The Cleveland Indians might have entered the playoffs with the American League’s second-best record, but there were plenty of reasons to doubt them at the start of the ALDS.
The starting pitching was held together with twine, the lineup’s best power hitter had a sub-.500 slugging percentage, and outside of Andrew Miller and Cody Allen, was that bullpen good enough?
The Red Sox entered the postseason as the American League favorites. They exited three games later.
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The Indians now sit four wins away from a berth in the World Series, and while the concerns they entered the postseason with persist, their performance in that three-game sweep of the Red Sox has left no room for doubt — the Indians can win the pennant.
Cleveland has the magic.
Call it what you will — gumption, chemistry, a never-say-die attitude — the Indians have it.
The Cubs might be absurdly good, the Blue Jays might be red-hot right now, but the Indians have that little extra something.
As Lefty Gomez used to say, “I’d rather be lucky than good.”
The Indians are both.
Toronto should be the favorites to win the American League Championship Series — the Blue Jays' starting pitching is deeper and the bats are clicking. That's not a slight on the Indians as much as it is a credit to the Blue Jays — given everything we know about these two teams at the moment, you have to favor Toronto.
But because the Indians have that extra something, they're hardly sacrificial lambs in this series.
That energy has been apparent for the Indians all season, and it’s hard to dispute that it emanates from the Indians’ All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor.
If you’re one of the few Americans who isn’t familiar with Lindor, you need to educate yourself, fast. No hyperbole, he’s the Indians’ version of Derek Jeter.
Lindor has boundless talent and equally unfettered positivity, and his teammates feed off both. At 22 years old, there’s no doubt that he’s the leader of the team, but when you ask his teammates about how that’s the case, they’re befuddled. “Have you talked to him? How could he not be the leader?” Indians pitcher Danny Salazar said at the All-Star Game.
Lindor had two hits and another stellar day in the field in the clincher Monday. By his standards, he had a rather average series. He can do more in the ALCS, and that bodes well for the Indians, who are sure to follow his lead both at the plate, in the field and even on the mound.
The Indians are down two of their three best starting pitchers and lacking the same firepower as their ALCS opponents. How could the Indians keep this good thing going?