Tag: Cleveland Indians

Edwin Encarnacion to Indians: Takeaways from DH’s Introductory Press Conference

The Cleveland Indians officially introduced prized free-agent signing Edwin Encarnacion on Thursday.

Paul Hoynes of Cleveland.com reported the sides finalized a three-year, $60 million contract after the former Toronto Blue Jays slugger passed a physical Wednesday. The deal also includes a fourth-year club option worth $25 million.

Zack Meisel of Cleveland.com highlighted the donning of the Tribe jersey for the first time:

Chris Antonetti, the Indians’ president of baseball operations, admitted the reigning American League champions weren’t sure they could make this type of offseason splash, per Jordan Bastian of MLB.com.

“At the start of the offseason, we didn’t think this was possible,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet noted Encarnacion called Cleveland a “perfect fit,” even though there’s a part of him that’s struggled with moving on from the Blue Jays.

Now that Encarnacion is a member of the Indians, Tom Withers of the Associated Press pointed out the star’s focus has shifted to one thing: capturing the championship that slipped through Cleveland’s grasp against the Chicago Cubs in last season’s Fall Classic.

“I believe in this team, and I believe we can win the World Series,” Encarnacion said.

OddsShark noted the oddsmakers agree the Indians are once again a serious threat to capture the American League pennant. They rank second behind only the Boston Red Sox in the current AL odds and third overall, with the defending champion Cubs the favorite to repeat as champions.

Encarnacion will carry a heavy burden if Cleveland is going to live up to those expectations. The Dominican Republic native has been one of the game’s best power hitters over the past five years. He’s hit at least 34 home runs every year during that stretch, including 42 homers last season for Toronto.

The 33-year-old marquee addition will probably split time between first base and designated hitter with Carlos Santana. They’ll combine with Jason Kipnis, Francisco Lindor, Michael Brantley and Jose Ramirez to form a terrific top six in the order if Brantley can stay healthy after missing most of 2016.   


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Edwin Encarnacion Signing Propels Indians Toward Another World Series in 2017

The Cleveland Indians left the rest of the American League in their dust in the 2016 MLB playoffs. After winning 94 games in the regular season, they won seven of eight games en route to a near miss in the World Series.      

But a couple of AL clubs have made key additions since then, so clearly the only thing the Indians could do in response is sign the best free agent remaining on the market.

OK, maybe it’s not the only thing they could have done. But after weeks of will-they-or-won’t-they rumors and speculation, the Indians finally went ahead and signed Edwin Encarnacion on Thursday. According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, the veteran slugger is joining up on a three-year contract:

Cleveland can consider this a discount. According to FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, Encarnacion once had an $80 million offer on the table to return to the Toronto Blue Jays. He was projected by MLB Trade Rumors to sign for even more at $92 million.

The fact that Encarnacion is settling for a $65 million deal might tell us that he overplayed his hand on this winter’s market by rejecting Toronto’s $80 million offer. It certainly didn’t help his case that he was sharing space with a collection of similarly one-dimensional sluggers.

But more to the point, it tells us that Cleveland could see what the rest of us could see: It had an opening for a right-handed slugger who could fit at first base and designated hitter.

That was Mike Napoli’s job in 2016, and he did it splendidly by posting an .800 OPS and tying Carlos Santana for the team lead with 34 home runs. But now he’s a free agent. And while Napoli would have come cheaper than Encarnacion, the extra money spent Thursday has bought a significant upgrade.

This isn’t a scorching take, is it? Nah, I don’t think so.

Encarnacion has hit 193 home runs since 2012, 77 more than Napoli and only four fewer than league leader Chris Davis. By adjusted OPS+, Encarnacion has also been one of the AL’s five best hitters over the last five seasons:

  1. Mike Trout: 173
  2. Miguel Cabrera: 166
  3. David Ortiz: 154
  4. Edwin Encarnacion: 146
  5. Jose Abreu: 143

Beyond Encarnacion’s ties to draft-pick compensation and his limited skill set, his red flags are his age (34 in January) and his escalating strikeout rate.

