Five Performances that Propelled the Cleveland Indians to the World Series

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Oct 19, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Cleveland Indians relief pitcher Ryan Merritt (54) pitches during the first inning against the Toronto Blue Jays in game five of the 2016 ALCS playoff baseball series at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 19, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Cleveland Indians relief pitcher Ryan Merritt (54) pitches during the first inning against the Toronto Blue Jays in game five of the 2016 ALCS playoff baseball series at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Secret Weapon

Oct 19, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona (17) relieves Cleveland Indians relief pitcher Ryan Merritt (54) during the fifth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays in game five of the 2016 ALCS playoff baseball series at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 19, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona (17) relieves Cleveland Indians relief pitcher Ryan Merritt (54) during the fifth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays in game five of the 2016 ALCS playoff baseball series at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports /

Remember that line about heroes being made in October? Ryan Merritt’s performance in the clinching victory of the ALCS is exactly what it’s talking about.

A 24-year old, soft-tossing rookie with just 11 big league innings under his belt taking the ball against a prolific lineup with a trip to the World Series on the line? Being called out by one of baseball’s biggest sluggers before the game? Then calmly and cooly silencing those bats and everyone who said it was impossible? That’s the stuff of legends.

In MLB history, only one pitcher had started a postseason game with less experience, yet Merritt looked like a 10-year veteran as he allowed just two soft hits in 4.1 innings of work, striking out three and not issuing a walk. Without that kind of moment, the series may have been headed back to Cleveland.

It’s not written in stone, but one would imagine that, given the still-thin starting rotation for Cleveland, Merritt’s playoff experience in 2016 is not over. There’s an excellent chance that he starts a game in the World Series and adds to his improbable story.

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No team reaches the World Series without making big plays and getting big performances, and the Indians are no different. On the doorstep of baseball immortality, the Tribe has to hope there are plenty more of those moments coming and new heroes to announce themselves. If there are, Cleveland could be celebrating the improbable once again.

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