with left-hander Jon Lester on the mound and the Indians wanting to keep Carlos Santana’s bat in the lineup. Brandon Guyer received the start in right field.

You scream, I scream

Indians manager Terry Francona doesn’t always sleep well in the postseason. So what was he doing at 3:30 in the morning on Sunday?

Try ordering $44 worth of ice cream.

“I had the brownie sundae, I had two orders of chocolate, and two orders of vanilla with chocolate sauce,” he said. “And then to kind of keep it healthy, I ordered the berries. Oh, and a Diet Coke.”

And, he did finish it. Talk about overcoming the odds.

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Indians 7, Cubs 2: Ryan Lewis’ 26 Walk-Off Thoughts on a 3-1 lead, a quiet Wrigley, Corey Kluber

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 30, 2016

Here are 26 Walk-Off Thoughts after the Indians took down the Chicago Cubs 7-2 in Game 4 on Saturday night at Wrigley Field to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the World Series.

1. The Indians are one win away from pulling this off, from winning it all without three of their best players who all rank among the best in the league at their position, from giving Cleveland the type of dream year that even the most die-hard of fans wouldn’t have dared to think up in their sleep.

2. The Indians have ignored the expectations and the odds and the attention not paid to them this series. They’re playing without two Cy Young contenders and a former MVP finalist, which means they’re nowhere near full strength.

3. And, so far, they’ve ruined the party at Wrigley. This was supposed to be the Cubs’ magical year. The year that the lovable losers steamrolled their way through October as baseball’s powerhouse and ended the 108-year drought. And the team they face is the one that wasn’t supposed to be there in the first place? It couldn’t have been set up any better on paper.

4. Except, twice, the Indians silenced a crowd wanting so badly to explode. Corey Kluber and Andrew Miller have been nearly untouchable. Josh Tomlin has given the Indians a lift. Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw have both been strong options behind Miller. The offense has struggled a bit but came through Saturday night, coming back from a first-inning deficit and slamming the door late with Jason Kipnis’ three-run home run.

5. Now, they need one more. But they’re expecting a fight for it, particularly from a team that was seen as baseball’s best for most of the year.

6. “[It’s] not an ending yet,” Kipnis said. “We’ve got one more to get and that’s probably going to be the hardest victory of the year. But this is a special night for me and this team. To take the first two here --- now we’ve got a couple tries to win one more. We’re ready to get it. But this is a fun one.”

7. Only six teams in baseball history have come back from a 3-1 deficit in the World Series in 47 tries. It hasn’t happened since 1985. It hasn’t happened in which the trailing team would need to clinch on the road since 1979. But, then again, the Cavaliers proved in June that those numbers don’t always mean much.

8. “It’s not going to be easy, but we like where we’re at,” Miller said. “We have a lot of confidence in our guys, we have a lot of ways we can win games, and we’re excited to get Trevor back on the mound. I think he probably had a little rust to knock off after having a pretty big layoff outside of about 20 pitches in that game in Toronto, it’s going to be fun. They’ve got Jon Lester going. He’s as good of a postseason pitcher as there is, you can’t say that enough. But we’ll be ready to go.”

More: Indians revel in 'Cleveland Against the World' mindset

9. Added Kipnis, “It's been done before, it can happen. So there's no reason to stop now the things that we've been doing. The last couple of series we've kind of jumped out to leads and we've talked about the same things, not letting them in because we've probably faced three of the tougher lineups in baseball. They're not lineups you want to give momentum. They're not teams who want to start feeling good about themselves. So the best thing to do is kind of put them away before they can do that.”

10. Corey Kluber is having one of the best postseasons for starting pitcher in baseball history. He’s now allowed only three earned runs in 30 1/3 innings pitched. Among pitchers with at least 30 innings pitched in a single postseason, his 0.89 ERA is second all-time, bested only by the Dodgers’ Burt Hooton in 1981. And Kluber’s 35 strikeouts put him in a tie with Orel Hershiser in 1995 for the Indians’ franchise record in a single postseason. The 35 strikeouts also put him ninth all-time.

More from Marla Ridenour: With Indians one win away from championship, Believeland one win away from postcard status

11. Kluber is a Cy Young Award winner and the unquestioned leader of a talented starting rotation. This October, though, he’s doing things only a few pitchers in history have ever done on this stage. He’s put his name among some of baseball’s elite in postseason history.

12. Said Kipnis, “He hasn't gotten his due. He's won a Cy Young and he still isn't necessarily a household name. I don't think he's going to have to worry about that any more. He's one of the better ones around. We've gotten to see it for a couple years now. He does all the little things you want in a pitcher. He doesn't walk people, he competes, he fields his position, keeps his composure, he doesn't blame anything on his defense. Add that to his repertoire with how nasty he is, he's exactly what you want out of an ace.”

13. Two of Kluber’s last three starts have also come on short rest, the first time he’s ever attempted to do that. Added Kipnis, “ I don’t think people appreciate how hard it is to come back on three days rest and I’m happy on this kind of stage he’s finally getting the recognition he’s due. There’s a lot of people even after his Cy Young Award that really don’t know much about him. He’s one of the best pitchers. I’ve seen him for years and I’m happy people are finally starting to notice.”

14. If the Cubs do force a Game 7, they’ll have to go up against Kluber again. At this rate, that seems to be a demoralizing proposition.

15. It was about as demoralizing as a situation the Cubs found themselves in during one of their best traditions. Vince Vaughn sang Take Me Out to the Ballgame during Game 4 to try to rally the crowd. Except, it came right after Kipnis belted a three-run home run to make it 7-1 and just as Miller was warming up to enter the game. It was a fun moment, but not with much hope.

16. Miller worked two innings and was hit for a home run off the bat of Dexter Fowler. He’s thrown 17 innings and hadn’t given up a run in the postseason yet. He also struck out two hitters to give him 29 this October, which set a new record for relievers. And he says he’s surely available in Game 5 if the Indians have a lead with a chance to win it all.

17. Said Miller, “Unless something unforeseen happens, I better be available tomorrow. I think this is what it’s all about. This is what we’ve worked so hard, all 25 guys that are here, to get in these games. I’ll do everything I can, I’ll take care of myself, I’ll get some rest and expect to be ready to go and have a full workload.”

18. The one big-decision button Indians manager Terry Francona pushed on Saturday was to start Carlos Santana at first base instead of Mike Napoli. And, again, Francona was right. Santana delivered a game-tying solo home run in the second inning that meant the Cubs’ lead lasted all of one batter.

19. Francona is also now 11-1 all-time in the World Series and 38-20 in the postseason, which is the highest winning percentage (.655) of any manager with at least 50 postseason games managed. And the Indians have completely bought in to anything he’s tried.

20. Said Miller, “His hands are on everything, from the climate to the clubhouse to moves that are made in the games are obviously his decisions, and just he’s really good at what he does. We’re a good ball club, but he has a lot of impact on the outcome of games and the outcome of the season. I think it’s a credit to him and his track record speaks pretty clearly to that. … Guys buy in. Obviously, that’s what it takes to win this time of year. You’ve got to have a lot of stuff go right. He’s done that. He certainly, he’s made the right decisions and guys have gone out and the buy-in in the clubhouse has helped stuff that execute in a sense. Ultimately, we have 25 guys that are committed to whatever he says goes.”

21. Francona has played a major role in keeping the clubhouse loose, which has apparently worked for the Indians this postseason. Several guys enjoy his joking manner, that he often keeps things light. Perhaps it’s why the Indians have been able to respond so well to a tough injury situation and the constant underdog label. It’s trickled down to the clubhouse.

22. Said Kipnis, “This whole playoff run because of the team and the guys we've got in here, it's just been easier on us, and easier on guys like me, where the situations never got too big because the guys were having too much fun in the dugout, and everyone's at ease and playing loose. So there's no real any reason to tighten up. I think that's actually helped me the most.”

23. It was a breakout night for Kipnis at just the right time. He had struggled this postseason even before spraining his ankle in Toronto and then had a two-error game in Game 2. Kipnis doubled and later scored on an RBI-single off the bat of Lindor and then drilled a three-run home run in the seventh that effectively ended the game.

24. It was a special night for him on a couple of levels. One, it helped to lift the frustrations of a slow October. Two, it came in front of his family and friends who were able to see the Chicago native help to do just what he always dreamed of doing—it just so happened that it came in a different uniform.

25. “We’re baseball players. This is what we live for,” Kipnis said. “This kind of stage is what we all dream about. And to be able to do it for me personally with my family and friends here, I was smiling ear-to-ear on the inside. But I still had a job. It was just nice personally to help out this offense finally and help out this staff and not put the pressure on them with our low-scoring wins --- they actually got some breathing room.”

26. The Indians will wake up on Sunday with a chance to win the World Series after a nightmarish September appeared to put any hope of a postseason run in doubt. Cleveland waited 52 years for a championship. The city might only have to wait four months for its second. The Indians are one win away from a World Series title.

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Home run in front of family makes victory sweet for Indians' Jason Kipnis

By Marla Ridenour Published: October 30, 2016

CHICAGO: The die-hard Cubs fan in Jason Kipnis was hoping they'd throw his ball back.

That what he's seen spectators in Wrigley Field do since he was a kid, idolizing Ryne Sandberg and rushing to the television every time Sammy Sosa came up to bat. Growing up in Northbrook, Ill., about 30 minutes from the historic park, Kipnis was torn at first when he watched the Cubs win the National League pennant and become the Indians Indians' opponent in the World Series.

But he seems to be over that now. On Saturday night, the 29-year-old Tribe second baseman went out and delivered what might turn out to be the Series' crushing blow.

Kipnis smashed a three-run homer to right field in the seventh inning that sent the Indians to a 7-2 victory in Game 4 and gave the Tribe a 3-1 series lead. One victory away from the Indians' first World Series championship since 1948, the clincher could come Sunday night at Wrigley.

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Indians pull to within one win of World Series title, beat Cubs 7-2 in Game 4

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 29, 2016

The Indians need one more to give Cleveland two.

The Indians fell behind early, fought back to secure the first lead change of the series and held it to beat the Chicago Cubs 7-2 in Game 4 of the World Series at Wrigley Field Saturday night.

With it, they took a commanding 3-1 series lead, leaving them one win short of pulling off their improbable October and giving the city of Cleveland its second championship parade in four months.

The Cubs took a 1-0 lead in the first inning against Corey Kluber but never put much of anything together offensively until the game was out of hand. The Indians, meanwhile, quickly punched back for two runs—in part thanks to Kluber’s bat—in the second before adding on throughout the night.

Carlos Santana, who was started at first base over Mike Napoli by manager Terry Francona, led off the second inning by rewarding the move and slamming a solo home run to tie it 1-1. Kluber later came to bat with two runners on and two outs. After battling Cubs Game 4 starting pitcher John Lackey to a full count, Kluber tapped a ball down the third-base line and forced an errant throw by Kris Bryant. With the ball trickling away from first basemen Anthony Rizzo, Lonnie Chisenhall easily scored to put the Indians on top 2-1.

Jason Kipnis finally broke out of his postseason slump Saturday night. He led off the third with a double and came around to score on Francisco Lindor’s RBI-single to center field, putting the Indians up 3-1.

After Lonnie Chisenhall extended the lead to 4-1 with a sacrifice fly in the sixth, Kipnis delivered the knockout blow, crushing a three-run home run to right field off of Travis Wood to put the Indians up 7-1 heading into the bottom of the seventh.

At that time, while Vince Vaughn tried to rally Cubs fans with his rendition of Take Me Out to the Ballgame, Andrew Miller was warming up with a six-run lead, a virtual death sentence for any hopeful Cubs comeback. The Cubs did draw blood against Miller, as Dexter Fowler lined a solo home run to left field in the eighth inning. It marked the first earned run Miller has allowed this postseason in 17 innings pitched.

Miller also struck out two hitters to give him 29, a new major-league record for any relief pitcher in a single postseason.

Kluber allowed one run in six innings on five hits and struck out six. After the hiccup in the first inning, Kluber again became an enigma for the Cubs, who were held to one run or fewer for the third time in four games this series. Kluber has now allowed three earned runs in 30 1/3 innings this postseason for a 0.89 ERA.

Kluber, pitching short rest for the second time this postseason, only needed 81 pitches to get through his six innings. Should the Cubs force a Game 7 in Cleveland, Kluber would throw again on short rest, and is now set up to do so.

But with the Indians’ resounding win Saturday night that again quieted a raucous Wrigley Field crowd, Trevor Bauer will take the mound against the Cubs’ Jon Lester in Game 5 on Sunday with a chance to clinch their first World Series title since 1948.

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Indians revel in ‘Cleveland Against the World’ mindset, attention on Cubs; 5 shutouts set record

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 29, 2016

Indians fans have been noticing a lopsided weighting in the amount of talk and discussion from national outlets aimed toward the Chicago Cubs in this World Series. It hasn’t gone unnoticed in the Indians’ clubhouse, either.

The Indians haven’t been favored to win any of their postseason series this year, which didn’t change when they drew the Cubs in the World Series. But with that draw also came a national story surrounding one of the most well-known droughts in sports, and the opportunity to end it.

It’s led to the Indians in some ways acting as ‘Team B’ in the World Series. It’s been the Cubs vs. The Other Guys. Or, at the very least, that’s been the feeling.

“Cleveland against the world” has previously been a rallying cry for fans. It’s also been what the Indians have clung to this postseason, whether due to the expectations of their demise or the difference in attention paid to them.

“'Cleveland against the world’, that's kind of been the motto,” said Coco Crisp. “Coming here and seeing all the blue in the stands and all the blue that was at our ballpark, you know the support for the Cubs is worldwide. You know what you're dealing with coming into the game, and our fans do a great job of supporting us as well.”

The Indians noticed it the first time they worked out at Wrigley Field on Thursday.

“We had our workout and everybody had left,” Francona said. “It was kind of funny. It was quiet, but D***. I had to remind myself we were still here. You know what, they had 103 wins and it’s Chicago. I get it. They’re popular as hell. What I care about is our guys in the room.”

Several players this October have said they didn’t mind the underdog label, or that the expectations were laid at the feet of the Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays and now the Cubs. They’ve ridden this wave of momentum on that mantra.

“I think we’ve been the underdog coming in to Boston, even when we were up 3-0 to Toronto everyone still said they were going to come back and win, and we feed off that,” said Bryan Shaw. “It lets us play looser. The pressure is on them because everybody is saying they’re going to win, so if we come out and do what we can do, hopefully that’s enough for us.”

To the plate

Trevor Bauer will take the mound against Cubs Game 1 starter Jon Lester in Game 5 on Sunday night. His lacerated pinkie finger held up through his start in Game 2 and isn’t expected to be an issue while on the mound.

Though Bauer will have the added challenge of having to bat under National League rules. The Indians have been unsure just what he can do in terms of swinging a bat without opening up his finger, as it would be his top hand rubbing against his bottom hand. Bauer went through his normal batting practice as he would before any game against a NL team and hopes it will at least allow him to not stand at the plate and watch three strikes go by.

“I just went to the cage,” Bauer said before Game 4. “Did what I would normally do before a National League game. Saw some pitches coming in, laid down some bunts and stuff like that. So it won't be an issue.”

Record-Setters

The Indians’ pitching staff has now officially had a record-setting October.

With their 1-0 win in Game 3, the Indians became the first team in major-league history to record five shutouts in a single postseason. The four teams that had done so prior—the New York/San Francisco Giants in 1905, 2010 and 2012 and the 1998 New York Yankees—all won the World Series.

They also entered Game 4 with a 1.65 ERA as a staff. The bullpen owns a 1.60 ERA. Among bullpens with at least 35 innings pitched in a single postseason, that puts the Indians fourth all-time. The three teams that bested that mark (Oakland in 1973, Boston in 2013, Toronto in 1992) all won the World Series as well.

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Indians 1, Cubs 0: Ryan Lewis’ 29 Walk-Off Thoughts on Josh Tomlin, the bullpen, Coco Crisp

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 29, 2016

Here are 29 Walk-Off Thoughts on the Indians’ 1-0 win against the Chicago Cubs in Game 3 of the World Series Friday night.

1. The Indians’ pitching staff—the one that’s beat up and well below full strength and was supposed to struggle to last one series, let alone three—has now set the record for most shutouts in a single postseason for any team, with five. They’ve also shut out the Cubs in two of the first three games in this World Series.

2. On baseball’s biggest stage, Corey Kluber, Josh Tomlin and the bullpen—with some help from Ryan Merritt—have only gotten better. The Indians had several scoring opportunities early in Game 3 and they couldn’t convert, leaving the pitching staff exposed. But, it didn’t matter. They delivered again, as they have almost all October.

3. And, now, the Indians are two wins way from the winning the World Series without three of their best players.

4. The staff by the numbers: 9-2 this postseason with an ERA of 1.65. The bullpen has a 1.60 ERA and 60 strikeouts in 45 innings pitched. Among bullpens with at least 35 innings pitched, the Indians’ 1.60 ERA is fourth in postseason history. The other three teams (1973 Athletics, 2013 Red Sox, 1992 Blue Jays) all won the World Series.

5. What the Indians’ pitching staff has been able to accomplish without Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar—two Cy Young candidate-caliber starting pitchers—has been nothing short of special, a deliberate response to their backs being against the wall. With the fifth shutout, it’s now been a historic effort.

6. Said Jason Kipnis, “They’re carrying us right now. The bullpen and pitching staff is the reason we’re here. You can afford to have a guy like me not hit too well, but when the bullpen is doing what it’s doing, that’s how you can afford that.”

7. Because Andrew Miller has reached a new level of dominance this postseason, Cody Allen probably hasn’t gotten the credit he’s deserved, as those two have combined to throw 25 scoreless innings this postseason.

8. And thanks to Allen, Napoli’s error won’t have a chance to be entered into a long line of horrific memories that follow Cleveland losses. Because had this game gone wrong and then the series, it would have been a tough play to forget.

9. With two outs in the bottom off the ninth and the tying run on second, Jason Heyward grounded a ball to Napoli at first base. It looked to be routine and the game-ender. But it caught Napoli in-between hops and trickled away, giving Javier Baez a chance to tie or win it.

10. Allen, though, blew Beaz away with a high fastball, so Napoli’s play is only a footnote in these Walk-Off Thoughts and not Cleveland sports history.

11. Napoli was focused on keeping the ball in front of him at all costs. If he gets by him, the Cubs tie it.

12. Said Napoli, “In that situation you want to knock the ball down no matter what. Last thing I want to do is try to go backhand and have it go under my glove. My first priority is to keep it in front. It hit off my glove and if I make that play, good for us. But I’m trying to keep the ball in front. Cody definitely picked me up.”

More: Indians stay true to aggressive mantra

13. In Game 3, National League rules essentially forced Andrew Miller out of the game earlier than he would have. It put Shaw in a spot of working 1 2/3 innings and Allen going for a four-out save. It’s one of the drawbacks of not having the DH, that the bullpen can’t always be managed on the merits of the pitcher in the game. The circumstances force manager’s hands.

14. Shaw came through, and he overcame a misplay by Lonnie Chisenhall in right field that put the tying run on third base, also against Baez. He induced a groundout to end the inning, which was the beginning of three tense innings for the bullpen clinging onto that 1-0 lead.

15. Miller, Allen and Shaw have been the backbone of the Indians’ postseason run. And they have fed off one another. In Game 3, it was arguably Shaw who had the best performance.

16. Said Shaw, “Absolutely. When we see Miller come in and do what he does, we sit down in the pen and look up at the scoreboard and see 15.6 K/9 or whatever and he gets an out that’s not a strikeout, we make fun of him because it goes down, and then he comes out the next inning and punches out the side and it goes back up over 16. It’s definitely something that we feed off, each one of us down there. IT doesn’t matter who it is coming in. It’s a lot of fun to watch our guys come in and do the jobs they’ve done.”

More from Marla Ridenour: Pitching on short rest doesn't faze Corey Kluber

17. The move that took Miller out of the game gave the Indians the only offense of the night. And it was Coco Crisp—of course—who came through for the Indians again.

18. Crisp was essentially added about 10 minutes (it was a day) before the deadline to be eligible for the post season. He hit a home run when the Indians clinched the division. He hit a home run when the Indians clinched their spot in the ALCS. He hit a home run when the Indians clinched the AL pennant. And his pinch-hit, RBI-single propelled the Indians to their Game 3 win Friday night.

19. Since coming to Cleveland, all Crisp has done has come up with some of the Indians’ biggest hits in September and October. It’s been a wonderful reunion for both parties.

20. He also made it so Miller didn’t have to have an awkward at-bat. The Indians certainly didn’t want to take Miller out, but the situation called for an opportunity to steal Game 3, and Crisp came through. Any at-bat involving Miller probably wouldn’t have been pretty. Miller originally grabbed one of Tommy Hunter’s old bats because he didn’t want to risk breaking one that was valuable.

21. Said Miller, “I don’t know if you could tell by my smiling on deck -- I didn’t have a whole lot of confidence in my ability. It was just, if I got the opportunity, find a way to put it in play and make something happen.”

More from Marla Ridenour: Indians set posteason record with five shutouts

22. Tomlin now has a sub-2.00 ERA in the postseason. The pitcher who struggled in August and lost his spot in the rotation as his family dealt with a difficult time is long gone. The Indians’ No. 5 starting pitcher under normal circumstances has pitched like an ace in October.

23. And on Friday night, his dad, Jerry, played a part. It was a great story and an emotional start for Tomlin. His dad was sitting just off of his viewpoint from the mound. Tomlin could always find his dad in the stands. It gave him comfort, and it was extra meaningful for his dad to see his son stifle the Cubs on that stage.

24. Said Tomlin, “I think I've probably said it more times than I've probably should, but it was probably one of my more emotional starts I've ever had in my entire life, career, any situation baseball related ever. I'm fortunate enough for him to even be here. So to have him get to experience a World Series game and obviously my first World Series start, it meant everything.
… I found him before the game that way I could kind of go to him throughout the course of the game, if the game was speeding up to me, just to find that sense of calm there. What he's gone through, I mean, that's nothing to what we're going through right now. So to be able to find him and see him in the stands, it kind of calmed me down and just let me go out there and settle into the game and try to go out there and do the best that I could for him.”

25. Napoli put it best when talking about Tomlin’s performance: “Unbelievable. That guy has cojones. It’s so much fun playing behind him because you know he goes out there and competes and we know he’s good. He went through a rough patch but he got a little rest and got himself back under him and he’s been unbelievable for us.”

26. Indians manager Terry Francona has had a near-perfect postseason. Just about every small decision has worked out. In Friday’s game, he made a couple of double-switches, tried to take advantage of Miller but also pinch-hit for him when needed. He worked around the outfield to fit the situation. He took advantage of the NL rules, and it all paid off. Francona has been receiving praise locally and nationally for his management this October. And he’s almost assuredly going to win Manager of the Year for the regular season.

27. Said pitching coach Mickey Callaway, “He almost used some guys that weren’t even on the roster. It was great. I mean, there’s no better manager in baseball than him. He’s unbelievable. He thinks of everything at every moment, I’ve learned so much from him. It’s just fun to watch him do it during the game. He’s going to use everybody in the right situation to have the most success they can probably have. You’re seeing the results of it.”

