A reunion with Big Lon was inevitable, wasn’t it? The cost to add Lonnie Chisenhall to the 2019 Indians was minimal, and the benefits are immediate. With healthy calves, the lefty is back to his old ways, looking like his 2017 self. In the second half alone, he drives in 35 runs and hits at a .280 clip. His defense is an upgrade over Tyler Naquin as well.
But the biggest boost in Chisenhall’s return is to his BFF, Jason Kipnis. Hitting seven-eight in the order, the duo turn the biggest weakness on the roster —- the lower half of the order — into a threat, as Kipnis rips off a 15-game hit streak between August and September.
The improvements to the offense and some good fortune on health, see the Tribe climb into first again early in July and maintain the lead for the rest of the season. September call-up Triston McKenzie pitches so well he even earns himself a bullpen slot for the playoffs.
In the Division Series, however, the Tribe runs up against the buzzsaw of the New York Yankees lineup. Game one is a laugher for the hosts, as Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Gleyber Torres each launch 2-run home runs in an 8-0 Yankees win. But the Indians rebound, thanks in part to excellent starting pitching and inspired relief from McKenzie and Shane Bieber, and win the next two. With the chance to clinch the series, Terry Francona again turns to Corey Kluber, and this time he does not disappoint, twirling an eight-inning gem to get Cleveland to the ALCS.
Once again the Tribe has to face the Astros with the season on the line, but after Jose Altuve’s knee injury flared up again in the Division Series, the ‘Stros don’t seem like themselves. Trevor Bauer picks up a couple wins (and gloats mercilessly on social media) in the first five games of the series, setting up another herculean Kluber effort in the sixth game for a chance to reach the World Series. Unfortunately he falls short this time, leading to a decisive game seven. Francona goes with Clevinger on regular rest and gets 3 2/3rds innings of spectacular pitching before turning to his bullpen again, once more tapping rookie McKenzie. The beanpole hurler is untouchable through the eighth, when Francisco Lindor slaps a hard liner past Carlos Correa to plate Kipnis for the go-ahead run. Brad Hand comes on to finish the game and see the Tribe on to its second World Series in four years.
The Dodgers await in the Series, but pull off a pitch-perfect Buffalo Bills impersonation, losing to the Indians in five games, all the while wishing they’d have traded for Corey Kluber. The curse is broken, the drought is over. The Indians have won the World Series, get ready for a hell of a parade.