The 2016 World Series is not over – not by a long shot.
But my goodness does it feel good to be a Cleveland Indians fan tonight. This team, this Cleveland Indians team that has had the odds stacked against it from the get-go, “Oh, the Dolans are so cheap, they won’t spend on free agents,” “Oh, our attendance is so bad, we’re so bad, there isn’t room in Cleveland for three professional sports teams,” “Oh, the Indians lost two of their top three starters? They’re done.” “Josh Tomlin is the human version of a bag of garbage on a hot summer day.” Despite all that negativity, they are currently leading the 2016 World Series 2 games to 1 after a thrilling 1-0 victory in the first World Series game at Wrigley Field in 71 years.
But as I said in my pre-game thread, where I formally apologized to the Little Cowboy, I’m fully aboard the Josh Tomlin bandwagon. It isn’t just because of his dad, who endured a life-threatening surgery and is currently paralyzed from the chest down, but was able to attend Game 3 at Wrigley – even though that’s an amazing story. I support Josh Tomlin because he epitomizes what Cleveland is, and it took me far too long to realize it.
What does it mean to be from Cleveland? To Love Cleveland, to live and die with every pitch, every swing, every shot, every pass, and every catch? It’s hard to put into words, but people from The Land know exactly what I’m talking about. A great deal of pressure was lifted from these Cleveland Indians when the Cavaliers won the NBA Championship in June — and because of that, every pitch of the postseason thus far has felt like we’re playing with the house’s money. Every time we make it on the national stage, we have to hear about how lowly we are, how unlikely it is for us to be there. Even when the Cavaliers overcame a 3-1 deficit to win the NBA Title, even when the Indians beat the Red Sox and Blue Jays with great team play, we were treated as the underdog. I think it’s just part of being from Cleveland.
That title, however, changed the whole game. Gone were the demons of a mystical curse. Gone were the ghosts of mistakes made and championships almost won. It didn’t matter, because for one day and one afternoon, Cleveland was the center of the sporting universe. Just go to youtube and search for Game 7 reactions, you won’t find many Warriors fans — I’m sure it’s out there, but they’re drowned out by the celebrations and the tears of The Land.
So here the Indians sit, with a chance to end the 2nd longest title drought in Major League Baseball – all they have to do is vanquish the LONGEST drought in MLB, and a team with an obscene amount of young talent and money and great management. They came into this game with the Series knotted 1-1 and everything against them: Joe Maddon is a genius manager, on the same tier as Terry Francona (and maybe better); with a defense so elite it eclipsed everyone else in the league, and with some of the best young power hitters the league has seen in the last couple decades. To counter all of that momentum, the Indians sent Josh Tomlin to the mound and asked him to stymie the most powerful offense in the league in front of the most raucous crowd he would ever face.
Oh, and by the way, you have to do it in front of your dad who overcame unimaginable obstacles to be here and support you.
Josh Tomlin was magnificent tonight, don’t let his short outing (4.2 IP) fool you into thinking otherwise. In those 14 outs, he didn’t allow solid/scary contact once and was simply in control of the game and his rhythm throughout. Even in the bottom of the 4th, when he started the inning with a leadoff walk to Kris Bryant that-was-actually-a-strikeout, he didn’t let it phase him. He retired the next three hitters 1-2-3, which completed the easiest 4-out inning I can remember.
The Indians had a runner on 3rd with one out in the 1st and failed to score.
They had Lindor at 3rd with 2 outs in the 4th and failed to score.
They had the bases loaded with 1 out in the 5th only to have it all erased on a double play.
Finally, in the 7th inning, the Indians broke through in the most poetic way. Roberto Perez (“He can’t hit!” “We need Lucroy!”) led the inning off with a single. After a sacrifice by Tyler Naquin and a walk by Rajai Davis to put runners on 1st and 2nd, Terry Francona had to deal with the choice of letting Andrew Miller bat or putting someone else in. He opted to pinch hit Coco Crisp and leave a two-inning gap to the rest of the bullpen, which was rewarded when Coco singled on the first pitch and scored the only run of Game 3.
Why was it poetic? Coco Crisp is one of my favorite players in all of baseball for one reason – he’s actually humble. I remember when I was just a lowly usher at Jacobs Field in 2005 and I was lucky enough to work Left Field a few times — and every time I saw Coco he would be the first one signing autographs and the last one back to the dugout… but more than that, he would take a pause every single time, at about 6:50pm, when lineups were announced. He would stop whatever he was doing and watch the scoreboard, as if he couldn’t believe he was about to be announced in the starting lineup. Since then, I’ve always loved Coco as a humble and hard-working part of a a team, and I was so thrilled when he came back to Cleveland in late August.
If you told me 10 years ago that Coco Crisp would drive in the winning run of Game 3 of the 2016 World Series against the Cubs, I wouldn’t have believed you. But here we are. The Indians have to win 2 more games, the Cubs have to win 3 more.
It is already a great series, but I’m looking forward to what the future has in store. I love this team, and I can’t wait to see what they accomplish.