But as long as he’s only being weighed against the incumbent Napoli, neither thing is a big concern for Cleveland. Encarnacion is a year younger, and he won’t be anything close to the strikeout black hole Napoli was.

Now, if anyone wants to get technical, the Indians didn’t really need an upgrade as substantial as Encarnacion.

That would imply that they didn’t already have an easy road to a playoff spot in 2017. They did. They’re part of an MLB landscape that, as Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs highlighted, might not feature any division races. They were projected for 89 wins before signing Encarnacion, six more than the next best projection in the AL Central. 

However, Cleveland’s unfinished business for 2017 isn’t winning the division. It’s winning the World Series. 

Two AL teams figured to make that tough. The Boston Red Sox began the winter as a good team and got better after adding Chris Sale and Tyler Thornburg. The Houston Astros also began the winter as a good team and got better with Josh Reddick, Brian McCann and Charlie Morton. Both the Red Sox (93 wins) and the Astros (90 wins) were projected to win more games than Cleveland.

That’s changed. Encarnacion’s signing has boosted the Indians’ projection to 92 wins. They’re right there with the Red Sox and Astros on paper, and even that undersells their World Series aspirations.

This is a team that just won a division title without virtually any help from star outfielder Michael Brantley and only half a season of Andrew Miller’s dominance out of the bullpen. They also won a pennant without any help from Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar in the postseason.

They’ll all be back in 2017, and it’s certainly worth noting that guys like Francisco Lindor, Jason Kipnis, Corey Kluber and Cody Allen haven’t gone anywhere. Neither has Terry Francona, who just won his second Manager of the Year award in four seasons in Cleveland.

Signing Encarnacion was really the only big move the Indians needed to make. He obviously helps them on a macro level. On a micro level, he could be a weapon against Boston’s ace lefties (Sale and David Price) and a terror at the bandbox that is Minute Maid Park in any potential postseason matchups.

The catch, such as it is, is that he’s costing the Indians more money than they’ve ever spent on a free agent. He’s also costing them the No. 25 pick in the 2017 draft. This is a heavy price for the normally thrifty Indians to pay.

But if ever there were time for them to do so, it’s right now.

For one thing, the club’s financials are in better shape than they have been in some time. According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, executives estimate their trip to the World Series was worth “tens of millions” of extra dollars. Rosenthal also noted Cleveland “almost certainly” benefited from welcoming Kansas City entrepreneur John Sherman as a minority ownership partner. 

As for the lost draft pick, some consolation there is that No. 25 is a relatively low pick. Further consolation is that now is not the time for Cleveland to worry about stockpiling young talent.

Their goal is to win it all right now. They had enough to do that before signing Encarnacion. Now they have everything they need.


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked. 

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Terry Francona’s 2nd Manager of the Year Award Pads Sterling Hall of Fame Resume

Terry Francona would surely trade his American League Manager of the Year awardand presumably every other piece of hardware in his trophy casefor another crack at the 2016 World Series.

His Cleveland Indians got to Game 7. They could taste it. Their first championship since 1948. 

Instead, it was “wait until next year.”

Since Francona can’t make that trade, he’ll accept Manager of the Year honors as a consolation prize and another line on an increasingly unimpeachable Hall of Fame resume.

The Baseball Writers’ Association of America announced Tuesday that Francona won the AL version of the award for the second time in his career—he also won it with the Indians in 2013—in somewhat of a landslide.

Francona received 22 of 30 possible first-place votes. The Texas Rangers‘ Jeff Banister received four first-place votes, while the Baltimore Orioles‘ Buck Showalter and Boston Red Sox‘s John Farrell got two each.

Voting is based only on regular-season results, but it’s safe to assume Cleveland’s deep postseason run would have tipped the scales further in Francona’s direction.

The 57-year-old skipper ushered the Tribe to a 94-67 finish and an AL Central crown despite losing his best hitter, outfielder Michael Brantley, for all but 11 games.

