CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Indians’ 2016 season has been one of perseverance.
Just when it looked like the Indians suffered too many injuries to overcome, they responded and found ways to not only win games, but claim the American League Central Division Championship. Then, the Indians used that momentum to propel them to a sweep of the Boston Red Sox in the Division Series and a dominating performance in five games against the Toronto Blue Jays in the Championship Series.
Now, after Saturday's 7-2 win over the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field, the Indians are just one win away from their first World Series Championship since 1948.
“We don’t have enough time,” Indians manager Terry Francona joked when asked about what this year has been like with injuries and suspensions up and down the roster.
“I’ve been associated with teams where injuries have kind of overwhelmed the season, and it’s not a lack of trying. It’s just you couldn’t pull it off. We’ve been fortunate enough this year where when things happened, we had other guys that either stepped in full-time, part-time.
“The idea is you’ve got 25 players. You’ve got to score a certain amount of runs. You’ve got to hold the team to a certain amount of runs. Sometimes, it’s actually more fun.”
According to Francona, the Indians began this postseason run even before the 2015 season ended.
After struggling through the first four months of the year and having a difficult time handling play within the Central Division, the Indians finished the year out strong and came into Spring Training with a point to prove.
And prove it they have by sweeping the favorite to win the A.L. pennant in the first round and grounding the high-flying Blue Jays to win the ALCS for the first time in 19 years.
“Last year at the trade deadline, we were playing so bad, and that core group did such a good job of turning the year around that I think they kind of planted the seeds for this year,” Francona said.
The Indians made it back to the postseason without the services of outfielder Michael Brantley, who has been out of the lineup because of shoulder issues since May, catcher Yan Gomes for much of the second half of the year because of a dislocated shoulder and a rotation that saw starters Carlos Carrasco (broken bone in right hand) and Danny Salazar (elbow fatigue) miss the stretch run toward the American League championship.
“Out of Spring Training, I would be lying if when we didn’t have Brantley, I wasn’t worried about how we were going to score runs,” Francona said. “Ramirez kind of took Brantley’s at-bats and he took the at-bats and ran with them. Now, he’s turned himself into one of the better players in the American League, and he’s done it in multiple positions.”