Thursday, 27 October 2016

World Series - Game 2 - Cubs Even It Up

You didn't think this was going to be easy did you? Unlike the Tribe's ALDS and ALCS opponents, the Cubs were not content to roll over and answered back in game 2 of the World Series, running out 5-1 winners to even the series at one apiece.

Chicago's Jake Arrieta, the 2015 NL Cy Young winner, brought his best stuff to Progressive Field and carried a no-hitter into the 6th inning. The Tribe offense just couldn't get to grips with Arrieta and could never dig themselves out of an early hole. It was a cold night for the Tribe bats and for the fans in attendance. Jason Kipnis was the one to end Arrieta's flirtation with history, hitting a double with one out in the 6th and eventually scoring on a wild pitch.

Trevor Bauer started for the Indians and wasn't very good but wasn't awful either, allowing 6 hits, 2 walks and 2 earned runs in 3.2 innings. He got dinged up early, when Anthony Rizzo doubled to score Kris Bryant in the top of the 1st, and looked to have recovered until he got tagged again in the 3rd, by a Kyle Schwarber single that scored Rizzo. I was hoping he could hold out for longer to save the bullpen but it never materialized. A combination of Zach McAllister, Bryan Shaw, Danny Salazar, Jeff Manship, Dan Otero and Mike Clevinger put in relief appearances but could not stop the bleeding. It was nice to see Salazar back on the mound, even if he did walks 2 guys, but he didn't allow any runs and seemed to have his velocity back which is a huge positive.

This loss was the first time Terry Francona had been on the wrong side of the score in a World Series game. He was 9-0 up until last night, an incredible record. However, it's not over yet and the Indians now travel to Wrigley Field for game 3 on Friday, where Josh Tomlin will face off against Kyle Hendricks.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

World Series - Game 1 - Tribe Take Opener

It was a night to remember in the city of Cleveland. The Cavaliers hung their 2015/16 NBA championship banner and the players collected their long sought-after rings, as they topped the Knicks in their season opener. And across the road at Progressive Field, the Indians began their quest to earn their very own championship, by attempting to win their first World Series since 1948. And the hometown team got off to an impressive start, shutting out the Chicago Cubs 6-0 in front of a raucous sell-out crowd.

Both clubs sent their aces to the mound, with Corey Kluber representing for Cleveland and Jon Lester pitching for the Cubs. Lester is a big game pitcher, and has played in two World Series before in 2007 and 2013. He's been on the biggest stage and delivered when it mattered most but tonight he was outshone by Kluber, making his first ever World Series start but you wouldn't know it by looking at his face.

Kluber was utterly dominant, as he shutout Chicago over 6 innings and allowed just 4 hits and no walks. The right-hander from Birmingham, Alabama got off to a hot start, a record setting one in fact, striking out 8 Cubs in the first 3 innings alone. Kluber went on to record a total of 9 K's and picked up the win for his efforts.

He was backed up by an offense who got to Lester early, as the Tribe took a quick 2-0 lead in the first inning thanks to a Jose Ramirez RBI single and Brandon Guyer being hit by an errant cutter in the leg, forcing home a second run with the bases loaded.

Indians catcher Roberto Perez then proceeded to steal the show. The 27 year-old from Mayagüez, Puerto Rico is having quite a post-season, and in front of millions of viewers he clubbed 2 home runs to put the game beyond the Cubs. Perez's first homer came in the bottom of the 4th inning, a solo shot that just cleared the left field wall to increase the Tribe's lead to 3-0. Then Perez returned in the 8th inning and eliminated any hope Chicago had left, smashing a deep 3 run homer into the left field stands to make it 6-0 to the Tribe. Perez only had 3 home runs in the regular season and has now matched that tally in October alone.

Special mentions must also go to Andrew Miller and Cody Allen for their sterling work out of the bullpen. Miller wasn't his dominant self but still pitched 2 scoreless innings and escaped a few jams, making the Tribe fans sweat a little in the process. Allen pitched the 9th inning and gave up a Willson Contreras double, but he struck out 3 to close out the game with ease.

And just like that the Indians won their first World Series game since 1997. Tonight will see Trevor Bauer pitch against Chicago's Jake Arrieta in game 2, which has been brought forward an hour in an attempt to avoid some incoming rain. I'm not expecting another performance on par with Kluber's but if Bauer can just get through 5 innings relatively unscathed before turning it over to Miler, I'll be happy.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

ALCS Review - World Series Bound!


You read that right! Your 2016 Cleveland Indians are heading to the fall classic, their first World Series appearance since 1997. Terry Francona's team have a chance to join Cleveland immortality, to be up there with the Tribe greats like Bob Feller, Satchel Paige, Bob Lemon, Larry Doby and Lou Boudreau. 

I am writing these words just minutes after Carlos Santana gloved the final out of game 5 and I'm still stunned that the Indians were able to dispatch the Blue Jays so convincingly, emerging as 4-1 victors in the ALCS to take the pennant.

Onto the review:

Game 1 - Friday, October 14, 2016 - Progressive Field

We waited a long time for Francisco Lindor. Or at least it felt like a long time, such was the level of anticipation for the Puerto Rican to make his debut in the show. The 21 year-old broke onto the big stage in 2015 and narrowly missed out on the AL Rookie of the Year award. He was everything we hoped for and more. His sophomore season saw him continue his development, becoming a leader in the clubhouse and earning a spot on the All Star team. Lindor was a big reason why the Indians won the AL Central this season. I wouldn't swap him for any other shortstop in the majors.