The Indians also lost two of their top three starting pitchers—Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco—in the season’s second half and limped into the playoffs with a deeply depleted rotation.

That’s when Francona’s boldness and creativity took over, as he utilized his bullpen in unorthodox ways—admittedly with a massive assist from super-reliever Andrew Miller and closer Cody Allen. That duo combined for 33 innings and yielded just three earned runs in the playoffs. 

Miller, especially, was Francona’s lifeline. He went to him early. He went to him often.

The Indians fell short of the finish line by a few agonizing inches. Without Francona at the helm, though, they likely wouldn’t have gotten that close.

He accepted the accolade with humility, per USA Today‘s Jorge L. Ortiz:

When something like this happens, if somebody thinks it’s an individual award, it’s the furthest thing from the truth. One, it’s players, incredible players. It’s front office, ownership, the coaches. The coaches work so hard every day, and I’m the one who gets to take a bow every once in a while. I wish we could do this together because they deserve it.

That’s a nice sentiment. Francona, though, has reached a point where he can bow alone.

Through 16 seasons as manager of the Philadelphia Phillies, Red Sox and Indians, he owns a 1,381-1,209 record, good for a .533 winning percentage. Since his four forgettable years in Philadelphia, he’s never endured a losing season.

He’s also won three pennants overall and two World Series titles with the Red Sox in 2004 and 2007.

The first of those titles was the one that busted the Curse of the Bambino and featured Boston’s legendary American League Championship Series comeback over the archrival New York Yankees.

The Red Sox were down 3-0 in the series. The momentum turned in the ninth inning of Game 4 when a pinch runner named Dave Roberts stole second and ultimately scored the tying run.

That same Dave Roberts was named National League Manager of the Year on Tuesday, per the BBWAA, for his work with the Los Angeles Dodgers, a cool factoid CSN Chicago’s Christopher Kamka highlighted:

Francona is signed with Cleveland through 2020, so he’ll have more chances to end the Indians’ World Series drought. Even if he doesn’t, he appears destined for a Hall of fame bust.

He’s now won 38 postseason games, which places him sixth on the all-time list behind Joe Torre (84), Tony La Russa (70), Bobby Cox (67), Bruce Bochy (44) and Jim Leyland (44). The first three are in the Hall of Fame, and the other two likely will be.

He’s currently 30th on the all-time list for regular-season managerial wins. Of the men ahead of him, 24 are either active managers or in the Hall.

Wins and losses ultimately define a manager, but the job is as much about the unquantifiable stuff, including keeping players happy and motivated.

“Tito does such a good job of setting the tone in the clubhouse,” said Miller, who played for Francona in Boston and Cleveland, per Sporting News’ Jesse Spector. “It’s loose. That’s his style.”

He also pulls the right levers. Every skipper is open to second-guessing, but what Francona did with the Indians pitching staff this October was nothing short of remarkable.

It was a strategy born of desperation,” as The Ringer’s Michael Baumann noted, “but from that desperation sprung a solution that was, through 10 of the 11 wins Cleveland needed to take home a title, practically unbeatable.” 

“Practically” is the key word. Francona’s machinations didn’t result in champagne and confetti. Ultimately, he left Cleveland fans hungry rather than satiated.

But he added another feather to his decorated cap—and moved himself one step closer to Cooperstown.


All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.

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Andrew Miller Trade Rumors: Latest News, Speculation on Indians RP

With the Cleveland Indians looking to get over the World Series hump in 2017, trading star reliever Andrew Miller could make their task more difficult.

Continue for updates.

Report: Teams Inquiring About Miller

Wednesday, Nov. 9

Per Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, the Indians are getting calls about Miller from other teams, but general manager Mike Chernoff described any potential trade as “a long shot.”

The Indians acquired Miller from the New York Yankees on July 31. The lanky left-hander turned in a fantastic 2016 season, posting a 1.45 ERA with 123 strikeouts, 42 hits allowed and nine walks in 74.1 innings between the two teams.