28. It wasn’t just tonight. Said Napoli, “Seems like every move he’s made all year has worked. He was unbelievable, man. To have a leader like that, it’s fun to come to the park every day, interact with him. I was messing with him. He almost tripped on the mound tonight. I said, ‘Hey man, watch that step.’ It’s a comforting feeling, you look at him and he just has that smirk or he’s going to joke about something when things are on the line. It just relaxes you.”

29. The Indians will wake up on Saturday up 2-1 in the World Series with Corey Kluber taking the mound for Game 4. They need two more to give Cleveland its second championship parade in four months.

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Underestimated Indians set record with fifth postseason shutout

By Marla Ridenour Published: October 29, 2016

CHICAGO: They are facing some of the hottest-hitting teams in baseball.

They were supposed to be afterthoughts against all three.

But the Cleveland Indians continued to prove Friday night that their pitching staff has been vastly underrated.

With the wind blowing out and the crowd energized by the first World Series game in Wrigley Field in 71 years, the Indians held off the Cubs 1-0 and set a record with their fifth postseason shutout.

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Indians shut out Cubs in 1-0 Game 3 win, take 2-1 World Series lead

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 28, 2016

Cubs fans waited 71 years to see a World Series game at Wrigley Field, but they’ll have to wait at least one more night to see a run, as the Indians’ pitching staff continued their torrid run through October with a shutout in a 1-0 win in Game 3.

With it, the Indians took a 2-1 World Series lead heading into Game 4, in which they’ll have ace Corey Kluber on the mound against John Lackey.

After a night of missed opportunities, the Indians broke through for the only offense they’d need in the seventh inning.

Facing Cubs reliever Carl Edwards. Jr. in a still-scoreless game, Roberto Perez singled to right field and was taken out in favor of Michael Martinez. Tyler Naquin’s sacrifice bunt moved Martinez into scoring position before he took third base on a wild pitch.

That led to Coco Crisp, who with one out pinch-hit for Andrew Miller. As he has multiple times since joining the Indians, Crisp came through with the timely hit, sending a single to right field to score Martinez. Rajai Davis, who had walked, was thrown out at third base and Jason Kipnis grounded out to end the inning, but the damage was already done.

The Indians’ manufactured run was held up by Josh Tomlin, Miller, Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen.

Though the Cubs came close to answering. With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Jorge Soler hit a fly ball off Bryan Shaw down the right-field line. Lonnie Chisenhall wandered close to the wall along the line and misplayed it, allowing Soler to reach third as the tying run. Shaw rendered it moot by inducing Javier Baez to ground out to end the inning.

Dexter Fowler singled with two outs in the eighth, warranting the call for Cody Allen out of the bullpen for a four-out save. He faced Kris Bryant, the potential National League MVP, and struck him out to head to the ninth still clinging to a 1-0 lead.

The Cubs made one last run at it in the ninth. Anthony Rizzo led off with a single and was pinch-ran for by Chris Coghlan. Allen recorded two quick outs, including a ground ball that advanced Coghlan to second.

Facing Jason Heyward, Allen induced a ground ball that looked to end it, but Mike Napoli booted it to extend the game. With the winning runs on base, Allen struck out Javier Baez to win it, ending the nail-biter of a Game 3

The pitching staff has propped up the offense through most of October. That was never truer than in Friday night.

Tomlin delivered another strong outing to add to his quietly efficient postseason. He tossed 4 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing only two hits, one walk and striking out one. He also did it within the atmosphere of the first World Series game at Wrigley Field in 71 years and while pitching in front of his dad for the first time since his health scare in August.

Tomlin has now allowed three earned runs in 15 1/3 innings pitched this postseason for an ERA of 1.76.

The Indians had several scoring chances early in the game against Cubs starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks, who like Tomlin was proficient while relying on command and movement instead of velocity. Three times in the first five innings the Indians had at least two runners on, and all three times they came up empty.

Two singles in the first, two singles in the fourth and a bases loaded situation built on a single, a walk and a hit-by-pitch all went for naught, as both clubs struggled to find any offense or separation.

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Indians stay true to aggressive mantra in World Series; Terry Francona disagrees with DH rules

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 28, 2016

Indians Terry Francona doesn’t like to look ahead. He doesn’t like to talk in hypotheticals. He wants to look at every situation as it comes, taking it one task at a time. It’s the only productive way to assess most situations.

Francona was asked about some of his postseason philosophies back in September, before the Indians had clinched their division. It wasn’t a surprise that he refused to talk at length about them before the Indians had punched their ticket to October baseball. But Francona did offer one mantra that hasn’t ever changed: when he’s in a series, the object isn’t to play it safe and just try to extend a series or keep it close; it’s to win it.

Francona has stuck to that thinking this postseason, and certainly in this World Series. He’s wasted no time in bringing in Andrew Miller when the Indians have held a lead, which has pointed toward the newer line of thinking around baseball instead of waiting until the ninth to use a team’s best relief pitcher.

On Friday night, he put Carlos Santana in left field to try to keep his bat in the lineup. He was a bit nervous about the move. But beyond just baseball thinking, he didn’t want to come all the way to the World Series to hold back.

“We didn’t show up to keep the game close,” Francona said. “We’re trying to win. I think I said the [the other day] that we might have to be a little bit [creative]. … I think when it’s all said and done, if we’re going to lose, I’d rather do it knowing I didn’t [wuss] out. We didn’t come all this way to play it safe.”

AL to NL

The designated hitter rule has been one of the more talked-about subjects around baseball for quite some time, and whether it should exist in either league, both or just one like the current setup.

Francona wishes the American League representative wouldn’t have to change how they can make out their lineup in the World Series after six-plus months of operating under one set of rules. The AL team loses the DH and also has to send its pitchers to bat.

“I think they’ve done so many really good things, and I know [commissioner emeritus Bud Selig] is a lot responsible, this would be the one where I disagree,” Francona said. “I don’t think it makes it a bad game, things like that. I just don’t necessarily agree with this. I just think you set your team up the way you set it up and then you get to the most important games and you’re doing something different.”

Josh Tomlin might be the exception—he likes batting and had success earlier in the year in Cincinnati.

“I enjoy hitting. I enjoy trying to be a ballplayer,” said Tomlin, who played the infield in college. “It’s fun when you're in the National League and you enjoy everything that's going on. You actually get to go out there and try to impact the game on both sides of the ball, it's fun to me. I think we all take a little bit of pride in trying to get bunts down and move up runners and put up decent at-bats, even if it's a strikeout.”

The Indians will have an interesting scenario for Game 5, when Trevor Bauer and his stitched-up pinkie will have to go to the plate. The Indians are still unsure of what he’ll be able to do, if anything.

Bench coach Brad Mills likes the National League rules that harken back to the game’s early days. But the difference between leagues creates some problems.

“I’ve always liked the National League way of doing things,” Mills said. “That’s just how I am, I was always raised in the National League, being a player there, I managed in the National League. I kind of like the way all the quirks go. But I definitely see how when you’re used to playing one way and now all of a sudden you have to shift to another way, I totally get that and I’m on board with that train of thought.”

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Indians weighing Carlos Santana starting in LF; Cubs can’t do the same with Kyle Schwarber

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 27, 2016

The Indians’ defense in left field could be a bit bumpier—or better yet, windier—in Game 3 of the World Series Friday night, but it might be a bet they’re willing to make to keep Carlos Santana’s bat in the lineup.

Both the Indians and Cubs have looked at creative options in left field to keep all of their sluggers in the lineup. With the series shifting to Wrigley Field and thus National League rules for Games 3, 4 and 5, Santana and the Cubs’ Kyle Schwarber are suddenly without a spot in the order.

Santana has four innings of experience in the outfield at the major-league level in his career. Inserting him into left field in Game 3 of the World Series is a risky proposition. But’s a risk Indians manager Terry Francona might take.

“I have anxiety about it,” Francona said. “I don't know how else to say it and if he messes a ball up, I'll take responsibility because I don't think it's fair to put it on him. But you try to figure out, 'Ok, what's our best way to win?’ If we don't play him out there, that's the best way to have nobody second guessing me. I don't know if that's the best way to win, so that's probably the criteria is to try and put your team in the best position to win.”

Santana could have his hands full. Wrigley Field is known to be an adventure when the wind is blowing out toward the outfield. The forecast is calling for winds between 25-40 mph, which will be the Wrigley Field affect at its full power. It could make it an even more difficult undertaking.

Santana took fly balls in left field in Cleveland just before the World Series began. He also spent time with bench coach Brad Mills at Wrigley Field Thursday night during a workout.

“We’ve talked to him about seeing balls off the bat, being able to move with balls off the bat,” Mills said. “We might have to play him a maybe a little deeper or something along those lines, just to have him come in so reading the ball, he has more time to read the ball that way.”

The Indians haven’t made out their lineup for Game 3 yet, but Francona, Santana and Mills all talked about trying Santana in left field. It appears as though they’re leaning that way, though Francona mentioned that if Santana doesn’t believe he can do it, they won’t pull the trigger. To this point, Santana has said he’s willing to try.

“I'll be excited, because this will be my first time, especially in the World Series,” Santana said. “It's hard, but I'll be excited and happy for that, keeping me in the lineup.”

The Cubs, meanwhile, won’t be able to do the same with Schwarber, who returned for the World Series after tearing his ACL in April. The Cubs had wanted to keep his power bat in the lineup, especially after he drove in two runs in Game 2. But Schwarber wasn’t medically cleared to play in the outfield, meaning he’ll be regulated to pinch-hit duties until the series potentially returns to Cleveland.

The Indians don’t mind. Francona texted Cubs president Theo Epstein, joking, “I think you should be a little extra careful with him.”

The Cubs didn't have much of a choice. The Indians do, and it appears though they could be aggressive with it.

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World Series Game 2: Kyle Schwarber returns from injury to spark Cubs to 5-1 win over Indians

By Michael Beaven Published: October 27, 2016

CLEVELAND: The “remarkable” return of Kyle Schwarber continued Wednesday night in Game 2 of the World Series at Progressive Field.

Schwarber, who suffered a serious knee injury on April 7, is back and putting together quality at bats in October for the Chicago Cubs, a 5-1 winner over the host Indians. The result pulled the Cubs even with the Indians as the World Series transitions to Wrigley Field for Game 3 on Friday night in the Windy City.

“I’m living the dream,” Schwarber said. “We’re playing in the World Series, what else can you ask for? I’m just going to keep riding the wave till it ends.”

Schwarber, 23, contributed two hits and two runs batted in Wednesday as both the Cubs, Indians and the 38,172 spectators tried to stay warm on a chilly and rainy night.

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Cubs 5, Indians 1: Ryan Lewis’ 22 Walk-Off Thoughts on Trevor Bauer, Danny Salazar, Jason Kipnis

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 27, 2016

Here are 22 Walk-Off Thoughts after the Indians fell to the Chicago Cubs 5-1 in Game 2 to even the World Series 1-1.

1. After Corey Kluber’s performance in Game 1, Jake Arrieta evened the score in Game 2, taking a no-hitter into the sixth inning. No pitcher had taken a no-hitter deeper into a World Series game since 1969.

2. The story of the Indians’ offense this postseason hasn’t been an act of overpowering opposing pitchers. It’s been about just doing enough with some timely hitting to support a strong pitching staff. The Indians ran into a former Cy Young winner Wednesday night, and the offense ran cold. Jason Kipnis broke up the no-hit bid with a double to center field.

3. Said Kipnis, “I don’t want anybody to no-hit me in my backyard. Doesn’t matter if it’s the World Series or the regular season. He was sharp tonight. Some were bad at-bats, and probably my at-bats, and other times you just have to give credit. He painted and moved the ball around well and pitched a good game.”

4. But, it wasn’t a positive night for Kipnis. He committed two errors defensively, one that led to a run and one that denied Francisco Lindor of what would have been a sure-fire highlight-reel play.

5. It wasn’t a positive night for the Indians’ defense, period. The Indians had been fairly clean through the postseason, but Game 2 was sloppy. Kipnis’ two errors were compounded by Lonnie Chisenhall’s bad decision in the first inning to throw to second base instead of the cut-off man and then his trip later in the game that allowed Ben Zobrist to round second for a triple. For the first time in October, the Indians’ defense was a liability.

More from Marla Ridenour: Failure to execute winning formula costs Indians

6. Said Indians manager Terry Francona, “I think Lonnie thought he had a chance at second. Probably we were set up to go home. That's probably where the ball should have gone. I think Lonnie thought that the runner conceded the run and thought he had a legitimate chance to get him and actually came pretty close. … Yeah, we gave up nine hits, eight walks, two errors, and we only gave up five runs. We're probably pretty fortunate because there was traffic all night. For us to win, we generally need to play a clean game, and we didn't do that.”

7. Kipnis has been dealing with a low ankle sprain sustained during the celebration in Toronto. He says it wasn’t a factor in his play.

8. “No. I’m not going to use it as an excuse,” Kipnis said. “I can’t do that. That wouldn’t be right. I have it good enough, I have it taped up enough to move around. I should be making plays.”

9. Either way, Kipnis has been in a slump at the wrong time, and it’s come after one of his most consistent regular seasons.

10. “It’s frustrating. It’s obviously a frustrating time to be in a slump, when the team needs you the most. It’s nice to finally check in and get one hit and hopefully we can build some momentum off that. But we’re going to need to get more than just one hit if we’re going to help this offense go.”

11. The good news for the Indians is that Trevor Bauer’s pinkie didn’t force his early exit for a second time. The bad news was he still couldn’t complete four innings. Bauer went deep into the count with nearly every hitter and struggled to finish innings. It cost him in the third, when he was one strike away with an 0-2 count and ended up allowing a walk and two singles to put the Cubs up 2-0.

12. Said Francona, “They never let him settle into the game. You've got to give them a lot of credit. I thought in the first inning Rizzo had a really good at-bat. As a staff in general, we worked behind a lot tonight a lot more than is helpful. I think some of their hitters deserve credit for that, also. They didn't chase. They had a lot of deep counts. Shoot, I think it was until we got to Otero we didn't have anything less than 19 pitches for seven innings, that's tough.”

13. Bauer said after the game he had trouble finding the feel on his curveball. He ended up throwing some in the cage in-between innings. On such a cold night, he struggled with it and racked his pitch count up to 87.

14. “It’s tough on a cold night,” Bauer said. “There was no moisture in the air, really. It's slippery. It's hard to get a feel for it. I went up to the cage after the second inning and threw 20 or 30 of them and got the feel for it. I thought I was pretty good after that.”

15. The good news for the Indians is that Bauer got through his start and will be an option to pitch Game 5 in Chicago. But they will also need Bauer to find his feel for his final start of the season.

More: Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, Josh Tomlin to pitch on short rest

16. Game 2 was also the postseason debut of Danny Salazar, who allowed no hits but walked two in one inning of work. The reports were mostly positive, as he hit 95 on the radar gun.

17. Said Roberto Perez, “He was awesome. He threw strikes even though he walked two batters. He got two outs and he probably sat back a little bit, relaxed a little bit. But after that I thought he settled down again and went after hitters.”

18. Said Salazar, “I got nervous, the first time they said, ‘Oh, Danny. Go warm up.’ But after I threw like two pitches, it was just back to normal, feeling the way I used to feel when I was throwing my pen before the game.”

More from Marla Ridenour: Francisco Lindor finds his mentor in Michael Brantley

19. Salazar still has the potential to be available to start a game for the Indians should something unforeseen happened—pitching coach Mickey Callaway said he’s stretched out to throwing 65-70 pitches. But for now, it appears as though he’ll remain the bullpen.

20. Said Francona, “We pitched him to try to keep the game where it was and to shake off some rust. I think we were able to do that, because you could see that the ball came out really well, but he wasn’t commanding great. I think there’s potentially five games left. I think we’re probably better served using him out of the bullpen.”

21. Wednesday night was the Indians’ sloppiest game of the postseason. Now, the series turns to Wrigley Field, in which the Indians also have the dilemma of how to keep Carlos Santana’s bat in the lineup. He took some fly balls in left field Monday night but has all of four innings there in his major-league career to his name.

22. The Indians are going on the road in a tied series throwing pitchers on short rest starting in Game 4 against baseball’s best team this season. They’ve responded all October to their backs being against the wall and the odds being against them. That’s never been truer than now. In eleven of the last 14 instances with a 1-1 series, the winner of Game 3 went on the win it all in 11 of them.

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Indians offense stalls in 5-1 loss to Chicago Cubs in Game 2 loss; World Series tied 1-1

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 26, 2016

The Indians’ offense ran cold against Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jake Arrieta in a 5-1 loss in Game 2 Wednesday night that evened the World Series 1-1.

After the Indians enjoyed Corey Kluber’s strong outing in Game 1, Arrieta and the Cubs returned the favor in Game 2 to send the series to Chicago at a game apiece. It marked the first time this postseason the Indians haven’t led a series after Game 1. It was also their first postseason loss at Progressive Field.

Arrieta, last season’s National League Cy Young Award winner, took a no-hitter into the sixth inning that was broken up with a double to center field by Jason Kipnis. Arietta’s no-hitter bid of 5 1/3 innings was the longest in the World Series since 1969. By the time Kipnis ended it, the Cubs had already built a 5-0 lead.

Kipnis advanced to third on a groundout off the bat of Francisco Lindor and scored on a wild pitch to represent the Indians’ only offense of the night. Though Kipnis, dealing with a low ankle sprain, also committed two errors in the field.

Indians starting pitcher Trevor Bauer was able to stay away from any trouble with his pinkie finger, but he still wasn’t able to last long into the game. Bauer quickly racked up a high pitch count and was taken out after 3 2/3 innings and 87 pitches, the third shortest World Series start in Indians history.

The Cubs struck quickly in the first inning against Bauer. Kris Bryant singled with one out and Anthony Rizzo doubled to right field. Lonnie Chisenhall’s throw went to second base instead of the cut-off man, denying any potential play at the plate.

In the third, Bauer was one strike away from ending the inning but couldn’t escape it without damage. Bauer had two outs and an 0-2 count but then lost the strike zone and walked Rizzo. Ben Zobrist followed with a single to put runners on the corners and Kyle Schwarber ripped a single back up the middle to make it 2-0.

The Cubs pulled away in the fifth while the Indians still searched for their first hit. With Zach McAllister on the mound and Rizzo on first, Zobrist drove a ball to right field. Chisenhall slipped while trying to play the carom off the wall, giving Zobrist an RBI-triple. Schwarber then added his second RBI-single of the night, this one off Bryan Shaw. Shaw, with the bases loaded, later walked in a run on four pitches to extend the Cubs’ lead to 5-0.

A small sliver of good news with the entire series in view is that Bauer was able to make it through his start without his pinkie finger bleeding to the point of his having to be taken out of the game. It means he’ll still be slated to start Game 5 in Chicago on short rest.

Game 2 also featured the postseason debut of Danny Salazar, who didn't allow a hit but walked two in his first inning of work since straining his forearm in early September.

But after a postseason of the Indians having to punch back and battle to overcome obstacles, they’re in for their toughest fight yet as the series turns to Wrigley Field for Friday night’s Game 3.

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Indians set to throw Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin on short rest

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 26, 2016

One of the biggest questions surrounding the Indians in this World Series has been answered, barring something unforeseen.

On Wednesday, manager Terry Francona announced that the Indians are planning on bringing back Game 1 starting pitcher Corey Kluber on short rest to start Game 4 in Chicago. Kluber would then be in line to throw Game 7, if needed.

The move also points to Trevor Bauer (Games 2 and 5) and Josh Tomlin (Games 3 and 6) pitching on short rest as well. The Indians’ plan is to ride their three healthy starting pitchers through the World Series.

The ability to throw Kluber on short rest, which in turn set the rest of the setup in motion, became a reality when he only needed to throw 88 pitches in the Indians’ 6-0 win in Game 1 before handing the ball to Andrew Miller and Cody Allen.

“He’s all set to pitch,” Francona said. “That was probably Plan A. … Part of taking him out then was with that in mind, that you start getting deeper into the game, and if they mount a rally, getting out of that, you’re really exerting. … So we got him out of there. He knew why, and he’s ready to go.”

Kluber threw six scoreless innings and set a franchise record for strikeouts in a World Series game with nine. He’s been strong all October, allowing only two earned runs in 24 1/3 innings pitched. It would be the second time in his career he’s thrown on short rest, the first time coming in the Indians’ 5-1 loss in Game 4 of the ALCS to Toronto.

The other likely options for Game 4 were to start Ryan Merritt or Danny Salazar in Game 4. Merritt pitched well in his ALCS Game 5 start, sending the Indians to the World Series and just about earning him hero status in Cleveland. Salazar has been said to be available for 65-70 pitches or four innings but could be rusty.

Kluber has been the Indians’ workhorse and arguably the best starting pitcher in this postseason. And the club feels comfortable enough with Bauer and Tomlin that Francona wanted to hand the ball to Kluber up to three times.

“Finger aside, Trevor’s a guy that can pitch all the time,” Francona said. “Tomlin, we were a little concerned. He's been pitching great, but he doesn't have the biggest frame in the world. But he hasn't pitched that much, so I think we're okay.”

Nine up, nine down

Francona after Game 1 became the first manager in baseball history to win his first nine World Series games. His Boston Red Sox swept the St. Louis Cardinals in 2004 and then did the same against the Colorado Rockies in 2007.

“I think what it is is I've been fortunate to be around some really good players,” Francona said. “Baseball, your players are your players. You try not to mess them up, and you certainly want to use them where you think they can excel. But I just think I've been pretty fortunate. I'd be lying if I said something different.”

Earning miles

Kenny Lofton needed some help to get to Cleveland to throw out the first pitch before Game 1.

Lofton was put on standby at the airport and needed a seat. Ken Kostal, from Marblehead, Ohio, gave up his seat so Lofton could make it in time.

The Indians responded by saying on Twitter that they had hooked up Kostal up with two tickets to Game 6 in Cleveland.

Ratings gold

How many TV sets were tuned to the Indians’ Game 1 win? Technically more than there were for the Cavaliers’ Game 7 victory in June.

Per Crain’s Cleveland Business, Tuesday’s Game 1 drew a local rating of 46.5, besting all but one of the Cavs’ Finals games from the past two years and just beating Game 7’s 46.3 local rating, although that was likely lowered due to thousands watching in bars.

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Game 2 of World Series must go nine innings, MLB executive says

By Marla Ridenour Published: October 26, 2016

As of 4:30 p.m., Major League Baseball planned to start Game 2 of the World Series on time Wednesday night at 7:08 p.m.

But Peter Woodfork, senior vice president of baseball operations for MLB, said the game must go nine innings, per a rules change after the 2008 season. If play between the Indians and Chicago Cubs is suspended, it would resume at an undetermined time on Thursday.

The start time was moved up from 8:08 p.m. after Game 1 due to rain that is forecast to progressively worsen. While Woodfork said it has already rained harder at Progressive Field that was expected, the field is draining well and a drizzle shouldn't change the start time.

"Right now I think the plan is to play," Woodfork said. "We'll take all the information we get over the next two hours. We won't make a final decision until we need to get starters ready to pitch, which is 6, 6:15. Communicate with both clubs and try to set up a situation where we can play nine innings and get the game in."

