TORONTO -- Winning never gets old, especially when it includes trips to the World Series.
Cleveland Indians first baseman/designated hitter Mike Napoli has been to the World Series on two other occasions, including a win with the Boston Red Sox in 2013. And now, the veteran infielder and slugger has gotten back to baseball’s greatest stage, as the Indians finished off the American League Championship Series in just five games by grounding the high-flying Toronto Blue Jays in a 3-0 win at Rogers Centre Wednesday.
“This never gets old, man,” Napoli said amidst a champagne shower after the series-clinching win. “To be able to accomplish what you do during the year, come together as a group, as one and play for each other, it’s just special. They’re all different, but the feeling never changes.”
The Indians advanced to the World Series despite having a rash of injuries, both in the lineup and the starting rotation.
Originally, the Indians were planning to leave rookie left-handed pitcher Ryan Merritt off the ALCS roster, but injuries continued to besiege Cleveland’s rotation.
Already without Carlos Carrasco (broken bone in his right hand) and Danny Salazar (right forearm strain), the Indians experienced another issue when ahead of Game 1 of the ALCS at Progressive Field, it was announced that Trevor Bauer would be scratched from Game 2 because of a lacerated finger suffered while performing “routine maintenance” on a drone.
When that injury happened, Merritt was added to the roster, and pitched 4.1 innings of shutout baseball in the Game 5 win over the Blue Jays.
“Just the amount of people that stepped in for the people that have gone down, it started with the guy, Merritt,” Napoli said. “To be able to go out there and shut down that good offense, we scored some runs early for him, but he didn’t seem fazed by anything. He’s just another guy that’s stepped in and has contributed to us.
“We’ve got confidence in anybody that goes out there, and for (Merritt) to do what he did is pretty special. He came into a hostile environment, a great lineup, and he wasn’t fazed one bit. He did what he’s done in his career, and he was able to shut them down.”
Although happy to clinch the ALCS in short order, Napoli knows there is one more hurdle to climb, and he very much looks forward to the challenge of playing either the Los Angeles Dodgers or Chicago Cubs in the World Series, which gets underway at Progressive Field Tuesday night.
“Anywhere I sign, it’s to play for a championship,” Napoli said. “Obviously, seeing the roster and our pitching staff and them telling me I had the opportunity to play every day, I thought it was just a perfect fit. You know? It all worked out. It’s been a special year in my career. To be able to bounce back and stay healthy all year and meet a whole new family, it’s just something special.”