CLEVELAND -- There has been something special about the atmosphere at Progressive Field the past two nights.
Despite being ranked 24th in Major League Baseball in attendance this season, the Cleveland Indians fought their way to a 3-2 victory over the Kansas City Royals in 10 innings in what the players and manager Terry Francona felt was a playoff environment.
“That was a great atmosphere,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “My goodness sakes, it’s fun. It was a lot of fun. It’s better when you win, but the experience for some of our young guys is incredible right now. They’re just learning on the job, right smack in the middle of this. That’s really good.”
Progressive Field crowds at playoff level as Cleveland Indians inch closer to AL Central title
Despite coming up short in the sixth and eighth innings, the Indians broke through with a key hit in the bottom of the ninth.
Down to his final strike, shortstop Francisco Lindor belted an RBI double off the wall in left field with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning off of Royals reliever Kelvin Herrera and drove in pinch runner Erik Gonzalez from first base, and that clutch two-base hit knotted the score at 2-2.
Lindor smacked a 1-2 pitch from Herrera high enough off the wall in left field that Alex Gordon could not reach it, and the ricochet allowed Gonzalez to sprint home all the way from first base.
Following Lindor’s game-tying hit, the crowd at Progressive Field erupted with cheers of joy as, in unison, the 30,874 fans celebrated the moment.
And those cheers only got louder in the 10th inning when infielder Jose Ramirez hustled his way to a lead-off double and came around to score the game-winning run on Jay Bruce’s double to the wall in right field.
“I think it just lets them know how loud it is,” Indians starter Josh Tomlin said of those players experiencing a pennant race at Progressive Field for the first time. “That’s all there is to it. There’s enough good players on this team that I don’t think the moment’s ever going to get too big for them, for any of us.
“I think it just goes to show some of the other guys that are up here in September right now what they have to look forward to, hopefully, and enjoy the moment that they’re in, to see how loud the fans are and see how good the fans are and how intelligent and how into the game they actually are. It’s pretty fun to be a part of.”
With the win, the Indians (91-56) dropped their "Magic Number" to clinch their second-straight American League Central Division Championship down to three, and with the Houston Astros’ victory over the Los Angeles Angels, Cleveland became the first team in the AL to clinch a playoff spot.
Additionally, the Indians extended their American League-record winning streak to 22 straight games, which is the second-longest streak in Major League Baseball history, second only to the New York Giants’ 26-game run in 1916.
“People are going crazy,” Bruce said. “It’s a playoff atmosphere. We have the best record in the league. We’re trying to get the best record in baseball, so we have a lot to play for, and I think it’s the perfect combination for a team that’s so far up. I think everybody understands that too, and that’s huge.”