No Michael Brantley. No Carlos Carrasco. No Danny Salazar. A banged up Yan Gomes. Injuries have hit the Cleveland Indians with full force in 2016, yet the resilient team won 94 games and earned home field advantage in the American League Divisional Series, never allowing injuries to be an excuse.
Thursday night a sold out Progressive Field will be rocking and all of a sudden a whole new season begins.
It will take the Tribe three huge wins to beat the Beantowners and advance to the ALCS to face the winner of the Texas/Toronto Series. In honor of what will be three difficult–and more than likely grueling–victories if the Indians are to beat Boston, let’s examine this electric playoff matchup with the power of threes:
*3 Ironic Reasons why History Favors the Tribe in Boston-Cleveland Playoff Matchup
- No Carrasco, No Salazar, No Problem! When Cleveland and Boston matched up in the 1948 World Series–The Tribe’s last World Series Championship season–The Indians beat Boston 4-2 in the 6-game Series. Incredibly, Cleveland’s only two losses were the two games which Bob Feller pitched.
- Titomania: In two of Boston’s last three World Series Championship seasons–2004 and 2007–Terry Francona was the Red Sox manager. Francona sits in the Cleveland dugout now.
- Tony Peña: If back-up, aging, veteran catcher Tony Peña can come off the bench and hit a home run to win your first playoff game in multiple decades in 1995, anything can happen.
*3 Reasons the Cleveland Indians will beat Boston
- Home Cookin: With a golden 53-28 mark, the Tribe tied for the best home record in the American League. With a sold out Progressive Field ready to rock, the Indians are hungry for redemption against a Boston team that beat them four of six meetings during the regular season.
- Never Outta the Fight: The gritty Indians led all of MLB in walkoff victories in 2016, many of them coming at home. The team displayed a consistent propensity to come back and never be out of a game.
- 2016: The Year of Cleveland: Cleveland Cavaliers…NBA Champions. Lake Erie Monsters…AHL Champions. City of Cleveland…RNC Hosts. ‘Nough Said…It’s the Tribe’s Time Now.
Even the Cleveland Cavaliers know that it is the Tribe’s turn to win: http://www.nba.com/cavaliers/video/teams/cavaliers/2016/10/05/1475679120308-cavsgoodlucktribeqtv01019160930-828293
*3 Reasons Why Cleveland is Clutch
- Jose Ramirez: .355 batting average with runners in scoring position. .400 average with the bases loaded. .347 average at Progressive Field. J-Ram is hoping to go from Mr. Clutch to Mr. October.
- A Balanced Atttack: The Tribe finished second (to Boston) in the American League in run scored and led the AL in Stolen Bases in 2016. Simultaneously, the Indians finished second (to Toronto) in the AL in ERA. The Indians were a well-balanced team throughout the season and that approach bodes well in playoff competition.
- A Loaded Bullpen: The vaunted Tribe bullpen is very well rested entering playoff competition. Andrew Miller will be able to pitch two innings on multiple occasions. Cody Allen has been solid all year long. The Indians’ setup men can be used situationally as Francona pleases.
*3 Reasons Why Familiarity Helps the Tribe
1. No New Faces: Cleveland has a great deal of overall experience against the Boston starting rotation, particularly against Game 1 Starter Rick Porcello, who has faced the Tribe 22 times in his career, thanks to many AL Central match ups during his time pitching with Detroit.
2. Good Match Ups: David Price has a history of struggling in the playoffs and the Indians have a recent history of hitting Clay Buchholz (2 starts, 7.20 ERA) quite well in 2016.
3. The Nitty Gritty: If the series is tied at two games apiece and it comes down to a nail-biting Game 5, the Indians would have ace Corey Kluber on the mound at home, while Boston would counter with either Porcello or Price, whom many Tribe hitters have faced dozens of times in their careers.
*3 Ultimate Keys to Victory
- Party at Napoli’s: Mike Napoli has been stellar and shown great power and run production in 2016, but he tends to be very streaky. For the Tribe to advance, they’ll need Napoli to have a series where he hits well in the clutch and drives in runs. A 1-16 series with 6 strikeouts will equate to a short playoff run for Cleveland. Napoli has to produce.
- The Hidden Heroes: The Tribe has displayed a balanced attack and a “different hero every night” mentality all season long. While they expect Kluber, Napoli, Lindor, Kipnis, and Miller to shine, it will be the clutch hits from Tyler Naquin and Yan Gomes–along with the key start from Josh Tomlin–that will propel the Indians to the ALCS.
- Late-Inning Magic: Andrew Miller vs. David Ortiz in a 1-run game. Mike Napoli vs. Koji Uehara with the bases loaded in a tie game. Most playoff games come down to the late innings, a test of the bullpens, and who is the most clutch when it counts. The Tribe bullpen must come through against the league’s number one offense and the Tribe bats need to be clutch against Boston’s late-inning specialists.
*3 Bold Predictions
- Game 1 will be High Scoring: Despite the notion that October baseball usually equates to close, low-scoring games, I expect the opposite in Game 1. Porcello has been fantastic all season, but the Indians will hit him hard and Boston will do the same to Bauer, leading to a lot of runs and breaking the standard low-scoring mold for playoff baseball.
- Papi Pitchout: Boston has a stellar lineup 1 through 9, but Cleveland will not allow Big Papi to be the difference maker in his Playoff Finale…the Tribe will pitch around Ortiz much of the series and take their chances with Hanley Ramirez and the rest of the Boston lineup.
- Tribe in Five: The Indians are a large underdog, despite home field advantage in the ALDS. They will split two games in Cleveland and do the same in Fenway, stealing a game in Boston. This sets up a dynamic Game 5 Matchup where Corey Kluber and Mike Napoli step up to propoel Cleveland to the ALCS. There will be no Duck Boat Parades in Beantown this year!