CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Indians finished one win short of the ultimate goal in baseball, a World Series Championship.
Despite surrendering a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series only to lose Game 7 in extra innings at their home park, Progressive Field, standout second baseman Jason Kipnis walked off the field knowing that his team gave everything to make the goal a reality.
“It’s a roller coaster of emotions,” Kipnis said after an 8-7 loss in Game 7. “Amazing series. I wanted to be a part of it. Really, there’s nothing to hang our heads on. I’m extremely proud of the way we’ve fought this whole year.”
Early in the 2016 season, the Indians lost MVP-caliber outfielder Michael Brantley for what turned out to be the balance of the year because of shoulder/biceps issues that eventually led to a follow-up surgery to the procedure he had last November.
Then, in September, the Indians lost a pair of starters, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar, to a broken bone in his pitching hand and right forearm strain, respectively.
Although Salazar came back in the World Series, the Indians lost just one game in the American League playoffs without three key starters.
“We knew it was going to be a fun one,” Kipnis said. “We knew it was going to be a battle to the end. Even when we got down early, it’s nothing that we haven’t done before. We’ve overcome everything else this year, so why not keep fighting.
“I’m extremely proud of the way these guys did that. For us to even come back the way we did and make that a ballgame kind of shows you what we’ve been doing all year long, the toughness and the determination of these guys. We just couldn’t come up with the big hit in the end.”
According to Kipnis, getting to a position of being one at-bat away from a World Series Championship would not have been possible had the Indians not been able to bond as they developed over spring training and the regular season.
“It’s an awesome group of guys,” Kipnis said. “There’s nothing to hang our heads about. We fought our asses off the whole time and overcame every, single thing you could throw at us. We had injuries. We had you name it, and not once did we use them as an excuse.
“It shows you that when you come together as a team, you’re better than you are as individuals. The guys in here bought in early on with what we were trying to do. Everyone followed Tito’s lead and it wasn’t like work. It was coming to the ballpark, having fun each day because that’s how good of relationships we had with everyone and we came close.”
And it is for that reason that Kipnis believes the Indians will be postseason players once again in 2017.
“We will be back,” Kipnis said. “We’re pretty confident in this group that we’ve got here. There’s a lot of people who probably don’t even know who Carlos Carrasco is, Michael Brantley, or all these guys who are huge roles for us. We kind of followed Kansas City’s lead a little bit to get here and they lost before they won, so I wouldn’t mind if we followed their lead all the way through. That’d be nice.”