With Cleveland’s starting rotation ravaged by injuries in the postseason, the team asked Miller to carry a heavy load out of the bullpen. Miller was brilliant, recording 30 strikeouts while allowing only 12 hits in 19.1 innings over 10 appearances, and was named the ALCS MVP, though the burden caught up to him in the World Series, when he allowed three runs over his last two appearances against the Chicago Cubs

The Indians operate on a limited financial budget, making Miller’s $9 million salary in each of the next two seasons more than mere chump change to them.

They would be foolish to immediately shoot down trade requests for any of their expensive players if the return is to their advantage.

With a team that will return starting pitchers Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar, who missed most of the postseason, and outfielder Michael Brantley, who missed all but 11 games last season because of shoulder injuries, the Indians should be in the playoff mix again next year.

Miller makes their pitching staff deeper and provides an incredible bridge to closer Cody Allen. Unless the Indians get blown away with an offer, the southpaw will likely still be in Cleveland when the 2017 season begins.

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Complete Offseason Guide, Predictions for the Cleveland Indians

As Milli Vanilli once sang, “Blame It On the Rain.”

OK, maybe Rob Pilatus and Fab Morvan never actually sang those words, but the short rain delay heading into the 10th inning of Game 7 in the World Series robbed the Cleveland Indians of the momentum it had picked up thanks to a fabulous eighth-inning rally to tie things up with the Chicago Cubs.

It’s not an excuse, it’s a fact—and it may be the only reason the Cubs, and not the Indians, emerged victorious when play resumed.

While it was a disappointing ending to a terrific season, Cleveland is in terrific shape to make another playoff appearance, and perhaps another deep run, heading into the 2017 season. Of course, the roster won’t be exactly the same as some changes are inevitable.

What follows is an overview of some of the decisions that the team will have to make and how the roster might look when Opening Day rolls around roughly five months from now.



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Terry Francona’s Contract Options Picked Up by Indians: Latest Details, Reaction

Manager Terry Francona led the Cleveland Indians to the 2016 World Series, where they lost a dramatic Game 7 to the Chicago Cubs in extra innings, 8-7. The organization announced Friday it elected to exercise the 2019 and 2020 club options on his contract.

Francona—whom Bob Nightengale of USA Today called a future Hall of Famer—has been with the Indians since the start of the 2013 campaign and finished with a winning record in each of his first four years. He was the 2013 American League Manager of the Year with a 92-70 record and an AL Wild Card Game appearance the season after Cleveland finished 68-94.

Francona coached the Philadelphia Phillies from 1997-2000 and the Boston Red Sox from 2004-11. He won two World Series with Boston, including the franchise’s first since 1918 in 2004.

His winning ways in Cleveland are nothing new considering he also posted a winning record in every season with the Red Sox:

Francona’s managing abilities were on full display in this year’s postseason. The Indians reached the World Series despite missing Michael Brantley for the majority of their season. What’s more, starting pitchers Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar were each injured entering the playoffs and didn’t make a single start.

That left Francona scrambling with a three-man rotation in the World Series, and he had to manage through Trevor Bauer’s finger injury in the American League Championship Series.

He unleashed ace Corey Kluber and lockdown relievers Andrew Miller and Cody Allen throughout October and fell just one win short of a title.

He led the Indians through plenty of adversity in the playoffs and nearly beat a Cubs team that finished with an MLB-best 103 wins during the regular season. Cleveland fans are likely excited to see what he can do with a full deck in the coming years.

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The Wait Goes on for the Cleveland Indians: ‘I Don’t Think It’ll Take 108 Years’

The day Mike Hargrove was traded to the Cleveland Indians, the team was 8.5 games out of first place and the drought was 31 years old. It was 1979, and while no one thought of the Indians as winners, there were many other cities and organizations that had waited much longer since last winning a World Series.

The Boston Red Sox were 61 years into a curse that would last for another two decades. The Chicago White Sox were 62 years into a wait that wouldn’t end until 2005. The Philadelphia Phillies had been around ever since the first World Series in 1903, and they’d never won one.

The Chicago Cubs? They were already the stuff of legend.