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Musician releases song celebrating the Cleveland Indians and lifting the Curse of Rocky Colavito

By Dan Kadar Published: October 26, 2016
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If you're old enough, you probably remember the songs from 1980s dedicated to the Cleveland Browns. There was songs like "Bernie, Bernie," which riffed off the classic "Louie, Louie." They were kind of corny, but kind of great and fully in tribute to the popular team at the time.

With the Cleveland Indians in the World Series and on top of the sports universe, musicians could turn their attention to the Tribe. Cleveland's own Neil Giraldo is already getting in on the fun. The guitarist and producer (and husband of Pat Benatar) reunited with his Cleveland band Thrills and Company to record "Liftin' the Curse of the Rock," which is all about the Indians.

The song is all about the Indians being underdogs and lifting the supposed Curse of Rocky Colavito. Listen to a snippet of it below, via Geraldo's Facebook page and iTunes.

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Andrew Miller works around bases loaded jam to help Indians defeat Cubs 6-0 in World Series opener

By Michael Beaven Published: October 26, 2016

By Michael Beaven

Beacon Journal sports writer

CLEVELAND: The slider and fastball were not quite on point on a consistent basis Tuesday night for Indians reliever Andrew Miller.

For one outing, the usually dominant Miller looked human.

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Indians 6, Cubs 0: Ryan Lewis’ 21 Walk-Off Thoughts on Corey Kluber, Roberto Perez, Andrew Miller

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 26, 2016

Here are 21 Walk-Off Thoughts after the Indians beat the Chicago Cubs 6-0 to take a 1-0 lead in the World Series.

1. This team just keeps on rolling. And the club that wasn’t supposed to do anything of note in October is now three wins away from winning it all.

2. Corey Kluber and Jon Lester each entered this game with sub-1.00 ERAs in October. They’ve been nearly untouchable. One continued that streak Tuesday night, one didn’t, and the Indians have their first series lead since 1948.

3. Kluber was dominant and set some records. He broke the Indians’ franchise record for strikeouts in a World Series game with nine. He also became the first pitcher in World Series history to strike out eight hitters within the first three innings.

4. On the game’s biggest stage, Kluber responded and then some with one of the best pitching performances in franchise history.

5. “I think every young pitcher, even every professional pitcher, should watch him pitch,” said Andrew Miller. “It’s just a treat. He’s so good. The way he can manipulate the ball is incredible. We’re really lucky to have him on our side because he’s our horse. I’m glad he was able to go out there and set the tone of this series, because that’s big.”

More: Trevor Bauer to start Game 2; Carlos Santana a consideration in left field

6. Six of Kluber’s nine strikeouts came via his two-seamer, which is the same pitch that Trevor Bauer before the game said he loved. That proved to be prophetic, because the Cubs couldn’t hit it Tuesday night.

7. Said Miller, “You could go down the list of pitches he’s got. You pick game-to-game, sometimes you look back and say it was the curveball, it was the two-seamer, it was the cutter, whatever it was. His command is just incredible. His ability to keep guys off balance and off guard is second to none, and he’s got a Cy Young on the mantle to back it up.”

8. Kluber threw 88 pitches, meaning he probably had some left in the tank. Indians manager Terry Francona admitted as much after the game, but they had Miller ready to go. In this sense, Game 1 worked just about perfectly in that Kluber has become even more of an option to start on short rest in Game 4, should the Indians choose to go that route over Ryan Merritt or Danny Salazar.

More from Marla Ridenour: Corey Kluber picks up 'Cleveland Against the World' title torch

9. Said Francona, “You know, you start getting up towards 90, he was going through the middle of the order, that's when you really have to exert. And because we had Miller hot, I thought well, I guess, yeah, you could have your cake and eat it. I guess that is true, yeah, because we're planning on bringing him back. So I didn't want to overextend him.”

10. That’s not a declaration that Kluber would start Game 4 on short rest, but it seems as though that could be the leading option and things could be trending that way. He’s been so dominant this October that it’s hard to argue with that logic.

11. Oh, what a night it was for Roberto Perez. Similar to how Jose Ramirez was viewed as arguably the team’s MVP in the regular season, Perez is having a similar postseason. He’s given the club a value far greater than expected and is a major reason why they’re in the World Series and now ahead 1-0.

12. Perez has guided a banged-up pitching staff to one of the better postseasons as a team in a long time. Whatever offense he contributes is normally just a bonus. In Game 1, he gave a lot.

13. Perez drilled a solo home run off Jon Lester that was a bullet to left field. It had a exit velo of 113 mph, his hardest-hit ball of the season. In the eighth, he crushed a no-doubter three-run shot that made it 6-0.

More from Marla Ridenour: Roberto Perez's two home runs a major step in road back from injury

14. He became the first Indians hitter to blast two home runs in a World Series game—Roberto Perez! He also became the first No. 9 hitter with a multi-home run game in World Series history. He’s applauded for his defense and how he handles the pitching staff on a routine basis. In Game 1, he brought the bat as well.

15. And he also made Francisco Lindor (who had a three-hit game) cry. Said Lindor, “I told him I was proud, how much he’s helping us win. I keep telling him every time, you want to make a name, this is where you do it. He’s stepping up huge. I told him, ‘I’m proud of you man. I’m proud of you.’ I even thanked him. Because the way that he’s doing it for his family, for his city and for Puerto Rico, it’s huge. I almost cried when he hit the home run. He’s one of my buddies on the team. I’m just super happy, super excited for him and his family.”

16. Andrew Miller has been the Indians’ MVP this postseason. Perez hasn’t been far behind. Trevor Bauer said so before the series, before arguably the best offensive game of Perez’s career. The Indians hope to have Yan Gomes fully healthy next season, but Perez is certainly making his case as the best all-around catcher on the roster.

17. Miller, meanwhile, had the same end result but with a little more work attached. Twice, he ran into trouble and twice returned to his untouchable self and escaped the inning. He worked out of a bases-loaded and no outs situation in the seventh, even overcoming a mental lapse on the part of Rajai Davis on what should have been a double play. In the eighth, that trademarked slider that almost seems unfair to hitters kept the Cubs scoreless again.

18. Miller hopes to be sharper in the rest of the series, which is setting the bar to a level very few pitchers in baseball can reach. Said Miller, “It was a grind. I think I can be better than I was but you attribute it to them, the at-bats they put together. I felt like I had some opportunities I just missed on. That’s a credit to their ability to take some pitches and their preparation. We got it done, that’s all that matters. We like where we’re at. Obviously Corey was incredible tonight. I think Roberto Perez was the star of the game. It doesn’t matter how you get there at this point, just try to win games.”

19. Miller threw 46 pitches, which is a fair amount. But on whether he’ll be available in Game 2, his answer was pretty simple: He’s not missing these games.

20. Said Miller, “It’s the World Series. I’ll be ready. I’m going to take advantage of the staff we have here and all the gadgetry we have in the training room to feel good tomorrow. But i’m available. There's no question we're ready to go. The most we can play is six more games and I’l find a way to be a part of them.”

21. The winner of Game 1 has won the last six World Series and 12 of the last 13. If Bauer’s finger can hold up and whether Josh Tomlin can continue his hot streak are valid question marks. But nothing has gotten in their way so far. Tuesday night, between the Cavaliers getting their rings and the Indians hosting their first ever World Series Game 1 was one for the record books.

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Two home runs a major step on Indians catcher Roberto Perez's road back from injury

By Marla Ridenour Published: October 26, 2016

CLEVELAND: When he broke his right thumb in April, Indians catcher Roberto Perez might have felt like his 2016 season was wasted.

But he may be on an emotional path to redemption and stardom in the playoffs.

Perez became the first Indians player to hit two home runs in one World Series game and the first in the majors since Anaheim's Troy Glaus in 2002 as the Indians turned back the Chicago Cubs 6-0 in Game 1 Tuesday night at Progressive Field.
Perez's solo shot to left field in the fourth inning off left-hander Jon Lester gave the Tribe a 3-0 lead. Perez put the game away with a three-run blast in the eighth when right-hander Hector Rondon hung a slider.

"I don't think I've ever had a night like that," Perez said.

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Corey Kluber dominates, Roberto Perez has multi-HR night to take Game 1 of World Series 6-0 vs Cubs

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 25, 2016

Corey Kluber took his brilliance on the mound to a new level on the game’s biggest stage and Roberto Perez blasted his way to a multi-home run night, leading the Indians to a 6-0 win against the Chicago Cubs to take a 1-0 lead in the World Series.

Kluber was dominant, putting together one of the best postseason outings in franchise history and racking up strikeouts at a historical rate. In the biggest start of his carer, Kluber threw six scoreless innings while allowing only four hits.

He also struck out nine hitters, an Indians record for a single game in the World Series. He was particularly untouchable early, setting a new World Series record by striking out eight hitters within the first three innings. The previous record was seven, accomplished by Bob Gibson, Orlando Hernandez and Randy Johnson.

Kluber was given an early lead as he worked his way into the history books. The Indians’ offense knocked Cubs Game 1 starting pitcher Jon Lester around early while he struggled with the strike zone. With two outs in the first inning, Francisco Lindor (three hits) singled up the middle. Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana each followed with walks to load the bases.

Jose Ramirez (three hits) gave the Indians the lead with a dribbler up the third-base line that ended up in the perfect spot to which Kris Bryant had no play at any base. Lester then hit Brandon Guyer with a pitch to bring in a second run.

Lester had allowed two earned runs in the entire postseason leading up to Game 1. The Indians matched that in the first inning and then beat it in the fourth, when Roberto Perez hit a laser of a home run that just cleared the wall in left field to extend their lead to 3-0. Perez wasn’t done at the plate.

Andrew Miller relieved Kluber in the seventh with a runner on first and immediately ran into trouble. Miller walked Kyle Schwarber and then allowed a single to Javier Baez to load the bases with nobody out, making it possible for one swing to turn the tide.

Wilson Contreras hit a shallow fly ball to center field that was caught by Davis, who made the out but missed Schwarber straying off second base for what would have been an easy double play. It was no matter. Miller, the ALCS MVP, rebounded to strike out Addison Russell on three pitches. Then, with a full count to David Ross and runners on the move, Miller struck him out as well to end the inning and hold the Indians’ 3-0 advantage.

Miller worked out of trouble again in the eighth. Bryant and Ben Zobrist singled to put runners on the corners with two outs and allow Schwarber to represent the tying run. Again, Miller’s trademarked slider ended the inning and the threat, and he added two more scoreless innings to his trade-validating October.

In the bottom of the eighth, Perez added some more muscle. Normally a defensive-first catcher, Perez crushed his second home run of the night to left field, a three-run shot that put the Indians up 6-0 and all but ended the game. Perez became the first Indians player to hit two home runs in a single World Series game.

And, it all helped to give the Indians their first lead within a World Series since 1948, the last time they won it all.

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Indians fan Tom Hanks goes head-to-head with Cubs fan Stephen Colbert on The Late Show

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 25, 2016

Tom Hanks has made his World Series loyalties well known—he’s all in for the Tribe.

As Hanks signed off on Saturday Night Live this week, he added a “Go Tribe” after naming all those who were a part of the show.

Then, on Monday night, he went head-to-head with noted Cubs fan Stephen Colbert on The Late Show. Below is the video.

Hanks’ career in large part began in Cleveland, and he’s held onto the city with fondness ever since. This week, he’s joined the community of Indians fans hoping to see their first World Series title since 1948.

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Leading up to the World Series, Tom Hanks reaffirms love for the Cleveland Indians on 'Colbert'

By Dan Kadar Published: October 25, 2016
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Tom Hanks' adoration for the Cleveland Indians extends beyond giving the Tribe a shout on Saturday Night Live.

Hanks was a guest on Late Night with Stephen Colbert on Monday, and got into it with the Cubs-loving Colbert. Even though the bad luck Cubs are getting much of the attention leading up to Game 1 tonight, Hanks doubled down on the Indians.

"You can all stick your pins in me right now," Hanks said. "I know the entire world, and three-legged dogs and orphan children are rooting for the Chicago Cubs. I realize that, but you do not do three long, hot summers Shakespeare in Cleveland blowing time watching the Cleveland Indians play at a park that I swear was called at the time was called Cleveland Municipal Lakefront Stadium.

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Indians continue to shrug off underdog label heading into World Series

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 24, 2016

Just as they have all October, the Indians will enter yet another series as the underdog when they meet the Chicago Cubs in Game 1 of the World Series Tuesday night.

It’s something the Indians have grown accustomed to, being expected to fall short each step of the way. As the odds continued to be stacked against them, the Indians have seemingly gotten better, responding to each obstacle with more resiliency.

It’s reached the point that they might like it.

“I think we've embraced it pretty well. I think we enjoy it,” said Cody Allen. “But those are opinions and projections from outside this clubhouse and we can't worry about that stuff. I believe there's 25 guys in here that don't think we're underdogs, that believe in every single guy in this room. … But if we want to be labeled as the underdogs, we're fine with that.”

Per Bovada, the Indians’ odds to win the World Series are worse than they were against the Boston Red Sox or Toronto Blue Jays. The Cubs (10/19) are opening as nearly a 2/1 favorite over the Indians (17/10).

The Indians don’t necessarily see it like that. Or, at least, they have found a comfort within their own clubhouse despite the opinions of those outside of it.

“We believe that if we go out there and play the game the right way, play as a team like we've done, we can win a game on any night,” said Mike Napoli. “We've shown in the past two series we can't be taken lightly and how we do play as a team. We're a confident group.”

There are valid reasons as to why the Cubs are favored. Namely, that they won a league-best 103 games with a rock-solid club while the Indians have dealt with several significant blows around the roster, namely to the pitching staff. The Indians weren’t supposed to advance but did twice, earning the benefit of the doubt. They might not be picked to win the series, but they can’t be counted out, either.

Still, the Cubs being the most-talked-about team in the league won’t stop now that they are close to ending one of the most well-known droughts in sports. But that won’t bother the Indians.

“We haven't been talked about all year, which is fine for us,” Allen said. “They deserve that right. They won 103 games in the regular season, that's an extremely talented group over there. They deserve everything they've gotten to this point. They're a tough assignment, a tough task and we're looking forward to it.”

Then again, Cleveland has, for the most part, always been the underdog, one way or another. It’s essentially built into the fabric of Cleveland sports. Perhaps it’s nothing new.

“I've never seen Cleveland be the overdog,” said Sandy Alomar, current first base coach and formerly one of the leaders on the 90’s Indians teams that twice reached the World Series. “The only time we were the overdog was against the Braves [in 1995] and you see what happens when you run into four quality starters. Most of the time in postseason it's mostly pitching and defense. You get a couple runs and hopefully your bullpen can hold it up. We haven't scored that many runs, but our pitching has been remarkable and we've been getting some timely hitting.”

There’s also some recent history going against the Indians, who had the longer layoff of five days before Tuesday’s Game 1. The Cubs’ layoff was only two days. The last seven teams to have the longer layoff ended up losing the World Series.

To combat any rust, the Indians have been active with live batting practice and simulated games. Every pitcher except for Andrew Miller and Allen have thrown, and just about every hitter has seen some pitching.

“We're still working and doing stuff to keep us fresh, but at the same time this will give us time to get some rest, any of the nicks and pains we have we can get treatment,” said Napoli. “We're going to go into this thing feeling pretty good. We're taking the right steps to stay fresh.”

Timing is a main concern.

“When you’re used to playing every single day for the last 200-something days, you lose a little bit of that timing, that feel, that crispness,” said Chris Gimenez. “It’s your timing on a breaking ball or a fastball, that’s how it affects you. You’d think as a player you’d love these days off but once you get to this point, your body is so tired it almost goes into survival mode and you know when you’re ready to go.”

In many ways, things are going against the Indians, just as they have all October. Though it’s only seemed to give them more fuel to this point.

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Danny Salazar makes Indians’ World Series roster; Jason Kipnis expects to play Game 1

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 24, 2016

Danny Salazar makes Indians’ World Series roster; Jason Kipnis expects to play Game 1; First pitches announced

The Indians are still unsure as to how exactly he might be used, but All-Star pitcher Danny Salazar is back.

Salazar was informed on Monday that he was being added to the Indians’ World Series roster. Cody Anderson will not be on the roster.

“Excited. I got really excited,” Salazar said of learning the news. “I’m just really happy to be able to throw a ball without any type of soreness.”

Salazar has missed the entire postseason up to this point dealing with a strained forearm. He threw a three-inning simulated game Sunday night with positive results. It’s possible that Salazar could be the Indians’ Game 4 starting pitcher in Chicago. He could also be another option out of the bullpen.

“It’s really strong,” he said of his arm. “I don’t have any type of things bothering me. I feel really strong every time I go out there. Throwing the sim games, the rest in between innings, every time I was coming back, I was feeling really strong.”

Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway said Salazar is built up to throw 65-70 pitches, or about four innings. It would be a start with a length similar to what Ryan Merritt gave the Indians in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series. Salazar has ditched his curveball, throwing primarily his fastball and changeup with a couple of sliders.

“The velo was respectable at the beginning, but the last inning he was up there topping out at 97,” Callaway said. “When you're doing that in a sim game, that's pretty good. That's hard to do in a sim game. His stuff his there. … I suspect that he's going to have full arsenal whenever he goes out there and pitches.”

Ryan Merritt is also on the World Series roster, giving the Indians additional options for Game 4 or for some length out of the bullpen. Francona indicated that Game 4 could feature a combination of Merritt and Salazar, as neither can pitch a full game.

Although, considering the craziness before the ALCS, the Indians haven’t sent in the official roster yet.

“Nothing's official, so if we have another drone incident or anything with model airplanes or anything, we reserve the right till we have to turn it in,” Francona said.

Hurt wheel

Jason Kipnis expects to be ready for Game 1 despite the low ankle sprain he sustained while celebrating on the field in Toronto.

Kipnis took part in the simulated game Sunday night and ran the bases on Monday.

“I should be good. We're feeling good,” Kipnis said. “We’re progressing the way we had hoped. Right now, we're just getting out the swelling, getting range of motion back. If we can get it to where I can move around, the doctors have got stuff that can take pain away. I'll be all right [Tuesday] night.”

Francona added that Kipnis might not be at 100 percent, but that it wouldn’t get in the way of his status in the starting lineup.

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Kenny Lofton, Carlos Baerga to throw out first pitches at World Series

By Marla Ridenour Published: October 24, 2016
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A fan campaign wasn't enough to persuade Major League Baseball  to select actor Charlie Sheen to throw out the first pitch in Tuesday night's Game 1 of the World Series between the Indians and Cubs at Progressive Field.

The Indians announced via Twitter Monday that Kenny Lofton will do the honors for Game 1 and Carlos Baerga for Game 2. Both are members of the Indians Hall of Fame and starred on the 1995 team that reached the World Series, falling to the Atlanta Braves in six games.

Baerga led the Tribe in hits that season with 175, Lofton was No. 1 in stolen bases with 54.

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Jason Kipnis has ankle sprain from celebrating; Danny Salazar throws sim game

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 23, 2016

Sometimes, celebrating is a contact sport. And because of it, Jason Kipnis is currently dealing with a sprained left ankle.

As the Indians clinched their spot in the World Series in Toronto, Kipnis went to embrace Francisco Lindor but accidentally stepped on his foot. Kipnis rolled his ankle, but it was called a “low” ankle sprain by Indians manager Terry Francona on Sunday. Kipnis is expected to be ready for Tuesday night’s Game 1.

“Some of the guys had a tough time getting through the celebration,” Francona said. “The good part is it’s not a high ankle sprain. You hear that all the time and I never know what it means but it doesn’t sound good. He’s going to be OK. Thankfully we had some time off, which is good. He’s not moving yet like he can, but I’m guessing with another 48 hours and 37,000 screaming fans, I bet he’ll be OK.”

Kipnis tweeted a picture of the moment he stepped on Lindor’s foot with a caption saying he should be “good to go” by Tuesday.

Three innings

Indians pitcher Danny Salazar threw a simulated game in Cleveland on Sunday. He’s still not throwing his curveball but has been able to “let it go” a bit more. He remains a possible option for the Indians’ World Series roster, either as a starter or reliever.

It took time for Salazar to trust his throwing motion enough to not hold back.

“I was kind of scared to let it go,” Salazar said. “Even though I wasn’t feeling any pain, I was saying to myself, ‘OK, I’m going to let it go, this one.’ But then when I was doing my motion, I was holding back. In Toronto, it was different. It didn’t hurt the first time, so it didn’t hurt the second time. I was letting go really good. It feels good.”

The Indians have wanted to make sure Salazar was progressing with an eye on his long-term health. It appears as though he’s now under serious consideration for also making the roster, potentially as a Game 4 starting pitcher or an option out of the bullpen.

“We want to make sure that he’s 100 percent healthy. Then if he shows that, Ok, then you take it another couple steps,” Francona said. “Is he commanding? Can he help you win? Can he pitch an inning? Can he pitch two? What role can he fill? Because of his side day the other day, it’s progressed to the point now where I think we need to take a good, long look, because he looks pretty healthy. So that’s what we’ll do.”

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Indians to face Chicago Cubs in 2016 World Series

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 22, 2016

The World Series is set. The Indians will go head-to-head with the Chicago Cubs.

The Cubs were the best team in baseball this season, owning a 103-58 record and capturing the attention of the entire baseball world as they try to end a title drought that dates back to 1908. Not that Cleveland sports fans aren’t familiar with waiting on a title chance.

Arguably the most storied losing streak in sports will create a ratings explosion for the networks. It’s the lovable losers from Chicago against the beat-up underdogs from Cleveland.

The Cubs’ lineup is led by MVP candidates Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, as well as a wealth of young talent that includes Javier Baez and Addison Russell and veterans such as Ben Zobrist, Dexter Fowler and Jason Heyward. The Cubs’ starting rotation offers little relief with Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks all taking the ball. And while the Indians acquired Andrew Miller from the New York Yankees’ bullpen, the Cubs took Aroldis Chapman and his 103-mph fastball.

The Indians, once again, will be the underdogs. See you Tuesday night.

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Indians Danny Salazar ‘ready to pitch’; Trevor Bauer not concerned with injured finger

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 21, 2016

Indians pitcher Danny Salazar continues to draw nearer to his return to the mound. Now at the end of the postseason line, he could be an option for the World Series roster.

Salazar, dealing with a stained forearm, threw in the batting cage on Thursday and is slated to throw roughly three innings in a simulated game either Saturday or Sunday. He also threw off a mound in Toronto.
Indians manager Terry Francona has been pleased with how he’s looked recently, in that Salazar hasn’t been having to hold back.

He let it go, which is good,” Francona said. “He really let it go and threw his changeup with some arm speed. So we’ll see how the next one goes.”

Salazar hasn’t been throwing his curveball through October, as it was putting additional stress on his forearm. When asked if he was still staying away from that pitch, Francona said, “No, I think he’s ready to pitch.”

He could be an option for the Indians as a starting pitcher if he’s lengthened out enough to throw 3-4 innings, or he could come out of the bullpen. Regardless, the club hopes he’ll be at least available to be an option.

“I think the good news is if Danny pitches and he pitches healthy and he’s throwing the ball over the plate, we have a really good pitcher for however amount of innings he’s built up for, which can potentially help us,” Francona said.

