Cleveland Indians: Sky Doesn’t Fall After Game Two Loss

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Oct 26, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians third baseman Jose Ramirez (11) cannot field an infield single by Chicago Cubs second baseman Javier Baez (not pictured) in the second inning in game two of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 26, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians third baseman Jose Ramirez (11) cannot field an infield single by Chicago Cubs second baseman Javier Baez (not pictured) in the second inning in game two of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Cleveland Indians got beat in every phase of the game by the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday night, but that doesn’t mean all is lost. Why should the Tribe still like their chances?

There were few in the national baseball media that gave the Cleveland Indians a chance of winning even a solitary game in the series. And no, I’m not talking about the World Series. Cleveland was pronounced dead before the first pitch was ever thrown in the American League Division Series due to too many injuries, not enough pitching, and a lack of offensive firepower.

How’d that turn out?

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After the Indians swept the Boston Red Sox, who were healthy, had two of the league’s top starters, and scored more runs than any other team in baseball during the regular season, the media again dismissed them. In the American League Championship Series against the Toronto Blue Jays, all of the flaws and rotten luck would be exposed. The Tribe had gotten hot at the right time in a short series, but surely a longer best-of-seven affair would prove to be their undoing.

Wrong again.

Once the Jays were dispatched in five games, the media narrative began to shift, if ever so slightly. Cleveland as a city was still riding the high of the Cavaliers’ NBA championship, and on the night that team would be receiving their rings and hoisting a banner at Quicken Loans Arena, the Indians would be hosting Game One of the World Series right next door. The synchronicity was almost too perfect, and some began to wonder aloud if, perhaps, it really was Cleveland’s year.

Tuesday night’s opening game of the Fall Classic did nothing to quell that thinking, as the Indians beat the Chicago Cubs, they of 103 regular season wins and Major League Baseball’s reigning sweethearts, and beat them handily behind one of the most dominant pitching performances in World Series history.

Of course now here we are, less than 24 hours removed from a Game Two loss that can be called nothing but ugly. The Tribe was no-hit for 5.2 innings, there were sloppy plays in the field, and the pitching staff that has been the rock on which the club’s postseason run has been built struggled to find the plate and to keep Chicago off the scoreboard.

As Cleveland manager Terry Francona said after the game:

"“We gave up nine hits, eight walks, two errors, and we only gave up five runs. We’re probably pretty fortunate, because there was traffic all night. For us to win, we generally need to play a clean game, and we didn’t do that.”"

Second baseman Jason Kipnis added the following about the club’s performance at the plate:

"“I think you’ve seen us in these playoffs where we haven’t hit so well and somehow have still found ways to win games. Tonight, the other team just did a good enough job of scoring more runs than we did, and it came back to haunt us without hitting.”"

So the Indians are a team that has defied all expectations to be where they are, and as one would expect in the World Series, their opposition is one of the best in the game. It can be tough to be confronted with reality, particularly the blunt, beatdown sort of reality that the Cubs inflicted on Wednesday night, but the optimistic feelings of players and fans that have permeated the city since June should not be retired so easily.

Yes, the Tribe is the underdog, as they have been throughout October. Yes, they are now locked in a best-of-five scenario with the next three games being played at Wrigley Field. And yes, the pitching staff is still thin and the offense is still unreliable game-to-game. But, if we’ve learned anything from this team throughout the course of the past nearly seven months, it’s that they won’t quit. And fans should not quit, either.

As Grant Brisbee of SB Nation wrote:

"“The Indians have waded through a mess to get this far, and now they’re in what’s essentially a best-of-five World Series. There are 28 teams that would trade all 10 of their top prospects for that chance.”"

Ending the franchise’s 68-year championship drought was never going to be easy, nor should it be. This is Cleveland, after all, and despite the city’s newfound sports affluence, everything must be earned around here. One title did not change that, and neither will ten more.

Francona will send Josh Tomlin to the mound for Game Three. The right-hander has yielded just three runs on seven hits in 10.2 postseason innings, and has found a way to pitch to high-powered offenses that keeps them off-balance and frustrated.

After Tomlin, ace Corey Kluber will take the ball on short rest in Game Four, and there are few other pitchers in the game that any team would rather have in that situation. All he has done in these playoffs is allowed two runs in 24.1 innings of work, good for a minuscule 0.74 earned run average.

The blueprint the Indians have used to win ballgames all postseason is simple, taking early leads and shortening the game by getting to the bullpen. The pitching has, mostly, done its job, so the question for the remainder of the World Series will be whether the bats can do theirs. Tribe hitters answered the call every other time they’ve been challenged this season.

Next: How Kluber Owned the Cubs in Game One

Cleveland is three wins away from a championship. How many of us thought back in April that we would be able to say that now? The Game Two loss was disheartening, but it doesn’t mean the sky is falling and doesn’t change the math. The Indians are right where they need to be, and given their penchant for bucking the narratives of the national baseball media, betting against them might not be in anyone’s best interest.

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