Cleveland Indians Must Play Game Four Like There’s No Tomorrow

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Sep 21, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Corey Kluber (28) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Kansas City Royals at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 21, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Corey Kluber (28) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Kansas City Royals at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Cleveland Indians are just 27 outs away from their first trip to the World Series since 1997 and will have their ace on the mound on Tuesday. What does the Tribe need to do finish off the sweep?

Nothing has come easy for this Cleveland Indians ballclub in 2016, no matter how effortless they have made it look at times. From the absence of Michael Brantley to the PED suspensions of Abraham Almonte and Marlon Byrd to Yan Gomes’ snakebitten year to late-season injuries to Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco, the baseball gods simply haven’t been on Cleveland’s side.

And yet, here the Indians sit, just one win away from a berth in the World Series. The Tribe has basically written a new manual for perseverance, and will be adding another chapter on Tuesday afternoon in Toronto.

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After Monday night’s early exit by Trevor Bauer due to the now infamous drone accident and 8.1 innings pitched by the bullpen, Cleveland has been forced to reshuffle its starting rotation once again. Staff ace Corey Kluber, who has tossed 13.1 scoreless innings in the postseason already, will be taking the ball on three days’ rest for the first time in his career looking to finish off the sweep of the Blue Jays.

“If we don’t bring [Kluber] back tomorrow and he pitches Game 5, we don’t have a starter for Game 7,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “I mean, we have to physically have a starter. So this is the best way to do it. I mean, this is the only way to do it. There’s no other way around it. We don’t have another starter right now. It’s not that difficult.”

Through six playoff games to this point, Francona has pushed all the right buttons, made all the right moves. While trepidation from fans in a situation like this is human nature, the Tribe’s skipper has earned the benefit of the doubt.

Francona’s “just win the game that’s in front of you” mantra has resulted in a postseason performance that has been as gritty as it’s been improbable for Cleveland, and it cannot stop now.

“We’ve got a lot more work to do,” said Francisco Lindor. “We’ve got 27 more outs. We can’t get happy. We can’t get laid back.”

The Indians must play Game Four as if there is no tomorrow. If Kluber doesn’t have it, or if Toronto’s bats suddenly come alive, no arm in the bullpen should be saved. If the right-hander turns in another shutdown performance, the likes of Cody Allen and Andrew Miller must be brought in before there is any hint of a rally from the Blue Jays.

The team that stole more bases and had the most efficient running game in the American League must be even more aggressive. The Tribe has only three steals in the playoffs, but has continued to put pressure on the opposition by taking extra bases. That mentality needs to be turned to 11 on Tuesday.

Players who have struggled must step up or sit down. One through nine, Cleveland has yet to put together a complete offensive game in the postseason despite having won all six of its games.

Toronto must win four games in a row against the only team in baseball that never lost four in a row all season. The Tribe avoided losing skids by playing every game like there was no tomorrow, and that’s precisely how the club must approach this one.

Next: 3 Reasons the Indians Will Beat Toronto

The Indians are on the verge of something remarkable, but the goal has not yet been attained. Francona has displayed managerial instincts second to none in orchestrating his team to this point, and must be unrelenting in his moves once again in Game Four. The next chapter in perseverance, and baseball history, demands nothing less than everything the Tribe has.

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