1-7

Trevor Bauer’s American League Championship experience was ended in less than an inning when his pinkie finger began dripping blood.

The Indians now can only hope that the additional time between Game 3 of the ALDS and whenever he is slated to start in the World Series is enough for the laceration to heal enough to hold up over a complete start.

Bauer has been playing catch and working with weighted balls as he normally would in-between starts. He joked on Friday that he’s be available Game 1—as well as Games 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7.

“That would be a little better than the last series,” answered Francona with a laugh.

The club is still working to ensure it would be healed. Dr. Tom Graham, who’s been working with Bauer since the injury just before game 1 of the ALCS, is suturing part of the wound.

“He [Dr. Graham] thinks it’s healing really good. There’s just that one area down at the bottom where the skin isn’t quite as healthy as the rest of it. So he’s going to suture it back up so it won’t bleed. That’s really the only issue. And he’s very confident that this is not going to be an issue.”

If Bauer pitches in Games 3, 4, or 5, it would take place in a National League stadium, requiring him to hit. Swinging a bat could open the wound and end his outing. But hitting has never really been an option for Bauer anyway.

“I can't hit without the finger [injury],” Bauer said. “That's not going to be an issue. I couldn't Little League pitching. I'm certainly not going to hit World Series pitching.”

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Indians 3, Blue Jays 0: Ryan Lewis’ 27 Walk-Off Thoughts on Ryan Merritt, a trip to the World Series

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 20, 2016

Here are 27 walk-Off Thoughts on the Indians’ 3-0 win against the Toronto Blue Jays to take the American League Championship Series 4-1.

1. The Indians are going to the World Series. Though the injuries, the setbacks, the odds piled against them, this team has earned the benefit of the doubt. They just keep winning, and it’s been quite a postseason run—truly one for the ages.

2. The way the Indians punched their ticket to the World Series was fitting. A no-name starting pitcher takes the mound because of another injury, this one being rather bizarre. The bullpen takes over and delivers 4 2/3 scoreless innings, still holding as perhaps the most dominant unit in baseball. And the offense did enough, coming through early and adding on with a couple home runs.

3. These Indians are far from healthy and far from playing with a full deck. But they’ve taken down every wall in front of them so far. It’s been 19 years since the Indians were in the World Series. And it’s amazing, given all the circumstances, that this is the team to break that slump.

4. Said Corey Kluber, “It is kind of fitting. We’ve had a fair amount of injuries and things to overcome, but I think the biggest part of it is nobody has shied away from the challenges that we’ve faced, whether it would be losing one of our best hitters or losing guys out of the rotation. It speaks to the kinds of guys we have. Nobody is backing down from anything. Everybody is just trying to go out there and do their jobs. He knew today that his job was to go out there and fill up the zone and not beat himself and he did just that. He pretty much dominated.”

5. Ryan Merritt gave one of the gutsier postseason performances in recent memory. He wasn’t even supposed to be on the ALCS roster at all. Only a few weeks ago he was throwing in Arizona just to stay extended in case something drastic happened. It did, thanks to Trevor Bauer’s drone. Only a week or so removed from throwing on one of the auxiliary fields in Arizona, Merritt took the mound on the national stage in Game 5 of the ALCS in the Rogers Centre and was nothing short of terrific.



6. Jose Bautista said before the game that Merritt would be shaking in his boots. That certainly wasn’t the case. The kid delivered.

7. He was perfect through three and lasted 4 1/3 innings. It was everything the Indians could have asked from him and more. And it’s a pitching performance that won’t soon be forgotten in franchise lore, as Merritt pitched well enough to get to the bullpen with a lead—and that’s what sent the Indians to the World Series Wednesday night.

8. Said Josh Tomlin, “I loved it. I loved every second of it. I told Mickey that I’m on the edge of my set. I’m up cheering for him every pitch that he made, because I realize how tough it is for guys like us to do what he just did. But, you’ve got to give credit where credit’s due. He stuck to a game plan and he executed pitches. He didn’t get rattled at all. He showed big heart, is the word I can say right now. He went out there and did what he was capable of doing. He didn’t try to go out there and try to do anything more because it’s a postseason game, because he was facing eight righties in the lineup. He went out there and, ‘You know what? I’m going to treat it as another game and go out there and try to execute pitches and compete.’ When you get guys like that, we have 25 guys like that right now, that just go out  there and compete and do the things we’re doing. It’s a pretty special thing.”

9. Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway used the word “unflappable,” saying, “I figured it before the game. And just watching him warm up, I came in and told Tito, I said, ‘He’s going to pitch good. He’s keeping the ball down. Throwing exactly where he wants to.’ He’s kind of unflappable. He’s the unflappable Ryan Merritt. He probably doesn’t even know their names. He did great.”

10. Said Dan Otero on Merritt, “What he did was unreal. And we’ve gone through a lot of injuries and different adversities throughout these last couple months. But everybody in this clubhouse, all 25 guys, and all the coaching members and training staff, knew that he was going to do what he did tonight. We knew he wasn’t going to be unnerved by the challenge at hand and the fans weren’t going to get to him, he was just going to go about his business and he was able to make good pitches and he got us into the fifth inning which probably nobody thought he could do, so it was unbelievable.”

11. It seemed to be a running joke that Merritt wasn’t into baseball history, or that he even knew what was going on. He’s just this wide-eyed kid from Texas who took the mound in Game 5 of the ALCS against one of the better lineups in baseball and threw a gem out of nowhere. After all, he was called up in May and it took a week for him to even get into a game. All he did was show up when the lights were brightest and respond in a big way.

12. And how new was he? Indians owner Paul Dolan was in the clubhouse trying to find Merritt, because he had never met him.

13. He’s just glad the Indians called him in Arizona. Said Merritt, “It's crazy. It's awesome that I'm here. I'm glad they called me and that they showed that they had trust in me to come out here and give them a chance to win a game, especially at this point in the season. It's tough for them to pick a guy and trust him to go out there that hasn't had much experience to go out there and win for them. So it's an honor, really, just to be able to have that opportunity to go out and try to win.”

14. Andrew Miller took home the ALCS MVP, essentially because he nearly struck out every hitter he faced and pitched multiple innings when he took the mound. Miller has put himself in the conversation as the best or, at the least, one of the very best relievers in baseball. He’s also validated the Indians’ trade for him several times over.

15. Said Dolan on the cost, “We gave up a lot, but it’s all about winning. And we were positioned to win this year and it’s very clear now that Andrew Miller was the big difference in terms of getting us there, because of what he meant to our pitching staff and our bullpen, particularly. Yeah, years from now I suspect we’ll look at some of these guys that we traded and say, ‘Why did we trade them?’ But then we’ll look at the couple trophies we have and we’ll know why we did it.”

16. The Indians’ acquisition of Miller has given them one of the best weapons in baseball, and Francona has utilized him aggressively and flawlessly. And, without it, the Indians might have been doomed.

17. One of the biggest pitches of the game was Miller’s first. He entered with one out and Josh Donaldson up to bat, with Edwin Encarnacion on deck. Not only did he not labor through the inning to escape with their lead in-tact, he needed only one pitch to induce an inning-ending double play against one of the best hitters in baseball.

18. That one pitch resulting in two outs set up the rest of the night. Miller could come out for the seventh effectively like he was just coming out of the bullpen and get through the seventh and eighth without much trouble.

19. This postseason run has been wild enough that some members of the team think it ought to be movie material. Merritt’s role in it all clinched it.

20. Here’s Jason Kipnis: “With all of the stuff that’s happened with us all year, first, we’re like, ‘There should be a movie made about this team. This team. Not the old Major League. There should be a movie.’ Kluber in a clinch game would just make too much sense. That’s why we lost yesterday. Having a guy in his second career start would be perfect for the movie. That’s why this was going to work out in our favor. That literally was talked about before the game. Guys had a lot of support for Merritt. He had a good start under his belt. He had the mystery of the unknown playing in his favor. He did an unbelievable job.”

21. Who would play Kipnis in that movie? Kipnis: “Someone really good-looking. … Channing Tatum.”

22. It’s not how the Indians envisioned they might get to the World Series. It’s not how anyone envisioned the Indians might get to the World Series.

23. But here they are, the last American League team standing and the one most thought would be done in by the Red Sox a couple weeks ago.

24. Said Chris Antonetti, “I think our guys, from the start of the year really, focused on who was here and how do we find a way to win that night’s game. They’ve overcome a lot of adversity. It’s certainly not the script we would have written at the start of the year, but to be here standing here took a collective effort by a great team with a great leader in Tito, the coaching staff, and everyone throughout the organization, our player development group, our scouting group, our coaches, our trainers, strength and conditioning coaches, everyone.”

25. The Cavaliers’ title run was unbelievable because so many in Cleveland still thought the city’s sports teams were cursed, and they were destined to lose. This Indians’ run has been unbelievable, but it’s because of the circumstances of their run and the crucial pieces they’re currently missing.

26. On Tuesday night, the Cavaliers unveil their World Championship banner and the Indians will take the field for Game 1 of the World Series in neighboring buildings. Being a Cleveland sports fan certainly feels different in 2016.

27. The Indians have held champagne celebrations in Detroit, Boston and Toronto. And they just keep beating the odds.

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LeBron James, Kevin Love tweet congratulations to the World Series-bound Cleveland Indians

By Ohio.com staff Published: October 19, 2016

We are World Series bound! #RallyTogether pic.twitter.com/NDq37oF45f

 

Who's excited that the Cleveland Indians are in the World Series? Everyone that's who. (Ok. Maybe not everyone, but you know what we mean.)  But here are a few people who are actually happy for the Tribe and tweeted about it!  

LeBron James

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Indians’ Ryan Merritt, bullpen down Blue Jays 3-0 to win ALCS 4-1, clinch spot in World Series

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 19, 2016
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The Indians are headed to the World Series for the first time in 19 years.

Rookie pitcher Ryan Merritt was practically conjured out of thin air to deliver one of gutsiest starts in recent postseason memory and the bullpen was suffocating yet again, as the Indians beat the Toronto Blue Jays 3-0 in Game 5 Wednesday night at the Rogers Centre to win the American League Championship Series 4-1.

They’ll await either the Los Angeles Dodgers or Chicago Cubs in the World Series. Game 1 will be Oct. 25 at Progressive Field.

The team that wasn't supposed to do anything in October after being ravaged by injuries is now four wins away from joining the Cavaliers in giving the city of Cleveland a championship parade in 2016. After being counted out by most of the baseball world, the Indians have their first American League pennant since 1997.

Merritt, the least-experienced starting pitcher in LCS history with one career start and 11 total  innings prior to the postseason, mowed through the dangerous Blue Jays’ lineup. He was perfect through three innings and allowed only two hits—one of them being a bloop single—before being taken out after 4 1/3 scoreless innings. It was everything the Indians could have asked from him and more.

Merritt left the game with a 3-0 lead, as the Indians’ offense jumped on starting pitcher Marco Estrada. Lindor singled with two outs in the first inning and was followed by Mike Napoli, who drilled a double off the wall in left field that put the Indians up 1-0.

The Indians tacked on with some power. Carlos Santana in the third inning crushed a solo home run to right field to make it 2-0. An inning later, Coco Crisp homered to right field to push the Indians’ lead to 3-0. Crisp also hit a key home run when the Indians clinched the American League Division Series in Game 3 against Boston.

That all set up Indians manager Terry Francona being able to go to his bullpen with a lead. Bryan Shaw entered in the fifth, allowed a single but then struck out Ezequiel Carrera and Kevin Pillar to end the inning.

In the sixth, Jose Bautista singled off Shaw with one out to lead to Andrew Miller, who has put up one of the more dominating postseason performances for a reliever in baseball history and was named ALCS MVP. Miller, facing Josh Donaldson, on the first pitch induced an inning-ending double play.

Miller worked a 1-2-3 seventh and then allowed a single in the eighth but retired the side, putting the Indians three outs away from the World Series but against the heart of the Blue Jays’ order.

In the ninth, Cody Allen allowed a single to Bautista and then struck out Donaldson and Edwin Encarnacion, two of the better hitters in the game. With the Rogers Centre roaring, Troy Tulowitzki popped out to Santana, and the celebration began.

The Indians’ Game 5 win, with an unproven rookie on the mound, 5 2/3 scoreless innings from the bullpen and enough offense, was a near-perfect snapshot of their road-block-laced path through the postseason.

Through it all this season—the loss of Michael Brantley, the injuries to Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar in September, Trevor Bauer’s drone injury on the eve of the ALCS—the Indians have yet again defied the odds, and have now celebrated the division title in Detroit, the ALDS title in Boston and the ALCS title in Toronto.

Now, they’re on to the World Series with home-field advantage.

“I'm honored that we're going to the World Series because to do it with—we always said if we could do it with this group it would be so special because this is as close to a family feel as you can get in a professional setting,” Francona said. “So for that part of it, it is beyond feeling good.”

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Blue Jays 5, Indians 1: Ryan Lewis’ 16 Walk-Off Thoughts on bouncing back, Ryan Merritt, 3-1 lead

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 19, 2016

Here are 16 Walk-Off Thoughts after the Indians fell to the Toronto Blue Jays 5-1 in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series.

1. For the first time this postseason, the Indians will try to bounce back from a loss. And they’ll try to do with a rookie who has one career start under his belt.

2. Aaron Sanchez was masterful and Corey Kluber was tagged for two runs in five innings, namely a dislocated curveball that Josh Donaldson belted for a solo home run in the third that gave the Blue Jays their first ALCS lead. Bryan Shaw later ran into trouble, eventually giving up a two-run single to Edwin Encarnacion.

3. Shaw giving up a single to Ryan Goins and then committed the Indians’ first error of the series put Indians manager Terry Francona in a tough spot. Either pitch to Donaldson with runners on the corners and nobody out, or walk him and pitch to Encarnacion with the bases loaded to create a force-out at home plate.

4. In a postseason in which arguably every move has gone flawlessly, this one didn’t pan out.
5. Said Indians manager Terry Francona, “I went through every scenario in my head where we can't exchange outs for a run. So it's a difficult situation all the way around. But rather than play the infield in without a force out with Donaldson, I decided with the force out at the plate and pitch to Encarnacion. … Either way it's not the most desirable situation. Early in the game you certainly wouldn't do something like that. But in a game where we can't give up another run. We have two hits, that seemed to me to put us in the best position. It didn't work.”

6. So now the Indians turn their fate over to young Ryan Merritt, who legitimately looks terrified talking to reporters and joked the other day that his first initial press conference would probably scare him more than taking on the Blue Jays’ lineup in the ALCS. On Tuesday night he again said, “Standing right here is a lot more intimidating than on the mound.”

7. He’ll have his hands full. The Indians say he has their confidence.

8. Here’s Francona on Merritt starting in Game 5: “I think he's okay. He talked to Mick a little bit the scouting report this morning, just to give him a chance to watch the game and also digest some of the stuff they talked about. I think he's okay. I think he'll be fine.”

9. And Shaw: “He’s done well for us so far since he’s been up here. Obviously it’s a different look for them. I think he’s our only lefty starter we’ve had for the year start for us. I think it should be a good change of pace for us. It’ll be good to have him go.”

More: Indians manager Terry Francona had busy Game 3 dealing with bullpen, dental situations

10. And Kluber: “He's obviously good enough to pitch, to get himself to get to this point. I don't think he needs any of us trying to go out there and telling him what to do. He knows what he needs to do already.”

11. And Roberto Perez: ““He’s probably going to be excited. He’s probably going to be pumped in front of this crowd. They’ve got a pretty good lineup. We’ve just got to execute pitches tomorrow and keep the ball down, that’s the key.”

12. It might come down to whether the rookie can get some sleep tonight. Wednesday afternoon takes him from one career start to being on the national stage in a hostile environment with a trip to the World Series on the line.

More: Bullpen games during regular season prepared Indians for Game 3

13. Said Merritt, “I'm just going to treat it as any other game. I'm going to go out there and have fun, relax, pitch to my strengths, not let the game speed up on me, trust in myself, trust in my defense and just go out there and compete and try to win a game.”

14. There’s a very good reason Francona—and many other managers—say the point is to win a series, not extend it. Teams don’t want to give their opposition a chance to get some breathing room. That’s what Tuesday’s Game 4 loss did for the Blue Jays.

15. The odds are obviously low the series would turn all the way over, but the Blue Jays have a much more balanced rotation and a lethal lineup that finally had some success. Now, that lineup gets an unproven rookie at home. If the Indians can’t clinch in Toronto, it turns to Cleveland and Josh Tomlin in Game 6 and Kluber again on short rest. The Indians are still in a good spot, but taking it one game at a time, a series in which one side has had to deal with multiple injuries and the other is set up to take advantage of it can slide in a hurry.

16. The Indians have beaten odds the entire postseason. Now they’re hoping they can keep them in their favor. After all, their lead is now 3-1. And a pretty significant 3-1 lead was just blown in June.

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Indians’ offense stalls in 5-1 loss to Blue Jays in Game 4

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 18, 2016
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The Indians struggled to hit starting pitcher Aaron Sanchez and failed to close out a four-game sweep, falling to the Toronto Blue Jays 5-1 in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series.

The loss extends the series to Game 5, in which Indians rookie Ryan Merritt will take the mound against Blue Jays Game 1 starting pitcher Marco Estrada.

Corey Kluber allowed two runs on four hits in five innings in his first career start on short rest, which became a necessity once Trevor Bauer was unable to pitch with his bleeding finger in Game 3. Kluber also struck out seven and is slated to pitch Game 7, again on short rest, if that game ends up being necessary.

Josh Donaldson gave the Blue Jays their first lead of the ALCS in the third inning, belting a solo home run to left field on a low curveball by Kluber to make it 1-0. It was the first earned run Kluber had allowed in the postseason after he tossed 13 1/3 scoreless in his first two starts.

In the fourth, Kluber ran into trouble after walking both Troy Tulowitzki and Russell Martin to begin the inning. Former Indians outfielder Ezequiel Carrera made them costly by blooping a single into center field to put the Blue Jays up 2-0. Kluber exited after 89 pitches.

“I felt fine,” Kluber said. “I didn't really feel like it physically affected me at all. I made a mistake to Donaldson, but other than that I felt fine.”

The Indians cut the lead in half in the fifth on Roberto Perez’s double to left-center field, which scored Coco Crisp. They nearly tied it when Carlos Santana grounded a ball hard to the left side, but Donaldson made a diving play at third to likely take a run off the board.

The Blue Jays added on in the seventh agains Bryan Shaw. Ryan Goins led off with a single. Jose Bautista tapped a ball down the third-base line that was fielded by Shaw, who then threw it over Mike Napoli’s head for an error. The Indians then intentionally walked Donaldson to load the bases with nobody out. Edwin Encarnacion followed by lining a ball back up the middle for a two-run single to put the Blue Jays up 4-1.

“Either way it's not the most desirable situation,” said Indians manager Terry Francona of walking Donaldson. “Early in the game you certainly wouldn't do something like that. But in a game where we can't give up another run, we have two hits, that seemed to me to put us in the best position. It didn't work.”

Carrera again hurt the Indians in the eighth, ripping a triple to right field. Kevin Pillar also hit a line drive to right field which was caught by a diving Brandon Guyer. It was a highlight-reel catch but also enough to score Carrera and make it 5-1.

“They hit better than us, they pitched better than us, they played defense better than us today,” said Francisco Lindor. “So they deserved to win. [Wednesday] we’ve got another game and we’ve got to focus on Estrada and trying to be ourselves.”

For the first time this postseason, the Indians will try to come back from a loss, still with a ticket to the World Series on the line. And it’ll be with a rookie with one career start—Merritt—taking the mound on a national stage and in a hostile environment.

“He's thrown the ball well for us every time he's picked it up,” said Cody Allen on Merritt. “We're looking forward to going out there and watching him compete [Wednesday], but the plan is for us to try to get a lead and score more runs than they do.”

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Indians were prepared for bullpen night in Game 3; Bullpen sets records

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 18, 2016

Sometimes a seemingly bad situation can end up having positive consequences down the road. For the Indians, it was a case of their strategy to just survive the regular season helping them in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series.

The Indians needed to throw several “bullpen games” to get to the end of the regular season after Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar went down with injuries, and when Josh Tomlin was struggling in August. It was a less-than-ideal situation, but the Indians were forced into it.

When Trevor Bauer’s lacerated pinkie began dripping blood onto his jersey, pants and the mound in the first inning, the Indians were as prepared as any team in baseball for what was to come.

“It’s not something that was foreign to us,” said Dan Otero. “It probably gave us an advantage. Even our hitters and fielders, because they knew it was something we were capable of doing. It’s not something we talk about, but we’re aware of it and we were ready to go today.”

Otero was the first pitcher called upon. Even before Blue Jays manager John Gibbons called for the umpires to look at Bauer’s finger, which eventually forced his exit from the game per Major League Baseball rules, the bullpen was stirring.

“I did see Trevor start patting his hand on his shirt in I don’t know the middle of that inning,” Otero said. “So I walked down, started stretching just in case. They have a TV down in the bullpen. You saw the blood gushing out, you saw Gibbons come out and I’m like,  ‘OK, he’s probably going to come out of the game. It’s going to be somebody.’ So a bunch of us started moving around and my name was called so I had the privilege of warming up in front of 60,000 screaming fans.”

What followed was one of the more improbable postseason wins in recent memory. The bullpen delivered 8 1/3 innings and allowed only two runs on the road to one of the better offensive teams in the game. The Indians became the first team in postseason history to win a game in which none of its pitchers logged at least two innings. And the seven pitchers sent to the mound set a new American League record for a nine-inning game.

“What words do you even put on that? Unbelievable, right?” Bauer said. “They came in and did what they've done all year. They shut the game down easily. They shut it down for 8 2/3. You can't say enough positive stuff about everybody out there.”

Due to Bauer’s bloody pinkie finger, the Indians’ stress through August and September of surviving bullpen games all became well worth it.

No hurt feelings

Gibbons called Indians manager Terry Francona to explain that he wasn’t just trying to gain an advantage in asking the umpires to look at Bauer. Francona understood, as TBS cameras had shown his pinkie badly bleeding.

“Not one bit. They've been good about this,” Francona said. “Like, when we met before the series, you meet with the umpires and the officials and Gibby said, 'Hey, man, I hope he can pitch.' He kind of had to go out there. Shoot, it was dripping. But, the fact that he called me was really classy, but I didn't think one thing of it.”

As for Bauer’s finger, the Indians will now have to allow additional time for it to heal enough to where it won’t bleed again. They’re confident that the added time will be beneficial.

“We'll get the assessment from our medical group, but we believe that he'll be able to pitch again this series, if it goes long enough,” said president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti. “And, if we are fortunate enough to advance, then he still can be an option for us in the World Series.”

Awoken  

Prior to the trip to Toronto, Jason Kipnis mentioned that he and a few others needed to step it up offensively to support the pitching staff.

He, Mike Napoli and Jose Ramirez took a step forward in Game 3, driving in all four runs after those three went hitless in games 1 and 2.

“This isn't the regular season. We don't have time to feel sorry for ourselves or kind of figure things out,” Kipnis said.  “We have to basically come every day with the attitude that this is going to be the day that things turn around. … Good first day.”

