In­di­ans’ amaz­ing run falls ag­o­niz­ingly short

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

When the epic, drama-drenched Game 7 was briefly de­layed by rain, In­di­ans play­ers re­turned to their club­house, where chairs had been re­moved and plas­tic sheets hung in an­tic­i­pa­tion for a party wait­ing to pop since 1948.

Later, un­opened bot­tles of Dom Perignon were wheeled out of a lux­ury suite. An ice sculp­ture of the World Series tro­phy was cloaked by a black cloth, soon to melt away. It wasn’t meant to be. An amaz­ing, un­fore­seen sea­son had a fa­mil­iar end­ing.

Un­able to stop Chicago’s curse-slay­ing run, the In­di­ans, a team that per­haps em­bod­ied Cleve­land’s blue-col­lar, get-off-the­mat ethos more than any other, fi­nally suc­cumbed in the 10th in­ning, los­ing 8-7 early Thurs­day be­fore a down­pour soaked thou­sands of Cubs fans who stood in the rain sa­vor­ing the end of their 108-year cham­pi­onship wait.

Heart­break still re­sides in Cleve­land.

Only this time, the hurt isn’t as deep.

The In­di­ans weren’t ex­pected to be play­ing in Oc­to­ber, never mind Novem­ber, and they took some so­lace in push­ing the Cubs to the limit.

“We shocked the world,” said short­stop Fran­cisco Lin­dor, the 22-year-old who blos­somed on base­ball’s big­gest stage. “No one had us here. Of course, we didn’t fin­ish the way we wanted to fin­ish. We were go­ing to do what­ever it took to win, grind at-bats, pitch after pitch, work hard. That’s our mojo. We bat­tled day in and day out.”

The In­di­ans had hoped to du­pli­cate what the Cavs, their neigh­bors on the other side of Gate­way Plaza, had done in June by win­ning a cham­pi­onship and end­ing the city’s 52-year ti­tle drought. They man­aged to side­step ad­ver­sity for months, but couldn’t over­come los­ing two start­ing pitch­ers and sim­ply didn’t have enough to put away the Cubs and be­came the first team since the 1979 Baltimore Ori­oles to squan­der a 3-1 lead in the Series by los­ing Games 6 and 7 at home.

They went down — swing­ing.

“No­body gave up,” said re­liever An­drew Miller, who was vir­tu­ally un­hit­table dur­ing the post­sea­son be­fore the Cubs fig­ured him out in Game 7. “It was fight­ing like hell. It was un­for­tu­nate that we didn’t quite get there.”

The fact that they got so close is worth a tro­phy pre­sen­ta­tion and pa­rade.

The In­di­ans were short­handed from al­most the first day of spring train­ing in Ari­zona.

All-Star left fielder Michael Brant­ley, their No. 3 hit­ter and prob­a­bly the best all-around player on the ros­ter, was un­able to get fully healthy and played only 11 games. With­out Brant­ley, man­ager Terry Fran­cona had to be cre­ative to find pro­duc­tion and for­tu­nately the In­di­ans got huge con­tri­bu­tions from slug­gers Car­los San­tana (34 homers) and Mike Napoli (101 RBIs).

Jose Ramirez played four po­si­tions, started in all nine spots in the bat­ting or­der and didn’t miss a beat, bat­ting .312 and was per­haps the team’s MVP.

The In­di­ans sur­vived de­spite los­ing start­ing catcher Yan Gomes for long stretches — the club tried to trade for All-Star Jonathan Lu­croy in July — and the out­field was an al­most daily patch­work ef­fort be­cause of Brant­ley and two PED sus­pen­sions.

If all that wasn’t enough to stop them, the In­di­ans closed out their divi­sion and beat Bos­ton and Toronto in the post­sea­son de­spite not hav­ing in­jured starters Car­los Car­rasco or Danny Salazar or los­ing starter Trevor Bauer after he sliced his pinkie play­ing with a drone — an odd ac­ci­dent that some­how seemed fit­ting for this re­silient group.

The In­di­ans were stitched to­gether from the start.

Fran­cona con­jured magic from his bullpen as Miller, Bryan Shaw and closer Cody Allen com­bined to pro­tect leads and sti­fle ral­lies all the way to the Series.

But in the end, the in­juries caught them.

A hand­cuffed Fran­cona was forced to ride ace Corey Klu­ber for three starts in nine days against the heav­ily fa­vored Cubs; Josh Tom­lin, who had dealt with his fa­ther’s ill­ness dur­ing a dreary Au­gust, just didn’t have it in Game 6; and Miller, ac­quired from the New York Yan­kees in July for these kind of mo­ments, didn’t have the usual bite on his nasty slider in a fi­nale that rates with any Game 7 in his­tory.

In the quiet of Cleve­land’s club­house after­ward, se­cond base­man Ja­son Kip­nis, a Chicago kid who has grown into Cleve­land’s leader, put a sea­son he’ll never for­get in per­spec­tive. Kip­nis was hurt­ing, but knew he — and the In­di­ans — will soon heal.

“We will be back,” he said. “We’re pretty con­fi­dent in this group we got here. There are a lot of peo­ple who prob­a­bly don’t even know who Car­los Car­rasco is or Michael Brant­ley. Those guys have huge roles for us. We kind of fol­lowed Kansas City’s lead a lit­tle bit to get here. They lost be­fore they won, so I wouldn’t mind if we fol­low their lead the whole way through. That would be nice.”

DAVID DER­MER — AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Cleve­land In­di­ans fan Kelly Don­nelly re­acts as she and other fans watch cov­er­age of Game 7 of the World Series out­side Pro­gres­sive Field early Thurs­day.

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