Dan's Dugout: Tribe Thunders Toward Top Prize • Latino Sports


Dan’s Dugout: Tribe Thunders Toward Top Prize


Who knew?

The Cleveland Indians, barely an afterthought when the playoffs began, have won nine games in a row — six of them in postseason play — at the most crucial time on the baseball calendar.

Corey Kluber: hopes to cement playoff sweep

Corey Kluber: hopes to cement playoff sweep

Written off by experts because starting pitchers Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco were not available, Cleveland conquered the heavily-favored Boston Red Sox in the American League Division Series and are about to trample Toronto too.

It’s the biggest Indian party since Custer’s Last Stand.

Manager Terry Francona, already the owner of two World Series rings won with the Red Sox, is certainly Manager of the Year for the postseason — and perhaps the regular season too.

Having Andrew Miller at his beck and call helps.

A 6’7″ lefthander who throws lethal sinkers with pinpoint accuracy, Miller was never a closer until 2015,

Andrew Miller pitched for four other clubs before finding a home in Cleveland this year

Andrew Miller pitched for four other clubs before finding a home in Cleveland

when he had 36 saves for the Yankees. Technically, he’s not a closer now either — just the guy called upon to prevent low-scoring leads from evaporating. Never mind what inning it is.

Paired with Cody Allen, a righthander who has spent all five of his big-league seasons in Cleveland, Miller rarely takes a day off. And, unlike the typical closer, he works multiple innings at a time.

Even when the AL Championship Series shifted from Progressive Field to Toronto’s Rogers Center bandbox, the beat went on for the drum-thumping Tribe.

Cleveland prevailed through a perfect parlay of pitching, power, and especially defense — a vital aspect of the game that invariably reaches critical mass during the month of October.

Consider Game 3, the first of the best-of-seven played in Toronto. Even though Cleveland starter Trevor Bauer left with a finger injury in the first, six relievers held the usually-bombastic Blue Jays to two runs.

Like the Indians, the Jays had swept their best-of-five Division Series, defeating the Texas Rangers, but the air went out of their balloon the minute they saw the menacing Miller.

Indians pilot has been more magician than manager in the ALCS

Indians pilot has been more magician than manager in the ALCS

In the first two games of the ALCS, he fanned 10 men in 3 2/3 innings. In Game 3, he fanned three of the four men he faced in the final frame.

Unless something drastic happens, he’s going to be a runaway winner of the Championship Series MVP trophy. Even the electoral college, with a bigger challenge looming, would have to agree with that selection.

Out of the World Series since 1995 and without a world championship since 1948, the Indians were nobody’s pick to win a pennant this year. Kansas City had won two in a row, the Rangers won the most games in the league, and three powerhouses from the East (Boston, Baltimore, and Toronto) were all considered more likely to succeed than the Tribe.

But the stats tell another story. Cleveland ranked second in the AL with a 3.84 earned run average, fourth with 134 stolen bases, and second only to Boston with 777 runs scored. So what if they were middle-of-the-pack with 185 home runs?

Although both Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana hit 34 home runs, Francona’s finest player is shortstop

Francisco Lindor is a star on both offense and defense

Francisco Lindor is a star on both offense and defense

Francisco Lindor, a Gold Glove contender who can both hit (.301, 15 homers) and run (19 steals). He’s already hit a game-winning home run in the playoffs, though he usually wins more games with his glove.

And let’s not forget the club’s top pitcher. Corey Kluber already has a Cy Young Award on his trophy shelf and has a good shot at another after going 18-9 with a 3.14 ERA.

Oh, yes: he’s scheduled to pitch Game 4, albeit on short rest.

With momentum on their side, the Indians have a chance to do the remarkable: run the table in the postseason, sweeping all 11 games played.

They’ve already made baseball history so don’t bet against them.

Also in baseball:

Good to see good guy Frank Wren getting another shot as a GM, this time with the Red Sox . . .

Speaking of ex-Braves, look for Fredi Gonzalez to coach third base for the 2017 Marlins . . .

Ryan Howard's Philly days are numbered

Ryan Howard’s Philly days are numbered

The Phillies almost certainly will pay Ryan Howard’s $10 million buyout rather than picking up their club option for $25 million . . .

Hard to believe Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen was a catcher for the Netherlands team in the 2009 World Baseball Classic . . .

Free agency looms for numerous free agent participants, including Justin Turner (Dodgers), Aroldis Chapman (Cubs), and both Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion (Blue Jays).

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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