Miller Time

Andrew Miller on Monday night became the first pitcher in Major League Baseball history to strike out at least 20 hitters within his first 27 outs of a given postseason, per Elias. The previous high was 17, done three times.

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Indians manager Terry Francona has busy Game 3 dealing with bullpen, dental emergencies

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 18, 2016
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Indians manager Terry Francona had a busy night on Monday. If trying to get through Game 3 of the American League Championship Series effectively without a starting pitcher wasn’t like pulling teeth, Francona had that experience on his own just beforehand.

Only moments before the game began, as the stadium was filling and the energy building, Francona had a tooth veneer pop clean out of his mouth while he was chewing.

“That thing came off and I'm chewing and it felt crunchy,” Francona said. “I was like, 'Uh oh.' So, I undid my tobacco and there's my tooth. So, I'm pissed now. I’m f****** hot.”

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Indians 4, Blue Jays 2: Ryan Lewis' 23 Walk-Off Thoughts on being prepared, Bauer’s pinkie, more

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 18, 2016

Here are 23 Walk-Off Thoughts after the Indians’ 4-2 win against the Toronto Blue Jays to take a 3-0 lead in the American League Championship Series.

1. Sometimes, a bad circumstance can end up having a positive impact on another less-than-ideal situation. After the injuries to Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar, the Indians were forced to try several “bullpen games” just in an effort to get through the regular season.

2. Those games, which seemed like a negative at the time, might have paid off in a huge way Monday night the moment Trevor Bauer’s pinkie began dripping blood on his jersey, pants and the mound.

3. Losing a starting pitcher in the first inning of such a huge game would be many manager’s worst nightmare. But the Indians had done this before.

4. Said Dan Otero, “It’s not something that was foreign to us. It probably gave us an advantage today. Even our hitters and fielders, because they knew it was something we were capable of doing. It’s not something we talk about, but we’re aware of it and we were ready to go today. … ZMac and I were talking about that during I think the seventh inning, how we’re probably the only team prepared for this because we did it five times I think in September.”

5. Otero was the first pitcher called out of the bullpen. He and a few others had already started moving around in the bullpen. Said Otero, “I did see Trevor start patting his hand on his shirt in I don’t know the middle of that inning. So I walked down, started stretching just in case. They have a TV down in the bullpen. You saw the blood gushing out, you saw Gibbons come out and I’m like,  ‘OK, he’s probably going to come out of the game. It’s going to be somebody.’ So a bunch of us started moving around and my name was called so I had the privilege of warming up in front of 60,000 screaming fans.”

6. Experience or not, it was a game the Indians absolutely should not have won. Game 3 of the ALCS on the road isn’t the time to lose a starter in the first and hold down such a good lineup for 8 1/3 innings.

7. Indians manager Terry Francona has received universal praise for his handling of the bullpen this postseason. He’s essentially become the model manager for one way of thinking, in that you use leverage situations and your best pitchers instead of waiting until the later innings and using set roles. Monday night was his Mona Lisa effort.

8. Said Andrew Miller, “Looks like a genius afterwards. He’s really good at what he does. I think that it certainly that we’ve all bought in out there. There’s probably some expectancy, a possibility that Trevor was going to have an issue early in the game. Maybe Dan was ready a little earlier than usual, but I don’t think, again, how tough that is to do. To have your warmups on the mound in a place like this, to go out there and pitch in an inning that’s probably pretty foreign to him. It speaks to the unit we have and we like our guys. We like our guys top to bottom. It’s a pretty good group.”


9. Francona wanted Jeff Manship to face righties. He wanted Zach McAllister to face mostly lefties. He wanted Allen to face the heart of the order, because Miller had done it earlier in the series and he liked the different matchup. And he wanted Miller to finish it, whether they won or lost. It all worked out.

10. And while Francona managed Game 3, he also put up with a dental emergency. Just before the game, a tooth veneer popped out. He ended up going to a dentist after the game and had everything fixed.

11. Of course, Bauer having to exit the game so early—even though they won—does make his accident a much bigger deal. When the Indians thought it wouldn’t affect him much, it was more of a weird off-the-field accident that just caused the rotation to be flipped. It could have put the Indians’ postseason hopes in jeopardy. The bigger question now is if he could pitch in the World Series, should the Indians advance.

12. Bauer’s finger looked gnarly on the TV cameras. He was trying to hide his hand a bit to get into the dugout so maybe they could do something to calm it down. Bauer did earn from credit from teammates for trying to go out there and pitch with it.

13. Said Otero, “Everybody knew he was going to go. He’s a competitor. Nobody ever questions that about him. It was an unfortunate incident and a very unfortunate situation out there. But I guess it’s drama for the postseason, it’s good, I don’t know. Hopefully he gets the stitches healed up and he’ll be ready to go soon for us.”

14. It has genuinely seemed like the more the Indians deal with adversity, the better they play. That’s about the least-quantifiable thing in sports, but there does seem to be a pattern this October. The tougher of a break the Indians receive, the harder they punch back.

15. Does it make sense, with everything that’s happened, that the Indians are undefeated in the postseason and one win away from the World Series? Not really, at least on paper.

16. Said Cody Allen, “This team's dealt with a lot of adversity. They've dealt with it very, very well. I think all of that adversity we faced throughout the season has really paid dividends and it's shown a lot about the character of this club. It's a high-character club. This is a group that really cares about each other. Going through that with Carlos in September, it was really unfortunate when it happened. We hated it for him. But us going through that and winning that game like we did, there was no panic down there when Trevor got taken out in that first inning.”

17. The word “unbelievable” was used often in the clubhouse after the game to describe the bullpen’s efforts. Said Bauer, “What words do you even put on that? Unbelievable, right? They came in and did what they've done all year. They shut the game down easily. They shut it down for 8 2/3. You can't say enough positive stuff about everybody out there. A lot of those guys hadn't pitched in a game in a long time. They did tremendous work to stay ready. They were very effective and co-MVP to everybody down in the bullpen today.”

18. Offensively, the same group of hitters who had been quiet in the first two games of the ALCS game through in Game 3, just as Jason Kipnis said they needed to heading to Toronto. Kipnis drilled a solo home run, Jose Ramirez had an RBI-single and Mike Napoli supplied the early offense with a home run and RBI-double.

19. Said Kipnis, “This isn't the regular season. We don't have time to feel sorry for ourselves or kind of figure things out. We have to basically come every day with the attitude that this is going to be the day that things turn around. And we thought when we got here that Frankie and Lonnie and Santana got us through Games 1 and 2, and it was time for us to kick it into gear and step up and take these guys hopefully. Good first day.”

20. All things considered, the Indians’ Game 3 win Monday night was arguably their most impressive this season, and a pretty accurate snapshot of how their postseason has gone on and off the field. This story of the Indians’ 2016 postseason run is of adversity and winning with far less than a full deck against some great teams.

21. The Indians on Monday became just the fifth team in history to win six consecutive games to begin a postseason run. The record is eight straight, set by the 2014 Kansas City Royals. The six-game postseason streak is the longest in franchise story.

22. And, the Indians' bullpen is now officially historic. They became the first team in postseason history to win a game in which none of its pitchers logged at least two innings. The seven pitchers sent to the mound also set a new American League postseason record for a nine-inning game.

23. According to Elias, Miller is the first pitcher in history to record at least 20 strikeouts within his first 27 outs of a given postseason. The previous high was 17, done three times.

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Indians’ bullpen covers for Trevor Bauer’s pinkie in 4-2 win to take 3-0 ALCS lead

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 17, 2016
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The Indians are one win away from the World Series, and the list of things they have overcome continues to grow longer and stranger.

Trevor Bauer’s lacerated pinkie forced his exit from the game much earlier than expected but it was no matter, as the bullpen once again quieted the Toronto Blue Jays’ bats and a frenzied Rogers Centre crowd to rally for a 4-2 win in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series on Monday night.

With it, the Indians took a 3-0 series lead and remain undefeated in the postseason.

Bauer’s pinkie finger on his throwing hand, which was sliced by a drone Thursday night, began to bleed profusely in the first inning. The club hadn’t thought it’d be an issue. Per Major League Baseball rules, Bauer had to leave the game, putting the bullpen in the most difficult position its been in this season.

Dan Otero, Jeff Manship, Zach McAllister, Bryan Shaw, Cody Allen and Andrew Miller rallied to allow just two runs in 8 1/3 innings, winning an effective “bullpen game” on one of baseball’s biggest stages.

Of all the unpredictable ways the Indians have won and overcome an obstacle the last several weeks, Monday night’s win to put them one game from the World Series is at the top of the list.

The Indians battled in the early going behind Mike Napoli awakening from his postseason slumber. Napoli, hitting .111 in the postseason, drove an RBI double off Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman to right field that bounced in and out of Jose Bautista’s glove to give the Indians an early 1-0 lead. With it tied 1-1 in the fourth, Napoli again put the Indians on top by clubbing a solo home run to left-center field.

The Blue Jays twice tied it via Michael Saunders’ solo home run in the second inning off Dan Otero and Ryan Goins’ RBI-groundout in the fifth against Zach McAllister to score Ezequiel Carrera, who led off the inning with a triple.

In the sixth, the Indians broke free. Jason Kipnis drilled a home run off Stroman to right field to make it 3-2. Mike Napoli then drew a walk and advanced on a wild pitch by relief pitcher Joe Biagini. Jose Ramirez then singled to center field to score Napoli and give the Indians a 4-2 cushion.

Now with a lead in the sixth, it for the first time resembled a normal day for the Indians’ shut-down bullpen. Bryan Shaw worked the sixth, his second inning, before handing it to Cody Allen in the seventh, an earlier-than-normal appearance for the Indians’ usual closer. With two runners on and two outs, Josh Donaldson lined a ball to left field that Coco Crisp hauled in with a sliding basket catch to end the inning.

Dioner Navarro led off the ninth with a single against Andrew Miller, who entered the game with two outs in the eighth in relief of Allen. Now with the tying run at the plate, Miller struck out Kevin Pillar and Melvin Upton Jr. before Kipnis made a great play on a back-hand to throw out Darwin Barney at first base.

The Indians’ starting pitcher left the game in the first inning, but they’ll play for a chance to clinch their spot in the World Series Tuesday night.

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Ontario court dismisses attempt to ban Indians’ name, logo; Danny Salazar shows progress

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 17, 2016

An Ontario court on Monday threw out a last-minute attempt to ban the Indians from using their team name or the Chief Wahoo logo during the American League Championship Series games in Toronto.

Activist and architect Douglas Cardinal filed a claim last week that his human rights were being violated when Indians games were broadcast on TV. Roughly three hours prior to Monday’s Game 3, judge Thomas McEwen of Ontario Superior Court dismissed the claim.

Prior to the judge’s ruling, Major League Baseball released a statement in support of the Indians and their ability to display their team name and the Chief Wahoo logo, both of which were shown during Game 3.

"Major League Baseball appreciates the concerns of those that find the name and logo of the Cleveland Indians to be offensive,” the statement read. “We would welcome a thoughtful and inclusive dialogue to address these concerns outside the context of litigation. Given the demands for completing the League Championship Series in a timely manner, MLB will defend Cleveland's right to use their name that has been in existence for more than 100 years.”

Circumstances

On Sunday, Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista said that “circumstances” were behind the Indians’ strong pitching performances in Games 1 and 2, implying that the umpires had given an unfair advantage.

Roberto Perez’s ability as a pitch framer could come into play. Pitch framing is a fairly new concept that tries to capture how many strikes a catcher might add by how he frames pitches on the outside parts of the plate. It’s long been one of his strengths, and he’s emerged as one of the better pitch framers in baseball.

“I guess I fall back on sometimes that when you have a pitcher that’s commanding the ball, throwing into his spots, and you have a catcher that is receiving the ball, you’re probably going to get more pitches than a guy that’s all over the place and a catcher that doesn’t frame well,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “And I don’t think that’s luck. I think that’s skill.”

Francona on Monday cited St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, saying “every pitch looks like a strike. It’s unbelievable.” Perez’s pitch framing is also an asset for the Indians.

“That’s always been his strength,” Francona said. “Coming up through the minor leagues when you talk to [Triple-A manager Chris Tremie] or his minor league managers, his ability to receive has always been outstanding. Even when you talk to Sandy [Alomar], he said even in spring training, sometimes he gets bored because it’s so easy for him.”

Best progress

Danny Salazar threw a two-inning simulated game at the Rogers Centre during the Indians’ workout, tossing more than 30 pitches.

The Indians have maintained that his long-term health is the No. 1 priority, and that if he progresses enough to be able to help out of the bullpen if they advance this October, that it’d be a bonus. Francona called his session on Sunday the “best progress he’s made.”

“He threw his fastball and threw it with pretty good velocity,” Francona said. “He also threw his change-up and it didn’t bother him, because the past that had been bothering him a little bit. We’re not ready to activate him but he’s doing much, much better.”

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Indians’ rotation for Games 4, 5 dependent on Game 3; Ryan Merritt in line to make ALCS start

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 17, 2016

The shuffling of the Indians’ rotation continues. And, now, it involves contingency plans.

Per Indians manager Terry Francona, rookie pitcher Ryan Merritt—not Mike Clevinger as originally announced—is now in line to make a start in the American League Championship Series.

It all comes back to Trevor Bauer, his drones and the questions surrounding whether his lacerated pinkie could hold up in Game 3. It didn’t, as the cut began to bleed in the first inning, causing his early exit.

Francona said before the game that if that happened, Corey Kluber would start Game 4 on short rest and Merritt would start Game 5. Had Bauer’s finger held up, Merritt would have taken the mound in Game 4 with Kluber following in Game 5. After Josh Tomlin in Game 6, Kluber is now also the likely Game 7 starter, if needed.

Merritt is taking Clevinger’s place in part because he’s lengthened out to a greater degree and can give the Indians a more traditional start if he pitches well. Clevinger would likely have only been able to throw 2-3 innings. He’ll remain available in the bullpen.

Merritt wasn’t even originally supposed to be on the Indians’ ALCS roster. That spot was slated to go to Joe Colon, but when Bauer hurt his finger the night before Game 1, the club wanted to add some length in the bullpen.

“As you can imagine, there were a lot of quick conversations going, but I think that's part of where [president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti] and his guys are so good, because they're organized,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “It's like, ‘OK, let's just get to where we need to get to and it's not hard to do it.’”

It was only a few weeks ago that Merritt was making his first career start in the major leagues while the Indians tried to scrape their way through the end of the regular season. He pitched well in that game, limiting the Kansas City Royals to one run in five innings. Merritt has one start and 11 innings to his name in the majors, but the Indians’ situation has thrust him into one of the biggest starts for the franchise in the last decade.

“It’s an honor to be pitching in the playoffs,” Merritt said. “It’s my first year in the major leagues and it’s a great feeling that Terry Francona trusts me to go out and try to win a baseball game for them in the playoffs.”

Merritt is a quiet 24-year-old of few words. After Francona’s press conference, he stuck around to watch Merritt’s to see how he’d handle it.

Merritt was asked what makes him more nervous, his first major press conference with reporters or going out and facing the Toronto Blue Jays in the ALCS on the road.

“This, all day,” he said of the press conference.

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Blue Jays’ Jose Bautista implies that “circumstances” are helping Indians’ pitchers in ALCS

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 16, 2016

The Indians’ pitching staff has stifled what was baseball’s hottest lineup through the first two games of the American League Championship Series. Now, one of key cogs in the heart of that batting order has suggested that there might be something to it beyond some good pitching.

On Sunday, Jose Bautista implied that “circumstances” are working against the Blue Jays, who averaged 6.75 runs per game in the postseason entering this series but have scored just one run through the first two games of the ALCS.

“All you gotta do is look at video and count how many times [Indians pitchers have] thrown pitches over the heart of the plate,” Bautista said. “It hasn’t been many. They’ve been able to do that because of the circumstances that I’m not trying to talk about because I can’t. That’s for you guys to do but you guys don’t really want to talk about that either.”

Mike Gianella of Baseball Prospectus looked into the matter and discovered that Bautista’s claims are unfounded. Per FX pitch data, the home plate umpires in the first two games missed 21 calls—11 for the Blue Jays and 10 for the Indians.

The Indians’ Twitter account poked some fun at Bautista’s claim, responding to the report on Twitter with pictures of Corey Kluber, Josh Tomlin, Andrew Miller and Cody Allen and the word “circumstances.”

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Indians preparing for raucous Toronto crowd; Andrew Miller makes history; Offense doing just enough

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 16, 2016

The Indians aren’t just leaving the friendly confines of Progressive Field. They’re diving head-first into the deep end of a shark tank known as the Rogers Centre.

The Blue Jays’ all-blue, triple-digit-decibel stadium is among the loudest in baseball, especially when the roof is closed, which is expected to be the case this week in the American League Championship Series.

The electricity of playoff baseball is often enough, but the fans at the Rogers Centre have been known to reach a frenzy as evidenced in last year’s American League Division Series against the Texas Rangers. Things were thrown from the stands in the decisive Game 5, which became known as the game in which Jose Bautista hit his mammoth home run and flipped his bat. In this year’s ALDS, a fan threw a beer can at Baltimore Orioles outfielder Hyun Soo Kim.

The crowd noise could become more of a factor than under normal circumstances.

“I definitely expect it to be loud,” Rajai Davis said. “I think we have to be able to communicate beforehand, as far as outfielders, knowing where guys are going to be beforehand. It’s going to be tough to hear each other. We’re probably going to have to use hand signals. We’re going to have to remind guys, ‘Hey, look at me.’ Those kinds of things.”

It being Toronto, it could also be seen as a hockey crowd. That’s fine with Jason Kipnis, also a big hockey fan.

“It might be the toughest,” Kipnis said of playing there. “Toronto is one of those places where, when they close that dome, it gets especially loud there. And it's hockey fans. I mean that in the best way, because I'm a hockey fan, too. That's exactly what you want out of a fan. You want the rowdiness. You want that little feeling, that one-percent feeling, where you're like, 'I'm not sure I'm safe right here on the field.' That's what makes Toronto great and those fans amazing, how loud they get.”

Back on the mound

Rehabbing pitcher Danny Salazar threw a simulated game from the mound at the Rogers Centre on Sunday.

Salazar faced five batters—three different batters—and threw more than 30 pitches. He’s still trying to return from a strained forearm and had been doing so at the Indians’ facility in Arizona. The Indians’ hope has been that, by ditching his curveball, he might be able to return for a bullpen role at some point if they continue this run through the postseason.

Miller Time

Andrew Miller has been nearly unhittable in the ALCS, striking out 10 of the 12 Blue Jays hitters he’s faced thus far.

He’s also made some history doing it. Per Elias, Miller is the first pitcher to strike out at least five hitters in two innings or fewer twice in his postseason career, and he did it in back-to-back games.

Only one pitcher in baseball’s modern era (1900) has had at least five strikeouts in two innings or fewer in back-to-back regular season appearances. That was Oakland’s Billy Taylor in 1996, though he had an off-day in-between his outings.

Not much needed

Corey Kluber, Josh Tomlin, Miller and the rest of the Indians’ bullpen has shut down the Blue Jays in the first two games, needing only four total runs of offense to take a 2-0 series lead. Per Elias, only the 1950 New York Yankees won the first two games of a postseason series with two runs or fewer in each. They won their first two games 1-0 and 2-1 and went on to sweep the Philadelphia Phillies to win the World Series.

Though, it’s unlikely this Blue Jays lineup—the one that had little trouble with the Texas Rangers in the ALDS—stays quiet for long, especially at home. Kipnis knows the lineup needs to offer more help to the pitching staff.

“Ideally, we'd like to pick up the hitting,” Kipnis said. “We have a lot of guys who will enjoy this day off and hopefully come back with a better mindset Monday. We're up 2-0 and a lot of guys haven't even done anything yet. That's a great way to look at it.”

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Trevor Bauer explains drone injury; Indians see cut finger as ‘non-issue’ ahead of ALCS Game 3 start

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 16, 2016

It’s not every year one of the starting pitchers for Game 3 of the American League Championship Series brings a drone to his press conference to explain his injury situation.

Welcome to the 2016 ALCS, and these Cleveland Indians.

Trevor Bauer had the assailant behind his lacerated pinkie finger with him on Sunday, the one that warranted 10 stitches and forced the Indians to bump his ALCS start back from Game 2 to Monday’s Game 3 in Toronto.

“Yeah, I brought my friend to answer any questions about what happened that I can't answer,” he said.

Bauer—a self-proclaimed nerd known for his analytical views of baseball—explained on Sunday that he was working on a drone that he custom built, just like he’s done for the past three or so years since they caught his eye as a hobby as an extension of his love of Star Wars. When he plugged it in Thursday night, one of the four propellers spun faster than it was supposed to, and Bauer’s finger was in the way.

“It never happened to me before,” Bauer said. “I have no idea why it happened. And my finger just happened to be in the way of the prop and it cut me.”

It’s become one of the quirkier stories of not just the ALCS but the 2016 season across baseball. The Indians’ hope—and belief—is that it will be nothing more than a silly mistake and not something that ends up costing them in the biggest series for the club in nine years.

Both Bauer and Indians manager Terry Francona believe that Bauer’s cut finger won’t be an issue in Game 3. The concern is that the finger could start bleeding, which would force his exit since it’s on his throwing hand. It isn’t believed that it will affect his pitches. A couple days removed, the Indians believe it will be a “non-issue” besides having to flip-flop he and Josh Tomlin.

“I really don't think this is going to affect his start one way or another, whether he gets them out or doesn’t,” Francona said. “I don't think this is going to be a big deal.”

Bauer was remorseful when speaking to his teammates and coaches, per Francona. He’s relieved it didn’t cost him his first chance to start in the ALCS.

“Obviously you feel bad,” Bauer said. “I want to go out and be able to make my start and help the team any way that I can. I was really looking forward to pitching on Saturday. Just one of those things, freak accident you can't really control. And try to maintain a positive attitude the whole time. Literally I was worried that I wouldn't be able to pitch at some point in the series. I got pretty lucky.”

The Indians’ mantra for the last several weeks has been overcoming obstacles. This, though, was one of the weirder ones.

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Indians 2, Blue Jays 1: Ryan Lewis’ 25 Walk-Off Thoughts on Tomlin, Miller, Lindor, a 2-0 lead

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 15, 2016

Here are 25 Walk-Off Thoughts after the Indians’ 2-1 win against the Toronto Blue Jays Saturday night in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series.

1. The team that wasn’t supposed to go anywhere in the postseason is now 5-0 this postseason and two wins away from the World Series. They just keep rolling.

2. The biggest part of their 2-0 lead in the ALCS has come down to Corey Kluber, Josh Tomlin, Andrew Miller, Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen. That group has limited what was baseball’s hottest offense entering this series—the one that essentially ripped the Texas Rangers to shreds in the ALDS—to one run in two games.

3. The Indians’ backs were put against the wall when Carlos Carrasco followed Danny Salazar to the disabled list. That group, along with Trevor Bauer and Dan Otero in the ALDS, has given the Indians everything they could have asked for and more.

4. Tomlin threw 5 2/3 innings, allowing one run on three hits and striking out six. The key was his curveball usage, which was upped from 15 percent in the regular season to 42 percent in Game 2.

