CLEVELAND -- There is just something special about October baseball in Cleveland.
By finishing with the second-best record in the American League during the regular season, the Cleveland Indians earned home-field advantage in the A.L. Division Series and put it to good use, as they swept the vaunted Boston Red Sox. With Toronto’s sweep over the Texas Rangers, the Indians secured home-field advantage in the A.L. Championship Series, which gets underway tonight at Progressive Field.
“Coming here and playing against the Indians during the playoffs, you see those towels waving and you can’t hear yourself when you’re in the outfield trying to get the attention to your other outfielders, and it makes it a little tougher on the opposing team,” outfielder Coco Crisp said.
“It gives you that energy that you don’t necessarily have in the regular season. I don’t know. It’s kind of hard to explain, but the fans, they get you going more so than if you are on the road, obviously.”
Although plagued by attendance issues throughout the regular season, when the Indians hosted the Red Sox in Games 1 and 2 of the Division Series last week, they performed in front of over-capacity crowds, and the fans’ emotions hung in the balance with every pitch.
With every strike against an opposing hitter, hit that dribbled past an infielder or ball that flew over the wall for the Indians, the fans stood and cheered vigorously in support of their team.
“It’s always good to play in front of your home fans,” first-year MLB outfielder Tyler Naquin said. “That atmosphere, your fans cheering for you and against someone else, that wavers in your favor all the time.”
Of the Indians’ 94 victories this season, 53 came at Progressive Field. The Indians went 53-28 in Cleveland during the regular season and swept both home games against the Red Sox in the ALDS.
In those regular-season games, the Indians scored 127 more runs, collected 121 more hits, smacked 58 more doubles, belted 13 more home runs and had 117 more RBI in games played at Progressive Field and that trend carried into the postseason.
The Indians belted four of their five home runs and averaged nearly three more runs at Progressive Field than they totaled in one game at Fenway Park in Boston.
“I think it could be huge,” outfielder Brandon Guyer said. “I think playing the Red Sox and having the home-field advantage there, we got up two quick ones there and had to take care of business on the road, and we did that.
“With this crowd here, the atmosphere here, I think teams coming in, I don’t know that they’re used to that. Even though they play at Rogers Centre, it’s different here. It’s electric. It’s a fun place to play, so with all the fans here, I think we definitely have a home-field advantage.”
Infielder/designated hitter Mike Napoli added, “It’s been real important for us. We play well at home. It was something we had a chance to play for at the end of the year, and we were able to get it. To be able to play here is a huge plus.”