In­di­ans: Amer­i­can League cham­pi­ons em­brac­ing the role of the underdog against Cubs

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Tom Withers

CLEVE­LAND >> Any other year, against any other team, the Cleve­land In­di­ans would be the sen­ti­men­tal choice in this year’s World Se­ries.

You know, be­cause of that long cham­pi­onship drought and all. But not against the Chicago Cubs. The lov­able Cub­bies, who cap­tured the na­tion’s heart by ex­or­cis­ing curses and win­ning their first NL pen­nant since 1945 on Satur­day night and are aim­ing for their first Se­ries ti­tle since 1908, are a pop­u­lar pick.

The odd­s­mak­ers in Las Ve­gas have pegged the Cubs as heavy fa­vorites go­ing into Game 1 tonight.

Heck, even First Fan Barack Obama, a die-hard White Sox sup­porter, said he was happy to see the North Side of Chicago rock­ing.

Well, all the love to­ward the NL cham­pi­ons has left the In­di­ans as un­der­dogs — a role they’ve em­braced this Oc­to­ber.

“We be­lieve in each other,” first base­man Mike Napoli said be­fore the In­di­ans held a work­out and sim­u­lated

game at Pro­gres­sive Field. “We be­lieve that if we go out there and play the game the right way, play as a team like we’ve done, we can win a game on any night. We’ve shown in the past two se­ries we can’t be taken lightly. We play as a team.

“We’re a con­fi­dent group.”

And that as­sured­ness has only grown. Cleve­land wasn’t sup­posed to beat Boston, but the In­di­ans swept Big Papi into re­tire­ment and the Red Sox into their off­sea­son sooner than ex­pected. Cleve­land’s pitch­ing staff fol­lowed that by whit­tling Toronto’s big bats down to tooth­picks in the AL Cham­pi­onship Se­ries.

Now on deck are the Cubs, who won 103 games dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son, have three aces at the top of the ro­ta­tion and a flame-throw­ing closer and seem to have a date with destiny.

The In­di­ans, though, know they can match up with any­one.

“They’re a good team from top to bot­tom,” said supreme setup man An­drew Miller, who has spent the post­sea­son toy­ing with hit­ters. “They have three guys that might be Cy Young (win­ners). We’re go­ing to be go­ing against a good team, that’s not a sur­prise.

“If you want to count us out, that works for us.”

Many of the In­di­ans watched Chicago’s his­toric win, which was fol­lowed by a street party out­side Wrigley Field that nearly lasted un­til dawn.

As it un­folded, Napoli found him­self pulling for for­mer Red Sox team­mates Jon Lester, John Lackey and the Cubs. The more he thought about a Cleve­land-Chicago se­ries, the more he liked it.

“I was root­ing for them,” Napoli said, wear­ing one of his pop­u­lar “Post Party At Napoli’s” T-shirts. “I thought it would be one of the coolest World Se­ries to be a part of.”

The In­di­ans are look­ing to end their own 68-year ti­tle drought, and they spent the past few days rest­ing while the Cubs and Los An­ge­les Dodgers fin­ished their se­ries. The down time has al­lowed Cleve­land to get health­ier, but man­ager Terry Fran­cona re­vealed a new in­jury for his team, which has spent much of the sea­son deal­ing with sprains, strains and even a few stitches.

Sec­ond base­man Ja­son Kip­nis hurt his left an­kle fol­low­ing Game 5 in Toronto.

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