HOUSTON — Josh Donaldson is ready to eat.
As the Indians and Houston Astros gear up for Friday’s Game 1 of the American League Division Series, anything that happened in the regular season is now off the books. A new postseason means a clean slate for all 25 players on both rosters. Everything that came before is now rendered moot.
A great season, or an MVP candidacy, will now take a backseat to October baseball. Positive momentum can be halted with a couple of poor swings.
It also means a poor statistical season can be wiped away. An ugly batting average is now reset. Six months of frustration can be relieved in one moment. At the very least, it’s a new beginning.
For Donaldson, it’s a chance to grab a proverbial dinner. Donaldson struggled through an injury-riddled and, for the most part, lost regular season. He was acquired by the Indians with the sole goal of using the roughly one month prior to the ALDS to allow him to build back up as close to 100 percent as possible.
Donaldson was acquired as a short-term rental for these games. Now it’s time to see how well the investment pays off.
“My entire focus has been to get healthy [and] be able to come and compete each and every day that I’ve been here, [and] I’m preparing as if it’s my last game,” Donaldson said. “So you have that mentality, you have that mindset, you don’t let things build up.”
“It’s kind of, ‘Here, here’s what’s on your plate today. You either eat it or you don’t,’ and I’m choosing to try to eat as much as possible.
The clean-slate aspect of the postseason kept Jason Kipnis going during the regular season as he struggled mightily to begin the year, which cast a dark cloud over his season-long numbers. Kipnis ended the season on a higher note — with 18 home runs, 28 doubles and 75 RBI — but his .230 batting average never recovered after he dug too deep a hole in April and May. But for the next few days or weeks, it means very little.
“The reset button has been my light at the end of the tunnel,” Kipnis said. “Just, ‘Hey, keep your head up, keep pushing. Gain some momentum going to October, because when it gets to there it’s a reset button for everyone. Everyone’s at the same number.’”
Except, here’s the rub: now that October is here, the individual stats don’t mean anything. It’s just win and advance.
“Now that I get to the reset button in my stats, my stats mean even less now to me,” Kipnis said. “Now it’s just wins. That’s the only thing that really matters even more. You kind of trick yourself into thinking, ‘Just get there and everything will be OK again.’ But now it’s like it doesn’t even matter to you and it shouldn’t matter to anybody else.”
Jose Ramirez could also fit into this category as a star, but he struggled last October and saw a decline in production over the final month of the season.
“I think, unless your name's maybe Ted Williams, everybody usually has a spot during the season where they have some struggles,” manager Terry Francona said. “He got a little out of whack mechanically. I don't think it's ever just one thing. I think we believe in Jose a lot. And this goes for everybody. Regardless of how you ended the season, come [Friday] it's brand new for everybody.”
Ryan Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at @ByRyanLewis.