CLEVELAND - It is today.
After waiting through a wintry offseason, spring training, and 162 games, your Cleveland Indians will open postseason play this evening at Progressive Field against the New York Yankees.
This is real. 11 wins will bring Cleveland its first World Series crown since the Harry Truman administration. That's 1948, if you're scoring at home.
First things first, the Tribe must deal with the Yankees in the best-of-five Division Series. By the way, is there some sort of cosmic karma going on since the MLB expanded the playoffs in the early 90's that makes these two teams have to play every year that ends with a seven?
- 1997: The Indians meet the Yankees in the ALDS, winning in epic, come-from-behind fashion in five games.
- 2007: The Tribe tops New York in the ALDS in four games, aided by some midges getting into Joba Chamberlain's eyes in Game 2.
- 2017: We play again
I thought my friend and colleague Jim Donovan brought up a great point during our special Tribe preview show on Wednesday. The Indians have morphed into the Chicago Cubs of 2016. They've got the targets on their backs as the best team in baseball (yes, I know the Dodgers had a better record by a win, but work with me here), with an American League-record 22 game win streak on their resume.
They also are the team now carrying the longest drought without a World Series title, so they will be many people's sentimental pick.
Every game will be tougher because everyone will give you their best. There's no sneaking up on anyone this year.
But armed with a tremendous pitching staff, a stacked lineup, and a great manager, you just feel like this team will be able to rise to the occasion.
It starts with Trevor Bauer on the hill for tonight's Game 1. I try very hard to 'Trust in Tito' and not question the decisions that the Tribe skipper makes. But I was stunned when Francona chose Bauer over Corey Kluber, the likely Cy Young Award winner, to start this series.
However, the numbers say it's a logical call. Bauer beat the Yankees twice this season. He was also 10-4 with a 3.93 ERA with 116 strikeouts against 25 walks allowed in 103.0 innings of work in 17 starts at Progressive Field in 2017. Maybe it's a leap of faith to trust Captain Drone, but Francona and pitching coach Mickey Callaway know their guys and think Bauer is up to this.
You've also got an Indians offense that is explosive with everyone from Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez, to Edwin Encarnacion and Jay Bruce. The Tribe beat Yankees Game 1 starter Sonny Gray twice in three starts this year. Gray's ERA vs. Cleveland in those three starts? 4.86
So get ready, Tribe fans.
Get ready to hang on every pitch of every at-bat. Get ready to cheer. Get ready for the butterflies.
Playoff baseball is back. It's Cleveland Against the World.
Oh and just in case you needed a little motivation today, watch this:
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