5. Tomlin knew he couldn’t get away with two many fastballs against a lineup like the Blue Jays. So, he went to the curve and stuck with what was working.

6. Said Tomlin, “I think the game kind of dictates what you do. It's going to be tough for me to sit there and throw 87-88 to those guys all game long and be successful. They're a good fastball-hitting team. They're a good [mistake] hitting team. If you leave the ball over the middle of the plate, they're going to do some damage and put up a crooked number in a hurry against you. So, it's about executing pitches and it's about trying to keep them off-balance as much as you can. I don't have the stuff to just go out there and try to overpower anybody. So, some days it'll be a cutter. Some days it'll be a curveball. Some days, it'll be a changeup. or, it might be a fastball, if I'm locating that day. My strategy or game plan is kind of dictated on how my stuff is playing that day.”

More: Indians haven't ruled out Corey Kluber on short rest for Game 4; Club responds to Trevor Bauer's drone injury

7. At times it’s been hit-or-miss (no pun intended) with his curveball. He’s tried to heavily involve it before, and it didn't always work. It just so happened that it worked in the biggest start of Tomlin’s career.

8. Said Tomlin, “There's ben several days in the regular season where I've tried to throw curveballs as much as I did today and they get hammered. So, that's probably my least favorite pitch on that day. It's just a mix of whatever's working that day, whatever I'm executing and whatever I'm able to keep them off-balance with the most.”

9. Sixteen of Tomlin’s 17 outs recorded were via groundout or strikeout. When he’s on, that’s exactly what a start of his needs to look like for a pitcher with a propensity to give up home runs. When he’s getting ground balls early, it likely means Tomlin could have a good day.

10. Said Tomlin, “To me, it just lets me know that I was able to execute the ball down. I was able to keep the ball down and elevate when I needed to. So, I was just trying to keep it off the barrel as much as I could. I don't care if it's a ground ball or a fly ball, as long as it's an out. But, for me, being a flyball pitcher basically my whole entire career, to be able to get that many ground balls with the defense that we had was huge. I didn't try to do anything diffeent. I just tried to stay within the plan and tried to keep the ball through the bottom of the zone as much as I could to try to get those ground balls. When it's on the ground, there's a pretty good chance the play's going to be made.”

11. Some might be waiting for the time an Indians starting pitcher is hit hard, and this run finally ends with the offense trying to play catch-up. So far, it hasn’t happened.

12. Andrew Miller in the postseason—and especially this ALCS—has been borderline unfair as a pitcher. He’s been a virtual cheat code for the Indians to fast-forward the game with a lead. He struck out five of the six batters he faced—just like he did in Game 1—and now has 17 strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings pitched.

13. That’s almost an unheard of rate, especially at this stage and especially against the lineups he’s faced while doing it.

14. Said Rajai Davis, “When you think about what he’s doing against Major League hitters, some of the best hitters in the game, and he’s making him look that bad? He’s got stuff. Obviously his stuff is what’s playing. His deception, his sharpness on his curve and his slider, that’s just pitches that they look like they’re going to be strikes and then when you go to swing, they’re not a strike. And they’re so close that they could be. And then he’s got that fastball that’s moving away from right-handers and into left-handers. They’re tough pitches to hit, they’re tough pitches to square up. He’s going in and out. He just makes it tough on hitters.”

15. It’s a valid argument that the Indians gave up a ton of value for a relief pitcher considering the realistic limit on the number of innings a reliever can throw in a given season. Miller was acquired with an eye on October, in that with the starting rotation (when healthy) that the Indians have, they didn’t just want another good reliever to add to the mix. They wanted the best available when they held a lead. That’s what Miller has given them. Miller has been a legitimate difference maker and has been as crucial to the Indians’ success as anyone.

16. Said Jason Kipnis on Miller, “I don't even know how to say it. It's really fun to watch from the defensive side, having faced that before, when it's not fun to watch. He competes. He throw strikes. He can get you to the ninth. He can be the ninth inning [guy]. You have arguably one of the top-five best back-end relievers throwing in the sixth and seventh, because he doesn't care. He's doing it to win ballgames. He's rubbed that off on a bunch of guys, where it's whatever it takes.”

17. It probably means Allen won’t get nearly the credit he’s deserved for what he’s done this postseason, and especially for his ninth inning Saturday night in which he struck out Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista en route to a 1-2-3 ninth.

18. If Allen, Shaw and Otero hadn’t been as strong, Indians manager Terry Francona might not be able to have such freedom in how Miller is used. That group has created the ability for the Indians to leverage situations for all four pitchers, which only compounds the effect.

19. Said Francona before the game, “No, you couldn't, because it's one thing to stop a rally or put out a fire, however you want to say it, early in the game. But if you can't hold it, it doesn't really do you any good. And that's what I try to say, and maybe I probably should say it more often, because without one or the other or all of them you're not going to get where you want to go. You're right, Andrew has gotten a lot of I think notoriety for what he's done, as he should. But I think Cody and before it's over Shaw, Otero, will have theirs, too.”

20. A lot has been said about Francisco Lindor’s all-smiles style on the field. He’s explained that him smiling or celebrating isn’t meant to be a jab at the opposing team, it’s just how he plays the game. He’s looked like the exact same player in this postseason, something that might not be easy to pull off for a 22-year-old kid.

21. To Lindor, it helps that very few in the baseball world expected the Indians to do anything this postseason. Said Lindor, Nobody is counting on us. Nobody has us winning, so there’s no pressure. We just have to have fun and enjoy the game. Whatever happens, happens.”

22. Lindor has had the go-ahead hit in both ALCS games, and he added a terrific play defensively on Saturday as well. He’s been a budding star. This October might remove the “budding” part.

23. Davis applauded Lindor’s consistency, saying, “He’s been Mr. Consistent from spring training on. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anyone more consistent than him as far as his routine and staying with his plan and sticking with it all year. And he plays every day. That’s tough to do, especially being as young as he is. And the maturity he’s shown this year has been fun to watch.”

24. The Indians now turn their attention to Toronto, and one of the best home-field advantages in baseball. Kipnis is aware that the offense might need to support the pitching staff a bit more than two runs per game.

25. Said Kipnis, “We’re up 2-0 and we have, like, five guys who haven't even checked in at the plate. It's nice to somehow scrape away two wins here and it definitely takes off the pressure going to Toronto, where you know you're going to face a tough crowd and a rejuvenated team. Granted, we're going to try to win every single game, but you're literally of the mindset, 'Hey, let's win one. We have three chances to win one game and then come home and have two chances to clinch this thing at home.' It's the best feeling that we can get right now. We'll take it, up 2-0. We have a lot of guys riding some highs. It'll be a happy flight.”

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Josh Tomlin, Francisco Lindor deliver to lead Indians over Blue Jays 2-1, extend ALCS lead to 2-0

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 15, 2016

The Indians have found their formula and have followed it in the first two games of the American League Championship Series. With it, they’re two steps closer to the World Series.

Francisco Lindor came away with the go-ahead hit for the second straight night, Josh Tomlin delivered again and Andrew Miller continued to strike out everyone in his path, as the Indians beat the Toronto Blue Jays 2-1 Saturday to extend their lead in the ALCS to 2-0.

Lindor’s strong October on the national stage continued. With the score tied 1-1 in the bottom of the third, Lindor came to bat with two outs and Rajai Davis on third. Facing J.A. Happ, Lindor roped a single back up the middle to put the Indians on top 2-1. He also delivered all the offense in Game 1 on his two-run home run.

“Nobody is counting on us,” Lindor said. “Nobody has us winning, so there’s no pressure. We just have to have fun and enjoy the game. Whatever happens, happens. “

Earlier, Carlos Santana gave the Indians a 1-0 lead with a rocket of a home run to left field, his first career postseason home run.

It was enough for Tomlin and the Indians’ bullpen. Tomlin, who was originally slated to start Game 3 but was bumped up after Trevor Bauer cut his finger on a drone, had the Blue Jays off balance all night in part due to a higher dosage of curveballs. Sixteen of the 17 outs he recorded were by either groundout or strikeout. He allowed just one run on three hits in 5 2/3 innings and struck out six, continuing the run of strong outings from an Indians starting pitcher this postseason.

I think it's really cool that he is pitching, because he embodied so much of what we like about our team,” said Indians manager Terry Francona on Tomlin. “And for him to be pitching in these games I think everybody is excited about it. It's the way it should be.”

Tomlin handed the ball to Bryan Shaw, who recored the final out in the sixth. That led to Miller, who entered after throwing 31 pitches in Game 1. For the second straight night, Miller struck out five of the six hitters he faced in back-to-back 1-2-3 innings. He now has 17 strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings pitched this postseason.

Cody Allen still had work to do in the ninth against some of the AL’s best. He struck out Edwin Encarnacion looking with a high curveball, struck out Jose Bautista swinging with a high fastball and ended the game with a flyout off the bat of Troy Tulowitzki to center field.

After tying it 1-1 in the third inning, the Blue Jays didn’t have another hit the rest of the game.

“That was your chance against Tomlin. Now it’s like, ‘OK, we’re going to close the door now,” said Davis on the bullpen. “That’s what they’ve been [doing], shutting the door, not allowing anybody to get on base.”

Now, the Indians travel to Toronto—one of the more electric home field advantages in baseball—for Games 3, 4 and potentially 5 and with a chance to clinch a spot in the World Series.

“It's nice to somehow scrape away two wins here and it definitely takes off the pressure going to Toronto, where you know you're going to face a tough crowd and a rejuvenated team,” said Jason Kipnis. “Granted, we're going to try to win every single game, but you're literally of the mindset, 'Hey, let's win one. We have three chances to win one game and then come home and have two chances to clinch this thing at home.’'

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Josh Tomlin, Francisco Lindor deliver to lead Indians over Blue Jays 2-1, extend ALCS lead to 2-0

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 15, 2016

The Indians have found their formula and have followed it in the first two games of the American League Championship Series. With it, they’re two steps closer to the World Series.

Francisco Lindor came away with the go-ahead hit for the second straight night, Josh Tomlin delivered again and Andrew Miller continued to strike out everyone in his path, as the Indians beat the Toronto Blue Jays 2-1 Saturday to extend their lead in the ALCS to 2-0.

Lindor’s strong October on the national stage continued. With the score tied 1-1 in the bottom of the third, Lindor came to bat with two outs and Rajai Davis on third. Facing J.A. Happ, Lindor roped a single back up the middle to put the Indians on top 2-1. He also delivered all the offense in Game 1 on his two-run home run.

Earlier, Carlos Santana gave the Indians a 1-0 lead with a rocket of a home run to left field, his first career postseason home run.

It was enough for Tomlin and the Indians’ bullpen. Tomlin had the Blue Jays off balance all night, as 16 of the 17 outs he recored were by either groundout or strikeout. He allowed just one run on three hits in 5 2/3 innings and struck out six, continuing the run of strong outings from an Indians starting pitcher this postseason.

Tomlin handed the ball to Bryan Shaw, who recored the final out in the sixth.

That led to Miller, who entered after throwing 31 pitches in Game 1, when he struck out five of the six batters he faced. Again, he struck out five of the six batters he faced in two innings pitched. He now has 17 strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings pitched this postseason.

Cody Allen still had work to do in the ninth against some of the AL’s best. He struck out Edwin Encarnacion looking with a high curveball, struck out Jose Bautista swinging with a high fastball and ended the game with a flyout off the bat of Troy Tulowitzki to center field.

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Indians haven’t ruled out Corey Kluber starting Game 4; Club responds to Trevor Bauer’s drone injury

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 15, 2016

The Indians have planned to throw Mike Clevinger on an abbreviated start in Tuesday’s Game 4, but they haven’t ruled out the possibility that Corey Kluber could throw on short rest.

Kluber delivered a strong outing in Game 1, throwing 6 1/3 scoreless innings. He’s now thrown 13 1/3 scoreless innings with 13 strikeouts while coming back from a mild quadriceps strain.

The Indians’ starting rotation situation might force them into an effective bullpen game in the American League Championship Series, far from an ideal situation. Clevinger is still “penciled in,” but Indians manager Terry Francona is keeping his options open.

“You know what, we've talked about not just Game 4 but Games 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 because there's a little bit of ambiguity there, with Trevor [Bauer] and his finger, with Clevinger not being stretched out,” Francona said Saturday. “So there are some options I think for us moving forward. I think we'll go game by game.”

To avoid a bullpen game with a few innings from Clevinger altogether, Game 2 Josh Tomlin would possibly also have to throw on short rest in Game 5. The Indians could also choose to throw Kluber on short rest and then Clevinger in Game 5 with an off-day looming.

Bauer cutting his finger while repairing a drone could come into play. Bauer as well as anyone on the Indians’ staff can throw on short rest but now that he’s starting Game 3, that situation wouldn’t arise. It makes for a complicated puzzle.

“If it works say for [Kluber], it can't just work for him,” Francona said. “There's always trickle down. You've got to have answers other places, too. So, I guess I fall back on, whatever we think is in our best interest, we'll do.”

Droning on

Bauer has played catch twice since cutting his finger on one of his drones. The club’s concern is more with making sure the wound is closed enough and not bleeding during Game 3 and less with how it would affect his pitches.

It was an off-the-field accident at just about the worst possible time. The club’s looking at it is nothing more.

“The guys who were in here before me said [Bauer] was extremely [remorseful], like he [felt] really, really bad,” Francona said. “You know what? It was an accident. He wasn't doing something he shouldn't have been doing. He could've been doing a model airplane. He just cut his finger. It wasn't like he fell off a motorcycle or he was drunk at 3 a.m. and got cut on a beer bottle. It happens.”

To many, it was more of a laughing matter—that is, if it doesn’t end up affecting his pitching.

“I laughed,” Kipnis said. “As long as he can pitch, I mean, what else is going to go on? If anybody has covered Bauer or talked to Bauer, it's kind of funny. He's a big, dumb animal you need to babysit sometimes with his drones and his toys. I don't care. As long as he can still pitch for us, we've already shown up and overcome everything else. At this point, guys are just like, 'Eh, add it to the list.' We'll move on from there. It's not as funny of a joke if he can't pitch, but if he can pitch, 'You're an idiot, but go get some outs now.’”

National exposure

Francisco Lindor made a big splash on Friday night with a two-run home run that proved to be the difference in Game 1.

Andrew Miller, who’s having an October to remember of his own, hopes that if Lindor lacks the exposure of others, that it’s coming around now.

“He should already be broken out,” Miller said. “I’ve played in Boston and New York where it doesn’t take much for guys to turn into stars just because of the media presence. Here in Cleveland, maybe he doesn’t get quite the attention, but he deserves more than he’s getting. I think baseball people certainly understand how good he is and how good he can be. He’s only going to get better.”

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Indians 2, Blue Jays 0: Ryan Lewis’ 19 Walk-Off Thoughts on Lindor, Kluber, Miller

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 15, 2016

Here are 19 Walk-Off Thoughts after the Indians beat the Toronto Blue Jays 2-0 in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series Friday night.

1. The Indians’ pitching staff stifled another terrific offense and Francisco Lindor hit the biggest home run of his career. And, the Indians have a 1-0 series lead in the ALCS with a trip to the World Series on the line.

2. Lindor, Corey Kluber and Andrew Miller stand as three of the Indians’ key pieces not only this season but looking ahead through at least the 2018 season. It was primarily on their backs that the Indians came out on top Friday night, essentially according to plan.

3. After five innings of trading scoreless innings, Blue Jays starter Marco Estrada left a changeup low and inside that Lindor crushed for a two-run home run. That home run sailing toward the bullpens in center field was the only offense of the night, and it was enough.

4. It also came against a changeup that’s considered one of the best in baseball.

5. Said Lindor, “I was just trying to stay down through the middle. Brantley always tells me, down through the middle. Santana told me, when I see the ball higher, that's why I had to see the ball higher, and stay inside the baseball. And that's really what I was trying to do the whole at-bat, I was trying to stay down and through the baseball, see something higher and stay inside the baseball. And it went out.”

6. Lindor put his fist in the air the second it left the park and was celebrating the moment he touched home plate. He often has a smile on his face and playful flair when playing the game. That certainly hasn’t changed because the Indians are on a bigger, national stage now.

7. Said Lindor, “I’m just trying to play the game, have fun, enjoy it. And nobody is counting on us. So there's no pressure. We're just trying to do our thing. Play the game the right way. And we all have a different role and Kluber has his role. I have a different role. I'm doing it. If we all do our role we'll be successful.”

8. When asked about Lindor “breaking out” to a national audience, Miller responded by saying that should have happened a while ago.

9. Said Miller, “He should already be broken out. I’ve played in Boston and New York where it doesn’t take much for guys to turn into stars just because of the media presence. Here in Cleveland, maybe he doesn’t get quite the attention, but he deserves more than he’s getting. I think baseball people certainly understand how good he is and how good he can be. He’s only going to get better.”

More: Indians set ALCS roster, will carry 12 pitchers, two catchers

10. Earlier this year, Lindor frustrated Miller—still on the Yankees—when he couldn’t be put away. Said Miller, “I know I had an at-bat against him this year when I was with the Yankees. He just fouled off good pitch after good pitch and I must have gotten to the point where I kind of just threw him one down the middle and said, ‘Hit it.’ I wanted to get it over with. Either get on base or get out. He’s just incredibly talented. He’s a star. He really is good, the way he carries himself, the way he plays. I’m glad he’s on our side.”

11. Coming off a mild quad strain, Kluber has been terrific in his first two career postseason starts, both against a couple of the better lineups in the game. He’s now thrown 13 1/3 scoreless innings in those starts with 13 strikeouts.

More: Jason Lloyd: Ace Corey Kluber delivers

12. On Friday, though, he had to work for it. The Blue Jays had two runners on in the first three innings and at least one runner in scoring position in the first four. He worked out of it each time, holding the score to a 0-0 tie until Lindor’s home run.

13. Said Kluber on facing the Blue Jays’ lineup, “Yeah, their whole lineup one through nine is dangerous. I know the middle of the lineup gets a lot of attention for the home runs they hit. But I think their whole lineup is dangerous. Like you said, I made some mistakes early on, and they were able to take advantage of them for base hits. But it's really just trying to stick with that same approach. Get ahead of them and put them in defensive counts, so they're not keyholing one pitch.”

14. Jason Kipnis and pitching coach Mickey Callaway each said after Kluber’s ALDS start that he might not have had his best stuff. On Friday, again, he ran into some threats before escaping. But, the end result each time has been the same.

15. Kluber handed the ball off to Miller, and the word “helpless” might be the best to describe what followed. Miller faced six hitters: one reached on a single, five struck out. That included a stretch in which Miller faced the vaunted heart of the Blue Jays’ lineup, and after a single by Josh Donaldson, Miller struck out the side.

16. Miller now has 12 strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings pitched. He’s been as dominant as ever on baseball’s bigger stages. And this is exactly why the Indians acquired him—to have this kind of a weapon to pair with the starting rotation in October. It’s been a plan put into motion, and it’s worked flawlessly through the ALDS and Game 1 of the ALCS.

More: Indians forced to juggle rotation after Trevor Bauer cuts finger on drone

17. Said Indians manager Terry Francona, “For him to go through the middle of the order like that, that's why we got him. And we intend to use him, but like we said before the game, you can't use him, then, if you don't have somebody behind him. And that needs to be one of our strengths if we get where we want to go.”

18. But against this lineup, even Miller was just trying to “survive.” He also knows it likely won’t come down to that exact result again this series.

19. Said Miller, “I’ve been saying it all week, these guys are just so good. One All-Star hitter after another. What is Tulo hitting sixth this series? It’s a lot of fun to compete against these guys. It’s just what we have to tackle. We don’t have a choice. If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best. That’s just the reality of the situation. Every team that’s left standing that this point certainly feels like they’re pretty good and they are. It’s fun to go out there and compete, especially when you survive. I know it’s not always going to be straight forward. It’s not going to be a cakewalk because we shut them out today. Tomorrow is going to be a new day. These guys have scored a lot of runs and done a lot of damage in the playoffs.”

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Francisco Lindor, Corey Kluber lead Indians over Blue Jays 2-0 in ALCS Game 1

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 14, 2016

Francisco Lindor delivered the one big hit that was needed and Corey Kluber put together another outing befitting an ace, as the Indians topped the Toronto Blue Jays 2-0 in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series on Friday night.

The Indians and Blue Jays in the first five innings traded empty chances. Finally, the break the Indians were waiting for came in the form of their budding star shortstop.

Blue Jays starter Marco Estrada had his way with the Indians through the first five innings. In the sixth, still in a 0-0 tie, Jason Kipnis walked with one out. Estrada left a changeup low and inside, and Lindor pounded it for a two-run home run to center field.

It was Lindor’s second home run of the postseason and the biggest of his career.

Kluber spent much his outing escaping scoring threats. The Blue Jays put two runners on base in each of the first three innings and had at least one runner in scoring position in each of the first four innings but came up empty every time.

The first inning of the ALCS, in particular, looked to be going the Blue Jays’ way. Josh Donaldson lined a single to center field and was followed by Edwin Encarnacion, who ripped a double to right-center to put two runners in scoring position. Kluber responded, striking out Jose Bautista and getting Russell Martin to ground out.

The next several innings brought much of the same, but Kluber routinely found the right pitch when he needed to keep it a deadlocked 0-0 game.

It was another stellar performance against one of baseball’s better offenses after he threw seven scoreless innings against the Boston Red Sox in Game 2 of the American League Division Series. Kluber has now thrown 13 1/3 scoreless innings with 13 strikeouts in the postseason.

Andrew Miller entered the game with one out in the seventh inning and was as dominant as he’s looked in an Indians’ uniform. Miller struck out five of the six hitters he faced—which included the heart of the Blue Jays’ order—to end the seventh and eighth innings. Miller has now struck out 12 hitters in 5 2/3 innings pitched this postseason.

Cody Allen worked a 1-2-3 ninth inning and after a sweep of the Red Sox in the ALDS, the Indians now have a 1-0 lead in the ALCS.

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Indians’ SP Trevor Bauer sustains laceration to right finger, will start Game 3

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 14, 2016

The Indians could ill afford any more question marks surrounding the starting rotation. Now, they have one.

Trevor Bauer needed 10 stitches to close a laceration on the top of his right pinkie finger. As a result, Bauer has been pushed back to start Game 3 Monday in Toronto. Josh Tomlin will now start Game 2 Saturday for the Indians. Bauer cut his hand while doing "routine maintenance" on his drone.

"I think we've all probably at some point or another had a drone-related problem," Indians manager Terry Francona joked, and after all the injuries to Tribe pitchers, the only thing left to do is laugh. 

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Corey Kluber feels past quad issue; ALCS roster not set; Watch party, first pitch info

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 13, 2016

Indians ace Corey Kluber feels past the mild quadriceps strain he sustained the last week of the regular season.

Kluber, Friday night’s Game 1 starter in the American League Championship Series against the Toronto Blue Jays, felt he was assured it wouldn’t be an issue after the second bullpen session leading up to the playoffs.

Indians manager Terry Francona said Kluber might have had some trouble pushing off the rubber in his American League Division Series Game 2 start. Part of that might have been due to a sleeve Kluber wore, which he later took off. Kluber expects to be good to go for Game 1 of the ALCS.