One by one, those other teams won. The Phillies in 1980, and the Red Sox in 2004. Then the White Sox, and finally Wednesday night, the Cubs. Hargrove spent seven years as an Indians player, nine years as the Indians manager and now the last six years as an Indians adviser.

He managed some of the greatest teams in franchise history, with two trips to the World Series. In 1997, his Indians were two outs from a title before losing to the Florida Marlins in extra innings in Game 7.

He was there Wednesday night at Progressive Field, too, when Rajai Davis hit the home run off Aroldis Chapman and when Ben Zobrist ripped the double that eventually made the Cubs champions.

He woke up Thursday like so many others in Cleveland, excited about what he had seen but disappointed to come so close again and lose.

But don’t tell Mike Hargrove what happened Wednesday was the continuation of any curse. Don’t tell him that another year without an Indians championship means they’re never going to win.

Instead of devastation, he feels hope. Instead of despairing about a missed opportunity, he looked at what the Indians have, what they’ve done and who they’ll get back from injury when it comes time to play again. Yes, he said, this Indians team is the one that can win.

“I really do believe that,” Hargrove said. “I think this group can break through. I certainly don’t think it’ll take 108 years.”

One-hundred eight was the Cubs’ number. The Indians are facing 68, now going on to 69 next season.

But as Hargrove and others who lived through the great Cleveland years but ultimate World Series disappointments of the 1990s watched this team, they felt mostly admiration.

They also had flashbacks, as another Indians team played extra innings in another World Series Game 7. Only four Game 7’s in World Series history have gone to extra innings, and the Indians were part of the last two.


“Yeah,” said Brian Anderson, who pitched in relief 19 years ago in Miami. “And not good for me or the Indians either time. It was an eerie reminder.”

As I pointed out in my Bleacher Report story on the Indians of the ’90s, Anderson grew up in Northeast Ohio and experienced much of the region’s sports angst as a fan. He still does as a Cleveland Browns season ticket holder.

But as he watched this World Series and rooted for his team, he didn’t see this as another sign the Indians can’t win or won’t win.

“I hope people don’t feel that way,” he said. “A lot of the national narrative has been that the Cubs are here to stay. But I don’t see any reason the Indians can’t do it, too. With [Danny] Salazar, [Carlos] Carrasco and [Corey] Kluber in the rotation, with [Andrew] Miller under control and a great young core, I think they can be the team that can end the drought.”

Looking back, it’s incredible they came as close as they did to ending it this year, with the injuries that kept Salazar and Carrasco from starting in the postseason and kept outfielder Michael Brantley from playing basically all year. It was “an implausible journey” to Game 7, as longtime Indians broadcaster Tom Hamilton said Thursday.

Yes, the Indians held a three-games-to-one lead in the World Series. But even at that point, they were facing a Cubs team that held a big edge in the upcoming pitching matchups. Without Salazar and Carrasco, Indians manager Terry Francona was using his remaining pitchers on short rest and necessarily overtaxing a bullpen that had been brilliant.

“At the end of the day, taking nothing away from what the Cubs accomplished, in Games 6 and 7 the lack of depth finally caught up with us,” Hamilton said.

Still, that chance was there, right in front of them. Maybe it wasn’t as clear a chance as in 1997—this time, the Indians never held the lead after the fourth inning in a game that could clinch a title—but it was there.

“My brother texted me at 7:30 this morning and said he needs me there,” an Indians fan told me the morning of Game 7. This friend lives in Michigan, but he nervously headed to Cleveland.

“I want this so bad,” he told me. “It’s there. We gotta take it!”

They couldn’t take it.

“Brutal,” was all my friend could manage when it was over.

The narrative now is naturally about the Cubs fans, the ones who have waited so long and the ones who didn’t make it long enough to see the championship. In Wright Thompson’s fine story for ESPN.com, he visits an Illinois cemetery where fans left pennants on gravestones of those who were gone.

