Indians advance to World Series
The last time the Cleveland Indians were in the World Series, I was five years old. I have no memory of the '95 or '97 teams, so for me (and many others), this is truly the first time that our team will be playing for the world championship. It's such an exhilarating feeling, and it's magnified by the fact that no one outside of Cleveland thought that the Tribe would make it past the ALDS. They made it past the ALDS with a 3-0 sweep of the Boston Red Sox. But surely this was a fluke and they would be eliminated by the power hitting bats of the Toronto Blue Jays, right? Wrong. The Cleveland Indians, while not sweeping their ALCS opponents, were able to clinch the American League pennant for the first time since 1997 in Game 5 with a 3-0 win.
First off, Ryan Merritt was stunning today. The 24-year old left handed rookie made the biggest start of his young career earlier this evening, and he rose to the occasion. And then he leaped over the occasion and dismantled a potent Toronto lineup to the tune of 4.1 innings pitched, allowing just 2 hits and getting 3 strikeouts along the way. Similar to his right handed counterpart, Josh Tomlin, Merritt had pinpoint control, a knee buckling curveball, and smart pitch sequencing that saw the first nine Blue Jays go down in order. With the injuries to Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, and now Trevor Bauer, the starting rotation was at its thinnest, and Merritt needed a strong outing if the Cleveland Indians were to have any chance at victory today. Tito said he didn't expect Merritt to be this good, but he was excellent. When Merritt left the game in the fifth, Cleveland had a 3-0 lead that they would never relinquish.
During the game, I was texting my buddy and he suggested that Merritt could get through five or so innings before handing the ball over to "the death squad", as he phrased it. The trio of backend arms that pitched today, Bryan Shaw, Andrew Miller, and Cody Allen came in and allowed just four hits over the remaining 4.2 innings while walking no one and striking out five. A lot of folks groaned at the entrance of Shaw; after all, he's been "terrible" this year, right? And Merritt was cruising, so why ruin a good thing? Wrong. Bryan Shaw gave up two hits, but he went through the 6-7-8-9-1 hitters without allowing a run, and his pitches were disgusting today. One of the TBS announcers said that Shaw threw "the nastiest pitch he's thrown in the postseason" today, and I would agree. After Shaw Allowed a single to Jose Bautista in the sixth inning, Andrew "Circumstances" Miller entered and threw a single pitch to the former AL MVP Josh Donaldson. Donaldson grounded into a double play to Francisco Lindor, and just like that, the Cleveland Indians were 9 outs away from the AL pennant.
But let's go back for a moment and take a moment to acknowledge the offense that put the Tribe in a position to win. Mike Napoli, who has struggled throughout the entire postseason, had a huge hit in the top of the first inning to give the team a lead before the Blue Jays stepped to the plate. Napoli launched what looked to be an early Party at Napoli's to left field, but it instead bounced off the ten foot wall, allowing Francisco Lindor to score from first base. The second inning was quiet, but the third and fourth innings saw home runs from Carlos Santana and Coco Crisp (!) to put the game, effectively, out of reach. The Santana bomb in particular was a thing of beauty. Santana took a pitch up in the zone and launched a laser beam over the bullpen in right field; Jose Bautista could do nothing except look up, shake in his boots, and begin to plan his long, frosty off-season.
At this point, it's known that Andrew Miller has been awarded the ALCS MVP award for his incredible postseason performance up to this point. Look at these numbers:
11.2 innings, 5 hits, 0 runs, 2 BB, 21 K
Baseball is a team sport, and every member of this Cleveland Indians team has played a part in getting the team into the World Series. But it is undeniable that this success would not have been the same had it not been for the contribution of Andrew Miller. Here's to hoping that he gets a chance to make some Dodgers or Cubs fans look foolish next week.
The next game that the Cleveland Indians will play will be on Tuesday, October 25 for Game 1 of the World Series. Their opponent is not yet known, but here's to hoping that whoever it is, the NLCS goes all the way to Game 7. Until then, enjoy this moment because it's been 19 years in the making. Show up next Tuesday and get ready; this team isn't close to done yet.
LET'S GO TRIBE!!!