“I was fine after that,” Kluber said. “Whether that had an effect on my velocity, I'm not sure. But if I can go out there and give the team seven innings, I'm not really concerned with how hard I'm throwing. … It was more precautionary than anything, we weren't trying to protect against anything major.”

The Indians would gladly take a repeat performance of his Game 2 start, when he tossed seven scoreless innings. But while the results were strong, they didn’t quite see the same Kluber they have seen when he’s had his best stuff. Jason Kipnis said he could see things weren’t quite all there. Pitching coach Mickey Callaway agreed.

“Sometimes not everybody gets the full story what's going with a guy when he's trying to battle through,” Callaway said. “Probably one of the gutsiest performances I've ever seen out of a starting pitcher in any situation.”

Kluber could have his hands full, facing the hottest lineup left in the postseason. The Blue Jays have averaged 6.75 runs per game and hit 10 home runs in four games.

“They have a lot of power, but they're also patient,” Kluber said. “You have to go out there and execute pitches. There's not really a magic formula. Just like what we asked about with Boston, it's not a magic formula, they're just a really good offense. We all have our work cut out for us.”

25 questions

The Indians have yet to set their ALCS roster.

The main question revolves around if the Indians carry three catchers or add a pitcher, with Game 4 and a short start from Mike Clevinger looming.

Francona said on Thursday that the club has flown pitchers Ryan Merritt and Joe Colon back to Cleveland from Arizona. Erik Gonzalez is back in Cleveland as well.

Teams have until Friday morning to set their rosters for the series.

ALCS Watch parties

The Indians announced that they’ll be holding watch parties when the ALCS turns to Toronto for Games 3, 4 and potentially 5 from Monday to Wednesday next week.

Watch parties will be held at four area Buffalo Wild Wings, including the downtown Cleveland, Willoughby Elyria and Medina locations.

Times

First pitch times for Games 1-6 of the ALCS are known. Games 1, 3 and 6 will be at 8:08 p.m. Games 2, 4 and 5 will be at 4:08 p.m. Game 7, if necessary, is still to be determined. All games will be televised on TBS. Ernie Johnson, Ron Darling and Cal Ripken Jr. will be on the call, with Sam Ryan reporting on the field.

#RockRed

The Indians were encouraging fans to wear all red throughout the ALCS as part of a #RockRed campaign. Gates open two hours before the first pitch. Fans are encouraged to be in their seats for Game 1 at least 30 minutes earlier for pregame festivities.

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Indians set ALCS rotation; Corey Kluber in Game 1, Mike Clevinger ‘penciled in’ for Game 4

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 12, 2016

The Indians have set their starting rotation for the American League Championship Series.

They were able to handle the task of a five-game series and three-game sweep of the Boston Red Sox in the American League Division Series without Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar in the rotation. Now comes the challenge of a seven-game ALCS against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Unlike the ALDS, the Indians are throwing ace Corey Kluber in Game 1, as he’s had additional time to rest his mild quadriceps strain following his stellar start in Game 2 of the ALDS. Trevor Bauer will take the mound for Game 2, followed by Josh Tomlin in Game 3.

That brings them to Game 4, and perhaps the biggest concern for the club entering this series. For now, the Indians are slated to throw Mike Clevinger in “somewhat of an abbreviated” start, as Indians manager Terry Francona put it. Kluber, Bauer and Tomlin will then throw Games 5, 6 and 7, if necessary.

Clevinger starting Game 4 is the current Plan A, but it could change. He’ll be available in the bullpen for Games 1 and 2 if he’s needed. Barring something short of the 19-inning game the Indians and Blue Jays played on July 1, Clevinger will be taking the mound in Toronto.

“It's not that we're not moving somebody up if we win a game or lose a game, he's supposed to pitch, again just because he's in the bullpen for the first two games, we reserve the right to make a change if we need to,” Francona said.

The Indians decided not to stretch Clevinger out over the week or two, instead keeping him ready out of the bullpen. It means if Clevinger does start, it likely will be for only a few innings. It could put a strain on the bullpen for that game, and potentially affect Games 3 and 5, as those three are played on consecutive days. But the Indians chose this path over pitching Kluber in Games 1, 4 and potentially 7.

“You know what, I just think the way it's set up with two [games], off day, three [games], off day, you're asking guys to do a lot,” Francona said. “You see at times where people have guys going on short rest, which we were certainly willing to do with Trevor. I think right now we feel like our best way to win this series is to allow those first three to pitch two games and then pitch Clev in which would be the fourth game.”

Wait continues

It sounds as if Salazar won’t be helping the Indians’ bullpen in the ALCS.

Salazar has been throwing in Arizona in an attempt to reach the point of being available for an inning or two out of the bullpen. He’s ditched his curveball, as that put additional strain on his forearm and was a pitch he might not have used anyway in a short outing. But he hasn’t yet built up enough strength for the Indians to feel comfortable with him on such an important stage.

“I don’t think so. I really don’t,” Francona said when asked if Salazar might be on the ALCS roster. “I don’t think he’s progressed quite to the point where [he’s ready]. He’s doing pretty good. He’s not back yet where he’s throwing all his pitches or letting it go 100 percent. I think if we ask him to do that, he might be reaching right now. We’ve been pretty vocal about the first priority is getting him back healthy. I think this proves it. We wouldn’t do that to somebody.”

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Indians 4, Red Sox 3: Ryan Lewis’ 35 Walk-Off Thoughts on a sweep, Coco Crisp, Josh Tomlin, more

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 11, 2016

Here are 35 Walk-Off Thoughts after the Indians beat the Boston Red Sox 4-3 at Fenway Park to complete a three-game sweep and advance to the American League Championship Series.

And here are five videos from the clubhouse as the Indians celebrated.

1. It’s becoming just about impossible to count the Indians out of any situation. Most—nearly all—picked the Red Sox to win this series, even though the Indians were the No. 2 seed. All the Indians did was stifle baseball’s best offense in the regular season and sweep the Red Sox, along with clinching the ALDS at Fenway Park.

2. The Indians will face the Toronto Blue Jays in the ALCS. Game 1 is Friday at Progressive Field. The Indians are still banged up, but they’ve continued to overcome every obstacle in their way this season and now postseason. They certainly don’t plan on stopping now

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Five videos from inside Indians' clubhouse during ALDS sweep celebration

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 11, 2016

Here are five videos from the visiting clubhouse at Fenway Park, where the Indians celebrated their three-game sweep of the Boston Red Sox in the American League Division Series.

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Indians beat Red Sox 4-3, will face Toronto Blue Jays in ALCS

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 10, 2016
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So much for being counted out. So much for the Indians losing too many key players to contend in the postseason. So much for it being a short October.

The Indians took down the Boston Red Sox 4-3 Monday night at Fenway Park, completing a three-game sweep to advance to the American League Championship Series. The Indians will face the Toronto Blue Jays for the right to go to the World Series. Game 1 of the ALCS is Friday at Progressive Field.

Coco Crisp, acquired on Aug. 31, only a day before the deadline to be added onto the postseason roster, came away with arguably the biggest hit for the Indians this October thus far. With the Indians holding onto a 2-1 lead in the top of the sixth inning, Crisp, a former Red Sox outfielder, drilled a two-run home run off former Indians pitcher Drew Pomeranz over The Green Monster to extend the Indians’ lead to 4-1. That hit proved to be the one that put the Red Sox away for good.

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Indians’ ace Corey Kluber had trouble pushing off, made up for it; Danny Salazar working to return

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 10, 2016
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Indians ace Corey Kluber looked like his normal self in the Indians’ Game 2 win, despite dealing still dealing with a mild quadriceps strain.

There were some concerns surrounding Kluber’s strained quad in his first career postseason start, and if it would affect him into October. Those doubts were mostly put to rest with his seven shutout innings. But he might have had issues pushing off the rubber.

Per BrooksBaseball, Kluber’s fastball velocity was down from 95.5 mph at the end of the regular season to 93.4 in that postseason start. He overcame the difference with command, stifling the Red Sox’s league-best offense. It was in line with his 93.3 average velocity for the 2016 season as a whole, but it was a dip between his last start in Detroit and Friday in Game 2.

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Indians-Red Sox ALDS Game 3 postponed due to rain, pushed to Monday

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 9, 2016

The Indians will have to wait at least one more day for their chance to advance to the American League Championship Series.

The Indians’ Game 3 matchup with the Boston Red Sox in the American League Division Series was postponed on Sunday due to rain. Game 3 will move to Monday with a first-pitch time of 6:08 p.m. Game 4, if needed, would be pushed to Tuesday. The Indians hold a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series after winning both Games 1 and 2 in Cleveland.

Per both managers, the pitching matchup for Game 3 will remain the same. Josh Tomlin will take the mound for the Indians against the Red Sox’s Clay Buchholz.  In part due to a lack of available options, the Indians for now believe their rotation through the ALDS will remain the same. Trevor Bauer is still slated to throw Game 4, if necessary, with Corey Kluber taking the mound for Game 5, should the Red Sox win both games in Boston.

“I think so,” Francona asked if the Indians could keep that schedule. “You start getting more weather, maybe you do. … We really haven’t gotten that far into it just because [we] still think it’s smart to stay focused on this game. And if something changes, we can change it.”

One benefit of Sunday’s postponement for the Indians is that if the series reaches Games 4, Bauer will be able to throw on his normal four days of rest, though Francona said Sunday Bauer would have been good to go regardless. A drawback is that they potentially lose an off-day, which plays into how a manager can aggressively use his bullpen.

The Indians have an eye on being aggressive with their bullpen, should the situation call for it.

“The good part is we put ourselves in a good position to only have to win one game,” said pitching coach Mickey Callaway. “And we're going to go all-out for one of those wins.”

Tomlin doesn’t see the rainout as a factor in any momentum the Indians picked up in Cleveland. It just means he has to wait an extra 24 hours to take the mound.

“I'm not sure, because we had a few days off after the regular season and we came out and played good baseball for two days,” Tomlin said. “So, I'm not sure if this is going to break momentum or not. I think everybody in that clubhouse knows what's at stake and we'll be ready to come out there with a lot of energy. I think the crowd, this place tomorrow, is going to give that extra adrenaline. I think we'll be ready to play. I don't think it kills momentum, but we definitely would've liked to play today, there's no doubt.”

1-9

The Indians’ bottom of the order has done as much damage as the top in the first two games of the series. The club’s bottom four hitters have gone 9-for-28 (.321) and driven in six of the Indians’ 11 runs.

In Game 1, Roberto Perez kicked off the three-homer inning against Rick Porcello with a solo shot in his first career postseason at-bat. In Game 2, it was Lonnie Chisenhall’s three-run home run off David Price.

“We need to be a team that goes one-to-nine,” Francona said. “Short series, so much is made out of small sample sizes, but that’s because that’s what there is. Again, you guys hear all the time, we’re just trying to be one run better. Because then that eliminates all the, ‘Why is this area doing this or that?’ Just try to win.”

It’s a major reason why the Indians are up 2-0 in the series and looking to clinch with one more win.

“I mean, it’s been huge,” Perez said. “Those guys like Napoli at the top of the order, they did a pretty good job during the season. The bottom of the lineup, we have to come through. We just have to get on base and have good AB’s for those guys at the top of the lineup. We’re trying to create runs and things are going our way right now.”

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Cleveland Indians first baseman Mike Napoli appreciated seeing LeBron James, Cavs at ALDS (Video)

By Deanna Stevens Published: October 7, 2016

Teammate Jason Kipnis also talked about the Cavs players coming to the game to show their support.  See what had to say about the Cavs' support here.

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Indians 6, Red Sox 0: Ryan Lewis’ 17 Walk-Off Thoughts on Corey Kluber, Lonnie Chisenhall, 2-0 lead

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 7, 2016

Here are 17 Walk-Off Thoughts on the Indians’ 6-0 win against the Boston Red Sox Friday night that gave them a 2-0 lead in the American League Division Series.

1. When this series started, it’s fair to say that most—nearly all—thought the Red Sox would be the ones to advance to the American League Championship Series. The Indians were beat up. The pitching staff was depleted. They were facing baseball’s best lineup, not to mention Rick Porcello and David Price in Games 1 and 2, respectively.

2 Now, they’re traveling to Boston one win away from a sweep and a trip to the ALCS. It wasn’t difficult to see that the Red Sox could be the favorite on paper. It is becoming more difficult to count the Indians out of any situation.

3. Said Jason Kipnis, “This team has had a confidence about it, not only to win the division, but to make some noise this postseason. I thought that started with last year, the last couple years, the foundation we've been setting, [several] winning seasons in a row. I felt like we all thought it was our turn this year. … People forget there's a reason we're opening up in Cleveland and not Boston. We have a pretty good team here that doesn't rely on one guy. We find ways to win ballgames and we put together good runs. Right now you're seeing one of them.”

4. Many thought the Indians would just be trying to hold on to anything they could at the start of this series. Now, they’ve grabbed hold of it. And they’re playing the best baseball in Cleveland in nine years.

5. Said Kipnis, “A little bit of a perfect storm. You can add in career years for about five different guys, improved defense all over, rookies stepping up, Tomlin, Bauer stepping up, Clevinger. It's a perfect storm of guys having good years for us. When you have all of those guys having good years, you're going to make some noise. You're going to get a lot of wins. Things are going to go your way. It's one big wave we're trying to ride.”

More: Indians relish playoff experience; Question of stealing signs emerges

6. Corey Kluber pitched in the biggest game of his career on 10 days rest—which can throw off a pitcher’s rhythm—with a mild quad strain. Seven shutout innings, three hits, seven strikeouts. All things considered, he delivered one of the best starts of his career when the Indians, tired bullpen and all, needed it the most.

7. Said Indians manager Terry Francona, “Yeah, we talked before the game about would he be a little bit rusty or would he be really good. I think he answered that question. … He was terrific. Early in the game it was a little hard for him. They put a sleeve on, and it was a little too tight. So he had to work through that a little bit, which I think made us probably a little more nervous than it made him.”

More: Marla Ridenour: Indians' success against Red Sox illustrates 18-month turnaround

8. Kipnis still thinks the Indians have yet to see Kluber’s best, saying, “If you go back and watch him pitch, I don't think he had his best stuff. He might have still been feeling the quad. I don't know. Usually, he's very pinpoint with his accuracy and he was kind of all around the zone a little bit. You see the stat line that he put up in the end versus that offense, it tells you the kind of competitor he is and how good he is at finding ways to get outs with what he does have that day. The guy is our workhorse. The guy is our ace, a bona fide ace. This team loves when he's on the mound for us. We feel very confident when he's out there.”

9. The Indians entered this ALDS without a lot of room for error by needing Trevor Bauer to throw Game 1 and then Game 4 on short rest and then Kluber with a strained quad. So far, they’ve dodged trouble.

10. In Thursday’s Game 1 the Indians knocked Rick Porcello around with three solo home runs. In Friday’s Game 2, Lonnie Chisenhall did it all his own with a three-run shot against David Price that gave the Indians a 4-0 lead. From there, Kluber cruised.

11. Chisenhall normally wouldn’t play against a left-handed starting pitcher, but as Francona said before the game his splits weren’t much of an issue and the Indians wanted Chisenhall’s defense in right field. It was all vindicated when Chisenhall rifled a ball down the right-field line, just fair.

More: George Thomas: Lonnie Chisenhall rewards Terry Francona's faith with three-run home run

12. Said Francona, “Yeah, I think sometimes good players make you look smarter than you probably are. Like I said before the game, David Price is a really good pitcher. His splits are kind of even. And with Kluber pitching, we really like to have our best defensive team out there. And it also gave us some balance.”

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Corey Kluber cruises through 7 shutout innings, Indians beat Red Sox 6-0 to take 2-0 ALDS lead

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 7, 2016

Indians ace Corey Kluber had to wait an extra day to make his first career postseason start. It was worth the wait.

Kluber cruised through baseball’s best lineup from the regular season, and the Indians beat the Boston Red Sox 6-0 on Friday night to take a 2-0 lead in the American League Division Series.

One night after the Indians’ bullpen played a major role in Game 1, throwing 5 1/3 innings and allowing Trevor Bauer to be ready on short rest for Game 4, Kluber nearly rendered the bullpen moot by delivering seven shutout innings to go with three hits, three walks and seven strikeouts. It was one of the strongest starts for any pitcher against the Red Sox this season and came at a time in which the Indians needed a deep outing the most.

It all came on 10 days of rest and the chance that Kluber would come out rusty following a mild strain of a quadriceps muscle last week in Detroit.

“Yeah, we talked before the game about would he be a little rusty or would he be really good. I think he answered that question,” said Indians manager Terry Francona. “He was terrific. Early in the game it was a little hard for him. They put a sleeve on, and it was a little too tight. So he had to work through that a little bit, which I think made us probably a little more nervous than it made him.”

Kipnis believes the Indians have yet to see Kluber’s best.

“If you go back and watch him pitch, I don't think he had his best stuff [tonight],” Kipnis said. “He might have still been feeling the quad. Usually he's very pinpoint accuracy. He was kind of all around the zone a little bit. Then you see the stat line he put up at the end against that offense. That tells you what kind of competitor he is.”

The Game 2 victory means the Indians will travel to Boston for Game 3 and Game 4, if necessary, needing one win to advance to the American League Championship Series. Game 5, if the Red Sox win both at home, would be Wednesday at Progressive Field.

The Indians’ offense again put together a big inning early, this time against Red Sox starting pitcher David Price. In the second inning, Carlos Santana singled to left field and was followed with an infield single by Jose Ramirez. Brandon Guyer delivered a bloop-single to center field, scoring Santana and giving the Indians a 1-0 lead.

Then, the big blow. The three straight singles led to Lonnie Chisenhall, who got ahold of a Price offering and rifled it down the right-field line for a three-run home run, pushing the Indians’ lead to 4-0. Chisenhall entered the game 4-for-11 (.364) in his career against Price. That, plus his defense in right field, led to Francona leaving him in the starting lineup despite a left-hander being on the mound. It paid off in the end with the biggest hit of Chisenhall’s career.

“I don’t remember too much running around the bases,” Chisenhall said. “I remember seeing it go out and I knew it was a home run, so I slowed down pretty quickly. It was a quick run around the bases.”

Price was knocked out of the game in the fourth inning. Against relief pitcher Matt Barnes, Kipnis added an RBI single in the fourth and Rajai Davis later made it 6-0 with a sacrifice fly to center field that followed a costly error by Dustin Pedroia.

Friday night also included an appearance from LeBron James, who, along with several members of the Cavaliers standing with him, addressed the sell-out crowd of 37,842 prior to the game, calling for the same support they received in June during their run to the title.

“Just like you guys were behind our back for our championship run, we all have to rally together for their championship run tonight for Game 2,” James said.

That run now continues to Boston and a chance to advance at Fenway Park.

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Indians get taste of playoff atmosphere, expand on 2013 experience; Questions of stolen signs emerge

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 7, 2016

For many of the Indians players on the field Thursday and Friday night, it was their first taste of playoff baseball and the added electricity that comes with it. For others, it was their second immersion into that kind of atmosphere, with only the one-game, toe-in-the-water experience of the 2013 Wild Card Game acting previously counting.

It didn’t disappoint, nor did the sellout crowd of of 37,763 in attendance.

“The fans, that’s what motivated me,” said Francisco Lindor Thursday night on his home run. “How they reacted, I reacted. I try to enjoy the game. I try to smile. I try to have fun. As soon as Mookie [Betts] jumped, the ball touched the top of the wall, everybody’s hands went up. My hands went up, too. I was just excited.”

Indians manager Terry Francona felt it as soon as he stepped out of the dugout.

“I’m not an idiot—maybe I am—but it’s amazing how you get so locked in that you don’t really [notice] until you leave the dugout,” said Indians manager Terry Francona. “Then it’s like, ‘Whoa.’ It was a good atmosphere. I was happy for our city. I was proud of our city. … You want to get the fans here and everything. Sometimes it’s just been frustrating, but I thought [Thursday night] was a really cool thing.”

The first experience can be difficult. It took Game 1 starting pitcher Trevor Bauer an inning or two to calm down. Jason Kipnis pressed too hard in 2013 for the Wild Card Game.

“I think in '13 the first time around I might have built it up to be a little too much, made it too hard on myself,” Kipnis said. “I gripped it too tight and the nerves got the best of me. This time around with just the way the ballclubs played, I was able to settle in. … In terms of the crowd, the red towels were out just like last time, and they were loud when they needed to be, and loud when they didn't need to be. And that's just exactly what you want out of a hometown crowd.”

Signs

After the Indians’ three-homer third inning in Game 1, the question of stealing signs has been brought up.

Per a report by the Boston Herald, pitcher Rick Porcello and catcher Sandy Leon midway through Game 1 switched up their signs following the three-home-run barrage that gave the Indians a lead. Pitching coach Carls Willis, formerly with the Indians, told the Boston Herald, ‘Yeah, you never know” when asked if it was possible the Indians did in fact figure out their signs, despite all three home runs coming with the bases empty. Normally, having signs stolen is a concern with a runner on second base.

Francona wasn’t aware of the report when asked by reporters, saying, “I'm not even sure what you're saying, because we only had one hit with a runner on [second] base.”

He then joked, “We barely know our own signs.”

Red Sox manager John Farrell dismissed the notion on Friday, saying, “There’s no accusation of any kind. It’s a matter of us going out and executing more consistently.”

Game 4

Francona is confident that Bauer will be fine to start Game 4 on short rest after he threw only 78 pitches in Thursday’s game 1.

Bauer needing to come back after three-days rest is one of the consequences of the multiple injuries to the starting rotation.

“He understood,” Francona said of taking out Bauer in the fifth. “ Usually, sometimes that’s a tug-of-war. I think he knew why we were doing it. I think Trevor, of all people, he could probably pitch today. He really probably could, but I think it’s a little more fair to him to do that.”

Josh Tomlin is slated to throw Game 3 in Boston. Should the series return to Cleveland for Game 5, Corey Kluber will take the mound.

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Indians 5, Red Sox 4: Ryan Lewis’ 29 Walk-Off Thoughts on Trevor Bauer, 3 home runs, Roberto Perez

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 7, 2016

Here are 29 Walk-Off Thoughts on the Indians’ 5-4 win against the Boston Red Sox Thursday night that gave them a 1-0 lead in the American League Division Series.

1. Few things in sports are better than playoff baseball and the electricity that comes with it. For the first time since 2013 and the first time in the ALDS since 2007, Cleveland fans got to experience it again. It didn’t disappoint.

 

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Indians 5, Red Sox 4: Roberto Perez supplies offense & defense in AL Division Series opener

By Michael Beaven Published: October 7, 2016

CLEVELAND: Indians catcher Roberto Perez is not known for his hitting or speed around the bases.

He supplied both Thursday night along with his usual solid defensive skills to help the Indians earn a 5-4 win over the Boston Red Sox in Game 1 of the best of five American League Division Series.

A crowd of 37,763 at Progressive Field witnessed Perez and several of his teammates make their postseason debuts. Instead of looking like a novice, Perez shined on baseball’s brightest stage behind the plate and from the ninth spot in the Indians batting order.