The Indians fans have largely gone unnoticed, even though their wait for a title has lasted most of their lifetimes. Hargrove may not have grown up an Indians fan, but he is too young to remember their last title.

They won in 1948. He was born the following October.

He was there at Progressive Field for Game 7, enough of a baseball person to appreciate what the Cubs had done.

“You feel good for them,” he said. “But you’d rather your guys were feeling good.”

There was no one to blame, no regrets about any decisions made or not made. There were no goats in this World Series, not in the sense of a curse, not in the sense of a player whose failure cost his team the title.

“I hurt for everybody who is part of that team and city,” said Dan O’Dowd, the MLB Network analyst who spent 11 years in the Indians front office. “But I’m so proud to be associated with the Indians, with how hard they competed. I think they were 24th in payroll [actually 27th by USA Today‘s numbers]. It’s incredible how they maximized that.”

Hamilton agreed, thinking back to an amazing postseason.

“Anybody with an ounce of common sense or baseball intelligence would have to be grateful for a month of baseball this city hasn’t had since the ’90s,” he said. “If people aren’t happy with that, I feel bad for them.”

Just as in the ’90s, though, there’s that one final step the Indians couldn’t manage.

Sandy Alomar Jr. understands that all too well. He played for the Indians teams of the ’90s. He serves on Terry Francona’s coaching staff now.

He came to Cleveland in a December 1989 trade and has spent most of the last 27 years trying to break through and win a title. Before this year’s run to the World Series, he would hear the current players joke about Cleveland fans still living through the teams of the past.

“I say, ‘Win it,'” Alomar said one day last summer. “Turn that page. Win it. I want this organization to win. I’d be the first one to be jumping up and down, trust me.”

It almost happened. One more time, the Indians came as close as any team could come, to extra innings in Game 7.

It didn’t end well for the Indians, not either time.

In Cleveland, the wait goes on.


Danny Knobler covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

Follow Danny on Twitter and talk baseball. 

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Carlos Santana’s Contract Option Picked Up by Indians: Latest Details, Reaction

Cleveland picked up its $12 million club option on slugger Carlos Santana on Friday after its crushing defeat in Game 7 of the World Series at the hands of the Chicago Cubs, the team announced

Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball first reported the news on Thursday. 

Santana, 30, had another fantastic season for Cleveland in 2016, hitting .259 with 34 home runs, 87 RBI and a .865 OPS—the fourth time in the past six seasons he’s hit at least 20 homers and his sixth straight season with at least 74 RBI.

The switch-hitting Santana was certainly more effective from the left side of the plate, where he hit 30 home runs and knocked in 68 RBI.

He also helped form the core of Cleveland’s dangerous lineup that reached the World Series this season, combining with Francisco Lindor, Jason Kipnis, Mike Napoli and Jose Ramirez to give the Tribe a dangerous collection of boppers.

Keeping those players together—along with ace Corey Kluber and bullpen extraordinaire Andrew Miller—makes Cleveland a threat to reach the postseason again in 2017. And indeed, if Santana continues to hit for power, the Tribe will be tough to unseat in the AL Central.


You can follow Timothy Rapp on Twitter.

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Corey Kluber Can Put Name in World Series Lore with Game 7 Triumph

In sports, there is no greater crucible than Game 7.

It’s the mother of all small samples. On such a limited, glaring stage, peons can rise and the great sometimes wilt.

On Wednesday against the Chicago Cubs at Progressive Field, Cleveland Indians right-hander Corey Kluber will have a chance to ascend from great to legendary.

It’s one start. And the stakes couldn’t be higher.

Cleveland could have secured its first championship since 1948 on Sunday, but lost 3-2 at Wrigley Field. After heading back to Ohio on Halloween, the Indians endured a nasty trick in Tuesday’s Game 6, as Chicago pounded them 9-3 to knot the series at three games apiece.

Chicago was shut out twice in the series’ first three games, but the club’s offense has stirred from its hibernation. The Cubbies have momentum, fleeting as it is, after winning two straight.

Now, it falls on the stout shoulder of Kluber, who has been mostly excellent since the calendar flipped to October.

