We continue our look back at the greatest playoff games in Cleveland Indians history. This one is the game that broke a 98-year losing streak.
Up until 2016, the Cleveland Indians‘ records in Game 1 of any playoff series was fairly terrible:
1995: Won Game 1 of the ALDS. Lost Game 1 of the ALCS and Game 1 of the WS.
1996: Lost Game 1 of the ALDS.
1997: Trifecta: Lost Game 1 of the ALDS, ALCS and WS.
1998: Lost Game 1 of the ALDS and ALCS.
1999: Won Game 1 of the ALDS.
2001: Won Game 1 of the ALDS.
2007: Won Game 1 of the ALDS. Lost Game 1 of the ALCS.
2013: Lost Game 1 of the Wild Card game.
Clearly losing Game 1 didn’t doom the Indians (except of course the Wild Card game). Nor did winning Game 1 guarantee a win in the series. But I don’t need math to prove that it’s better to win Game 1.
In 2016 it was especially critical for the Indians to win Game 1 of any series. The pitching staff was severely depleted. The rotation was Corey Kluber, Josh Tomlin, Trevor Bauer and Ryan Merritt (more on him later). If the Indians lost Game 1 with Corey Kluber – in any series – they were in trouble.
Heading into the World Series the Indians had done a great job in opening games. The Tribe beat Boston in Game 1 of the ALDS, 5-4. (This one was started by Trevor Bauer. Kluber started Game 2 and the Indians won, 6-0). Kluber shut out the Blue Jays 2-0 in Game 1 of the ALCS.
Could the Indians win a World Series Game 1? The last (and only to that point) time it had happened was 1920. Stan Coveleski beat the Brooklyn Robins. Apparently people weren’t dodging street cars in Brooklyn/Los Angeles in 1920. They were in 1913… and they have been since 1931.
Corey Kluber, he of 0.98 postseason ERA to that point, started for the Indians. Jon Lester countered for the Cubs.
Lester got off to the kind of start Indians fans wanted. After two outs he gave up a single to Frankie Lindor. Lester is a lefty, but at this point in his career he NEVER threw over to first base. Never ever.
Napoli then walked. So did Carlos Santana.
Lonnie Chisenhall fouls out and the dream is put on hold for a few innings.
The game stays 2-0 until the bottom of the fourth inning when Roberto Perez hit a ball that took about a millisecond to get out of the park. He hit it so hard that Joe Buck almost forgot about Kyle Schwarber for a minute. Indians lead 3-0.
Which brings us to the inning that put this game in the top five.
Bottom of the eighth. With two on and two out the Cubs call on former Indian Hector Rondon to get the suddenly dangerous Robbie Perez out. Rondon tries a curveball. That might have worked, had he not hung it over the middle of the plate about belt high.
Robbie swings, and the ball lands somewhere around the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Okay, it wasn’t that far, but he hit it a long way, far enough to make the score 6-0.
One half inning later the Indians ended a 98-year curse.
If only that had been the longest curse that was ended in the 2016 World Series.