“I can’t even explain that feeling,” Perez said about the atmosphere inside the stadium. “It was really awesome to go out there and compete with these guys. They have a really good lineup over there. We battled. That one inning, it was awesome. Each guy wasn’t trying to do too much. We put up good ABs tonight and that was the ballgame.”

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Indians’ three home runs, bullpen take down Red Sox 5-4; Indians take 1-0 ALDS lead

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 6, 2016

The Indians flexed some muscle against a Cy Young contender, and Trevor Bauer and the bullpen stalled baseball’s best offense to top the Boston Red Sox 5-4 and take a 1-0 American League Division Series lead.

In front of a raucous Progressive Field crowd of 37,763 getting their first taste of playoff baseball in Cleveland since 2013 and the first ALDS action since 2007, the Indians fell behind early but stormed back with a trio of home runs in the third inning in a span of four batters.

The Indians entered the third inning trailing 2-1 against Red Sox starter Rick Porcello. Roberto Perez, one of the catchers the Indians had so often pinch-hit for in September, tied it 2-2 with a solo home run to right field. After Carlos Santana grounded out, Jason Kipnis put the Indians on top 3-2, belting a solo home run to center field. As Kipnis was high-fiving teammates in the dugout, Francisco Lindor drilled a ball to right field that just cleared the wall and Mookie Betts’ leap to keep it in the ballpark, making it 4-2.

The first tied it. The second gave the Indians a lead. The third sent Progressive Field into bedlam. It was the first time the Indians hit three home runs in a postseason inning since Game 3 of the 1998 ALCS against the New York Yankees, when Mark Whiten, Manny Ramirez and Jim Thome accomplished the feat.

It erased a quick start for the Red Sox against Bauer in the first inning. Dustin Pedroia led off the ALDS with a double to right field and Brock Holt followed with a single. Bauer retired Boston’s two MVP candidates, Betts and David Ortiz, but couldn’t escape unharmed when Hanley Ramirez ripped a double to right field. Pedroia scored easily, but throws by Tyler Naquin and Lindor and a reaching tag by Perez nailed Holt at the plate to take a run off the board. Holt was originally called safe before an Indians’ challenge overturned the call.

After the Indians’ lightning-filled third inning, Bauer began the fourth by allowing a solo home run to Andrew Benintendi to make it 4-3. With two outs, Indians manager Terry Francona proved he would be aggressive with his bullpen by calling on Andrew Miller, the earliest the Indians had gone to Miller since acquiring him at the deadline.

Miller threw two scoreless innings as the Indians extended their lead to 5-3 in the fifth on Lonnie Chisenhall’s RBI-single up the middle that scored Perez, who singled and advanced to second on a sacrifice fly.

But, the Indians still had work to do against Boston’s prolific offense. Bryan Shaw in the eighth allowed a solo home run to Holt to lead off the eighth inning just in front of the heart of the Red Sox’s lineup that cut the Indians’ lead to 5-4.

Ortiz worked to a full count and then roped a double to right-center, putting the tying run in scoring position with one out. But Allen responded by inducing Ramirez to ground out and striking out Xander Bogaerts, both after lengthy battles.

That sent it to the ninth. Allen struck out Jackie Bradley Jr. and Sandy Leon before Benintendi singled to right. With the tying run on first, Allen struck out Pedroia on his 40th pitch to complete a five-out save and secure the biggest win for the Indians in nine years.

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Corey Kluber ready for Game 2 start, not disappointed in being pushed back

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 6, 2016

Not many people beat Indians manager Terry Francona to the ballpark on a given day. As he’s tried to rehab from a mild quadriceps strain, Corey Kluber came close over the last week and a half to ensure he’d be ready to make the biggest start of his career.

The Indians had little doubt that Kluber would will himself to start in the American League Division Series either for Game 1 or Game 2. He didn’t get a chance to pitch in the 2013 Wild Card Game and wouldn’t want to miss out on this series, especially with Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar injured and the Indians’ options running low.

Though, Kluber (18-9, 3.14 ERA) did have to be pushed back to Game 2—first pitch is scheduled for 4:38 p.m. on Friday—instead of starting Game 1 as would be the case under normal circumstances. Kluber needed time to throw a couple of bullpen sessions before the series and would have had a harder time returning on short rest for Game 4, as Trevor Bauer will have to do.

“He almost beat me to the ballpark, which is hard to do,” Francona said. “It's safe to say he was the first one here for about 10 days. I'm still glad we did it the way we did it, because I think it allowed him to have that second bullpen, so that he could kind of get after it so he knows, when he goes out there, he doesn't have to feel his way through it. I also wanted to get there in a way where he understood, too. So, we had multiple conversations about it, but I think he's in a really good place and I feel better about it.”

Kluber said Thursday, not long before Bauer would start warming up to pitch Game 1, that he wasn’t disappointed in the decision to move him back a game. As the “undisputed” ace of the staff, as Francona put it this week, Kluber wanted to take the mound, but the situation wouldn’t allow it. Kluber is now slated to throw Game 2 on Friday and Game 5, if necessary, on normal rest.

“I don't think there was disappointment,” Kluber said. “We talked about it as a group and came to the decision that if it comes to a point where somebody has to pitch on short rest, Trevor is better equipped to do that. And I'm not disappointed in him pitching. We have confidence in him. I'm looking forward to having an opportunity to pitch [Friday].”

So Kluber, a Cy Young contender this season, has had to wait a day to make the most important start in his career. And it’ll come against the league’s top offense and opposing starting pitcher David Price (17-9, 3.99 ERA), a fellow former Cy Young Award winner.

Game 2 of this series has the most name power in the pitching matchup. Price, though, has previously been on this stage. Kluber has led the Indians’ staff for several seasons but like Bauer on Thursday night, it’ll be his first taste of playoff baseball. And every game will be crucial.

“I think when you're facing somebody that's a pitcher of his quality I think that mistakes might happen more, but I think that goes back to my thought process of taking a pitch at a time and trying not to get caught up in the moment or who you're pitching against,” Kluber said. “Most of it is trying to go out and execute your game plan.”

Kluber couldn’t think of a game that stood out as the biggest of his career thus far. Friday night will change that.

“I don't know if I really have one that stands out,” Kluber said. “I try to take each one as the biggest game. I think obviously there's stages everybody goes through, but I think as far as the game itself I try to take each one as the most important game.”

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Indians announce Larry Doby Youth Fund; Kyle Crockett tweaks back; A family moment for first pitch

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 6, 2016

As playoff baseball gets underway following one of the best seasons for the Indians in the last decade, the club has announced the creation of the Larry Doby Youth Fund, which aims to provide assistance to the underserved youth of Cleveland.

The Indians also announced that they have made a $1 million donation to the fund.

“As many are aware, Hall of Fame Cleveland Indian Larry Doby was the first African-American to play in the American League,” said Indians manager Terry Francona in a statement. “He endured many unfair hardships and challenges, and handled everything with the professionalism and grace that defined him. It is in Mr. Doby’s spirit we have created The Larry Doby Youth Fund.”

Every member of the Indians’ roster, coaching staff and support staff contributed to the $1 million donation.

“We have enjoyed a special season here in Cleveland because of the incredible group of individuals in our clubhouse,” Francona said. “They are committed to the city in which they live and work and have generously donated to The Larry Doby Youth Fund. We are very fortunate to be part of Major League Baseball and we accept the social responsibility that comes with that—to use our resources to directly make an impact on the underserved youth of our community, to make our community better.”

One lefty

The Indians are carrying only one left-hander among the 11 pitchers on their American League Division Series roster, that being Andrew Miller.

Kyle Crockett was the other option, but that became moot when he injured his back this week. It’s part of the reason Miller is the lone lefty, and potentially part of the reason the Indians are able to carry three catchers, Yan Gomes included.

It doesn’t appear to be a serious injury for Crockett. But it was enough to warrant his needing rest during the ALDS.

Along with Danny Salazar, the Indians have sent Ryan Merritt, Shawn Armstrong and Joe Colon to Arizona. Utility man Erik Gonzalez will be sent to Arizona once the Indians are clear of Friday’s game.

First pitch

Francona’s father, the original Tito, threw out the first pitch before Thursday’s Game 1. The Franconas have plenty of history in Cleveland, with Terry hoping to make some more this October.

“Yeah, I talk all the time about being here in Cleveland, it's about as close to a family feel you can get in a professional setting,” Terry Francona said prior to the first pitch. “And so it will be family. He's going to—I’m going to walk him out to the mound, or he'll walk me out, and he's going to throw the pitch to Brad Mills who is as close to family as you can get. So it will be a very special moment.”

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Yan Gomes makes Indians’ ALDS roster with fractured wrist

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 5, 2016

Against all odds and medical timetables, Yan Gomes will be a part of the American League Division Series.

The Indians on Wednesday tentatively set their ALDS 25-man roster. In part due to only needing three starting pitchers, the Indians will be carrying three catchers. That includes Gomes, even though his season was thought to be finished.

Gomes fractured his wrist on Sept. 14 when he was hit with a pitch during a rehab assignment. The rough timetable he was given was 6-to-8 weeks before he could get back on the field, which didn’t include the needed time that normally would have required multiple rehab assignments. With the postseason drawing near, Gomes was considered done until next spring.

Indians manager Terry Francona in September gave Gomes a one-percent chance of returning at some point in the postseason, probably looking ahead if the Indians advanced deep into October. Francona did add that if anybody could be that one percent, it was Gomes. But returning for the beginning of the postseason, and actually in the regular season roughly a month before he should have?

“Yeah, I'm surprised,” Francona said. “I think we were being really honest about his chances and things like that. I didn't think it was fair to ever put it out there that there was a possibility, because by all rights he shouldn't have had a realistic possibility. … And Yan, I think he willed himself to be a part of what's going on. The other day in Kansas City when he hit the home run, to see the reception in the dugout for him, I'm guessing that made a lot of the work worthwhile, and now to be a part of this, too.”

It was a tough road for Gomes, who originally thought his season was finished and that he’d miss out on the playoff run. With a timetable of potentially two months, Gomes went from a hospital gown to a uniform in less than half the time.

“It’s been a roller coaster of emotions, man,” Gomes said Wednesday. “I went from sitting in a hospital room with my [wrist] broken, not going to lie, crying my eyes out because I’m not going to be part of the team, but then once I got my stuff together, I was like, ‘Ya know what, I can try to make a comeback,’ got to play a couple games and to be put on the roster is pretty rewarding for me and I’m just going to try to do my best to help our team any way I can.”

One day, he picked up a baseball and noticed it didn’t hurt as bad as he thought it would. That sparked the idea. Then came the news from the trainers that he couldn’t damage the wrist any further. It was all about pain tolerance.

“I’m just going to tape it as tight as we can and hopefully it stays together,” Gomes said. “But I can tell you, I’m going to give 100 percent every time. … The first time I hit, it didn’t feel very good. The second time, I saw some progress. This was three days after. The [wrist] is still broken, there’s still going to be some pain, but they told me, ‘Look, if you can tolerate it, it’s not going to get any worse.’”

It’s still unclear how much Gomes will be able to contribute, or how much Francona will use him. But it completes a comeback that shouldn’t have been possible, considering the injury and that a person can’t will a fractured bone to heal.

The Indians have been often pinch-hitting for their catchers and having each catch a few innings, something that could continue in the postseason. Gomes, fractured wrist and all, will be a part of it.

During his rehab, he remembered the crowd for the 2013 AL Wild Card Game. And he didn’t want to miss Thursday night’s atmosphere.

“That’s the one thing I’ve been talking to Roberto [Perez] and maybe a couple other guys who weren’t there or haven’t been a part of that,” Gomes said. “I had goosebumps going to warm up the pitcher. That’s how loud our crowd already was. I can’t wait. It’s going to be fun.”

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Indians’ Trevor Bauer completes cycle from bullpen to ALDS Game 1 starter

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 5, 2016

Trevor Bauer didn’t begin this season in the Indians’ starting rotation, instead being left out in favor of Cody Anderson. But on Thursday, he’ll be the one taking the mound for Game 1 of the American League Division Series against the Boston Red Sox.

In doing so, Bauer will complete his transition from the outside looking in this March to throwing some of the most important pitches for the Indians’ franchise in roughly a decade.

Had you told him this would be his 2016 season arch?

“I probably wouldn't have said anything. I just would have walked away probably, knowing me and my personality,” Bauer said. “ I don't know, that's such a hard thing to answer, because it's all in hindsight. My mindset at that point is not anywhere close to where my mindset is at this point.”

It’s been a long road for Bauer, who came to Cleveland as the talented but heady youngster who had his own way of doing things. That road had continued to be rocky until smoothing out a bit this season, when Bauer began working with Chris Gimenez on simplifying things. The Indians have long said there’s nothing necessarily wrong with being different, though it’s no secret Bauer hasn’t been the easiest pitcher to work with—he admitted as much on Wednesday.

“The Indians as an organization has done a great job kind of allowing me to do that, trying to learn what it is I do,” Bauer said. “I can be difficult to deal with sometimes, but I think they've done a good job kind of navigating that and finding a working relationship with me.”

In a perfect world, the Indians would be starting ace Corey Kluber in Game 1, but his mild quadriceps strain has pushed him back to Game 2. Carlos Carrasco would be next in that line, but his fractured hand has ended his season. Danny Salazar would be next, but his forearm strain has sent him to Arizona for at least the ALDS.

That leaves Bauer for a critical Game 1 and possibly a Game 4 start on short rest. In a way, the culmination of the club’s work with Bauer as a young pitcher will meet at a headway Thursday night at Progressive Field.

“It's been evolving, that's for sure,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “Kluber is our undisputed ace of our staff. Everybody knows what he's been through, and it's easier to pitch him in Game 2. It's probably more realistic for him. I don't think anybody has any trepidation about letting Trevor pitch Game 1. I think he's been waiting for this his whole life.”

Bauer will be facing Cy Young contender Rick Porcello in the Indians’ first postseason game since 2013 and their first ALDS game since 2007. Bauer relishes the competition aspect of baseball, often saying that’s why he loves pitching. Thursday night will be the biggest stage he’s reached thus far. The stakes haven’t been higher, and the injuries to Carrasco and Salazar raised them exponentially.

“It's a big responsibility, something you grow up dreaming about doing, especially against a team as storied as the Red Sox, as good as the Red Sox are,” Bauer said. “It should be a lot of fun. I'm really looking forward to it.”

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Previewing the Indians/Red Sox American League Division Series (podcast)

By Dan Kadar Published: October 5, 2016
AP16278861290586

Ryan Lewis is back on the Akron Beacon Journal and Ohio.com podcast to preview the American League Division Series. The Indians and Red Sox begin their best-of-five in Cleveland on Thursday night, and Ryan breaks down the complete series.

Trevor Bauer starts Game 1 for the Indians at Progressive Field, and Ryan explains what type of pitcher we might see. Ryan also breaks down the tough Red Sox lineup, Corey Kluber's Game 2 start and much more.

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Indians’ battle-tested bullpen ready for October stakes, playoff baseball

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 4, 2016

As the Indians scratched and clawed their way through September following a rash of injuries to the starting rotation, it’s been the bullpen that picked up the extra innings, as well as the slack.

Entering the American League Division Series against the Boston Red Sox and baseball’s best lineup, the back-end of the bullpen might end up needing to do it again. That battle-tested September, which involved multiple “bullpen games,” has only increased the club’s confidence in one of the best bullpens in the game.

“I think the way the bullpen has kind of come together and been used in the course of the last six weeks really had a playoff-type environment to it, or feel to it,” said Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti during Tuesday’s workout at Progressive Field. “So, I think our guys are really prepared going into the postseason and positioned to be successful.”

In the last two months of the regular season, the back-end of the Indians’ bullpen—which includes Cody Allen, Andrew Miller, Bryan Shaw and Dan Otero—combined for a 1.84 ERA and 0.789 WHIP, along with 117 strikeouts in 102 2/3 innings pitched. They effectively held the pitching staff together while Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar missed time and Josh Tomlin momentarily lost his touch.

“We had some guys with quick hooks,” Shaw said. “I think there were a couple times with bullpen days. We’re always ready, whether it’s the first inning or the ninth inning. If the starter goes deep, but we may have a chance if the starter gives us five and we’re winning 3-1 and he gets a couple of guys on base and struggles a little bit in the sixth, we can cover it. If it happens in the third, we can cover it. If it happens in the ninth, we can cover it. We’re ready down there whenever the phone rings, whenever Tito calls us, we’re ready to go.”

The Indians are going with a three-man rotation in the ALDS, with Trevor Bauer, Corey Kluber and Josh Tomlin as the team’s only starters. One advantageous aspect of the postseason format for the Indians is the built-in off days will allow Indians manager Terry Francona to use the back-end of his bullpen every night, knowing they’ll get a rest after Games 2 and 4.

“You have to recognize that going in, that there's no reason to not pitch a guy, even if you're down a couple, when you have a day off the next day,” Francona said.

Instead of the Indians needing 6-7 innings each night from a starting pitcher, Miller can likely throw at least one inning per game, if not two. Otero has often come in during high-leverage situations. Shaw has acted as the ever-reliable, often-used setup man. Allen has held his own as the club’s closer, even with Miller sitting there as a possible option.

Miller, especially, is a weapon in the postseason, and a major reason why the Indians sent some of their top prospects to New York for him. Miller ended this season with a 1.45 ERA and a near-impossible 123:9 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

“Obviously, we paid a steep price to acquire Andrew, but we feel he’s one of the best, if not the best reliever in the game for a lot of reasons,” Antonetti said. “Not only with how dominant he can be, but his ability to pitch multiple innings, to be able to impact left-hander hitters, right-handed hitters, and his willingness to pitch at any time. To have someone who’s able to do those things and pitch in the most meaningful parts of the game, that can be a competitive advantage.”

The Kansas City Royals won last year’s World Series with the backbone of their club the bullpen, especially in the postseason, when they could bring in their vaunted trio each night. The Indians might need their bullpen to act in a similar way.

“You want to leverage certain guys in your bullpen, that’s for sure,” Francona said. “And we will do that to the best of our ability. You don’t want to get in the way of a starter. But you don’t want to go too long. In a short series, that’s challenging. That’s one of the challenging things.”

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Danny Salazar to not make ALDS roster, be sent to Arizona; Terry Francona-Boston connection muted

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 4, 2016

The Indians are waiting to name their full 25-man roster for the American League Division Series, but one known aspect is that pitcher Danny Salazar will not be a part of it.

Indians manager Terry Francona said after Tuesday’s workout at Progressive Field that Salazar will be heading to Arizona to continue his rehab from a strained forearm.

The Indians had been hoping that Salazar could be available out of the bullpen for an inning or two in the ALDS, which begins with Game 1 on Thursday night against the Boston Red Sox. Salazar has thrown multiple bullpen sessions over the last week or so but couldn’t progress quickly enough to appear in a postseason game in any role.

“We explained that to Danny and I think he completely understands that it puts him in the best position,” Francona said. “We're being pretty consistent in what we've said all along. The first priority is to get him healthy. When that happens [and] where it takes us, we'll see. This puts him in the best position to do that."

The possibility does exist that Salazar could appear in a larger role later in October, should the Indians advance to the American League Championship Series or the World Series. Instead of hoping he can throw an inning or two in the first round, the Indians are sending Salazar to Arizona to continue his consistent rehab with the chance that he can get to the point of throwing in a game.

“Danny wasn’t ready to go and impact our team for the first series,” said Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti. “But, that does not mean that he won’t have a chance to impact our team if we move on. Right now, he’ll continue on a throwing program, try to build up his arm strength, feel completely healthy and we’ll see where it goes from there.”

In the past

This series is rife with storylines, one being the connection between Francona and Boston. Francona, of course, was the manager who ended the famed Red Sox Curse, winning World Series titles in 2004 and 2007, the latter coming in part at the expense of the Indians, who blew a 3-1 lead in the ALCS.

Francona, though, would like that particular storyline to be swept under the rug, at least during the series.

“Whatever my feelings were, are, need to remain that way,” Francona said. “It’s unfair to the players for both teams. Both teams have accomplished so much to get here, it needs to be about the players. Whatever my personal feelings are need to stay just that.”

It also means Francona will be managing against Boston’s John Farrell, one of his good friends inside and outside the game.

“But really, I’m not going up against John,” Francona said. “Our players are going to decide this. I have mixed emotions about—he’s one of my best friends in the whole world outside of baseball. It pulls at you a little bit. I guess the way I look at it, it’s an honor to be able to compete against them. And I’m including him in that. It’s kind of how I feel.”

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Indians to face Boston Red Sox in ALDS; Game 1 in Cleveland on Thursday

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 1, 2016

The Indians needed a foursome of outcomes to lead to their best-case scenario on Sunday, and all four came to fruition. As a result, the Indians will have home-field advantage against the Boston Red Sox in the American League Division Series.  

The postseason is here. Game 1 will be Thursday in Cleveland. Game 2 is on Friday in Cleveland before the series shifts to Boston for Games 3 and 4 and then back to Cleveland for Game 5, the latter two if necessary.

On Sunday the Indians beat the Kansas City Royals 3-2, Toronto beat the Red Sox 2-1, Baltimore beat the New York Yankees 5-2 and the Detroit lost to the Atlanta Braves 1-0. Those four outcomes sealed the six-team American League postseason field and solved any home-field advantage scenarios. The Texas Rangers are the No. 1 seed with the Indians and Red Sox Nos. 2 and 3. The Blue Jays and Orioles are the two wild-card teams who will play for the right to take on the Rangers, leaving the Tigers out of postseason play.

It all also means the Indians (94-67) don’t need to travel to Detroit on Monday for Game 162, as that game wouldn’t have any implications on the playoff picture. It’ll be the second straight year in which the Indians play only 161 regular season games.

The Red Sox (93-69) will pose quite the challenge for the Indians’ depleted starting rotation. Boston led the league in runs scored with 878. They led the AL by 101 runs over the second-place Indians, who scored 777 runs. The Red Sox this season became only the second AL team in the last 65 years to lead the league in runs by more than 100, per ESPN. They are also the first team since the 2005 Indians to have 50 extra-base hits from seven different hitters.

That lineup includes two MVP candidates, outfielder Mookie Betts and designated hitter David Ortiz on his farewell tour. The Red Sox also have a Cy Young candidate in Rick Porcello, having the best season of his career, along with high-priced ace David Price.

The Indians, meanwhile, will be throwing Trevor Bauer in Game 1. Cy Young contender Corey Kluber, battling a mild quadriceps strain, will start Game 2 Friday night in Cleveland. Kluber starting Game 2 gives him an extra day of rest and also means he won’t pitch on three-days rest. Bauer will likely do just that in Games 1 and 4. Josh Tomlin is slated to start Game 3. If Game 5 is needed, it’ll likely be Kluber if healthy.

Gaining home-field advantage could be a big break for the Indians. Home-road splits are often shaky statistics to believe in when looking forward to a series, though the Indians are 53-28 at Progressive Field and have averaged 5.58 runs per game, up from 4.06 on the rad.

Ortiz and Indians manager Terry Francona make up two of the more interesting storylines of this series, with Francona having two World Series titles with Boston. That includes the 2004 championship that ended the Red Sox’s title drought and the 2007 title that came at the expense of the Colorado Rockies in the World Series and the Indians in the American League Championship Series, who held a 3-1 lead before losing the final three games.

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