Scratch that. Kluber has been mostly excellent, period.

A Cy Young Award winner in 2014 and an All-Star this season, Kluber has eclipsed 200 innings and 200 strikeouts each of the past three years.

The 30-year-old has been equally impressive in his first postseason go-round, posting an 0.89 ERA while allowing just 22 hits and eight walks with 35 strikeouts in 30.1 innings. His arsenal of pitches—the power sinker, cutter and sweeping breaking ball—have been working to devastating effect.

He’s already 2-0 in this World Series after pitching the Tribe to victory in Games 1 and 4. It’s been a throwback showing, as ESPN.com Jayson Stark spelled out:

The ace has started Games 1 and 4, and won Games 1 and 4by giving up a total of one run in 12 innings. It’s no big deal to him. But who does this in the modern world of pitch counts, innings thresholds and third-time-through-the-order phobias? Nobody does this. That would be your answer. He’s the first starting pitcher to win Games 1 and 4 of any World Series since Jose Rijoin 1990.

If Kluber cashes in another gem Wednesday, he won’t merely give the title-parched city of Cleveland its second major sports parade of the calendar year after the Cavaliers hoisted the NBA trophy in June. He’ll etch his name, indelibly, in the annals of World Series lore.

Only 13 pitchers have won three games in a single Fall Classic, according to Benjamin Hoffman and David Waldstein of the New York Times. The last man to do it was Randy Johnson for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001. That was a decade-and-a-half ago. Johnson has a bust in Cooperstown.

On October 24, before the World Series began, yours truly argued the Indians needed Kluber to do his best Madison Bumgarner impression. 

With Cleveland’s rotation depleted by injury and facing a deep, hungry Cubs lineup, it made sense for the Indians to saddle and ride an unflappable stud the way the San Francisco Giants rode Bumgarner in 2014.

These narratives rarely unfold so neatly. Yet here we are, with Kluber one step away from joining the firmament of postseason demigods.

He will be throwing on short rest. The specter of fatigue hangs in the air like an autumn mist. 

On the other hand, manager Terry Francona didn’t call on either Andrew Miller or Cody Allen in the Indians’ Game 6 shellacking, meaning the Tribe’s two-headed bullpen monster will be rested and ready to gnaw through the late innings.

If Kluber can give the Indians five or six solid frames and exit with the lead, he’ll have done his job.

That assumes Cleveland can dent Cubs starter and reigning MLB ERA king Kyle Hendricks, who has allowed just three earned runs in 20.2 innings this postseason. It also remains to be seen what Chicago closer Aroldis Chapman has left in the tank. 

As Game 7s go, this should be a doozy. The Indians believe they have the right man on the hill.

“Conversations with him, the way he treats his body, the way he works his routines,” Francona said of his confidence in Kluber’s stamina, per Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune. “Good players, good pitchers can do special things. He’s in that category.”

Good is one thing. Legendary is another. Kluber will be gunning for the latter.

He’ll do it against a Cubs offense that’s suddenly humming. He’ll do it in front of a home crowd whose vibrating, long-suffering anticipation is surpassed only by the fans rubbing rabbits’ feet on Chicago’s North Side.

This World Series is all about overcoming history. On Wednesday, in the ultimate crucible, Kluber can make some of his own. 


All statistics current as of Tuesday and courtesy of MLB.com and Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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Cubs vs. Indians: Keys for Each Team to Win World Series Game 7

Game 7. In combination, those two words stand as the greatest in the lexicon of sport. So they’re worth repeating: Game 7.

That’s what the 2016 MLB season will come down to: one final game.

Every pitch will be scrutinized. Every ground ball will mean something. Every hit will be followed by unparalleled emotion.

If you’re a baseball fan, you couldn’t ask for more. Unless you’re a fan who lives in Cleveland or Chicago. Then you could ask for a World Series title, which either the Indians or Cubs will walk away with Wednesday night.

But to win the most important game in the histories of each of these long-suffering organizations, both teams will need to hit on the following keys. 

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