And then he went and added to his lore, by coming up big in the post-season, thanks to a huge home run in game 1 of the ALDS that KO'ed Boston and then another homer in game 1 of the ALCS. Toronto never saw him coming, but Indians fans did. We've known about him for years and it's about time the national media did too.

With Corey Kluber bending but not breaking and Marco Estrada in the midst of a strong outing, Lindor came to the plate in the top of the 6th inning with the game scoreless. With 1 out and Kipnis at first base after a walk, Lindor patiently waited for his pitch and pounced on an Estrada change-up left up just a little bit. And that was all she wrote, as Lindor golfed it into the right center field stands and the Indians never looked back. Lindor's homer gave the Indians a 2-0 lead that they weren't going to surrender and the Tribe took game 1.

A quick word must be said for the Indians pitching staff too. To keep that monster Toronto lineup scoreless was a real achievement. Kluber pitched into the 7th inning and despite not being his usual dominant self, he still kept the Jays off the board. He wriggled out of a few potential scoring opportunities for Toronto so credit must go to our ace.

And then Andrew Miller entered the game and did his thing. In 1.2 innings of work Miller fanned 5 Blue Jays to completely extinguish any remaining threat the visitors posed. Cody Allen pitched the 9th and retired the side in order, striking out Michael Saunders in the process, and picked up the save. Miller has understandably taken all the plaudits but Allen has been stellar as well in October.

Game 2 - Saturday, October 15, 2016 - Progressive Field

When the Indians traded for Andrew Miller at the end of July, I had some misgivings. I knew he was an elite reliever that could (and would) take our bullpen to the next level. But I was sad to see us lose Clint Frazier, the center field prospect the Tribe drafted in 2013. Frazier was the first draft pick that I had researched properly prior to the draft so I followed his ascent up the minor league ladder with more interest than usual. So when we sent him packing to the Yankees I was gutted that he'd never make it to the majors in an Indians uniform. I don't think he was too far away either, and the Yankees definitely have a good one on their books.

However, with all that being said, acquiring Miller might prove to be one of the best trades the Indians have ever made. After dominating the Red Sox in the ALDS and blanking the Blue Jays in game 1, Miller pitched on back-to-back nights and was sensational yet again.

Josh Tomlin got the start and had another great outing, pitching 5.2 innings and striking out 6, giving up just a single run, a Josh Donaldson RBI double. Bryan Shaw finished up the 6th inning, facing just one batter, a Troy Tulowitzki ground ball out.

Enter Miller, and the big lefty just took Toronto apart. He pitched the 7th and 8th innings and never let a batter even sniff first base. Miller struck out 5 Blue Jays and made them look foolish, keeping them so off balance they had a hard time staying upright and not hitting the dirt. His breaking stuff is just cruel at this point. Cody Allen entered the game in the 9th and earned another save, striking out 2 in a flawless performance.

The Blue Jays pitched a good game as well, limiting the Indians to just 4 hits in total. Francisco Lindor had half of those, one of which was a liner up the middle in the bottom of the 3rd inning, scoring Rajai Davis to give the Indians a 2-1 lead. The scoreline didn't budge for the rest of the game and just like that, the Tribe had a 2-0 lead in the ALCS.

Game 3 - Monday, October 17, 2016 - Rogers Centre

The Indians travelled north for game 3, to the Rogers Centre in Toronto. I'd seen Jays fans on social media and forums saying how things would be different on their home turf, how Toronto would make things right and get back in the series.

The Indians wouldn't let them though, even when starter Trevor Bauer had to exit the game in the 1st inning as the injury to his pinkie finger resurfaced. Hey Trevor, how about in the future you put the toys and drones away in October?

Despite losing their starter much earlier than anticipated, the Indians turned to their bullpen and it was a real team effort as the Tribe sent 6 arms to the mound over the course of the game. Dan Otero, Jeff Manship, Zach McAllister, Bryan Shaw, Cody Allen and Andrew Miller all combined to pitch a collective 8.1 innings, allowing just 2 earned runs, 1 walk, and struck out 8 Jays, with Shaw, Allen and Miller getting most of those.

The Tribe offense collected 7 hits altogether, with Mike Napoli and Jason Kipnis breaking out of their October slumps to record key home runs. Kipnis' homer in the 6th inning was especially crucial, breaking open a tie game. Jose Ramirez added some insurance with a single in that inning to score Napoli, increasing the lead to 4-2 and the Jays couldn't recover, dropping game 3 in front of their home crowd.

Game 4 - Tuesday, October 18, 2016 - Rogers Centre

In front of a rabid Toronto crowd the Blue Jays proved the Indians were not invincible after all, beating the Tribe 5-1 to take back a game in the series.

Jays starter Aaron Sanchez stymied the Indians lineup over 6 strong innings, limiting them to just 2 hits and 1 earned run, a Roberto Perez double that scored Coco Crisp in the top of the 5th inning. Toronto's bullpen pitched the final three innings and kept the Indians from mounting a comeback.

Corey Kluber, on only 3 day's rest, pitched well but couldn't prevent the Jays taking their first lead in the entire ALCS. Josh Donaldson clubbed a solo homer in the bottom of the 3rd to put Toronto ahead and Ezequiel Carrera blooped a single in the bottom of the 4th that Tyler Naquin really should have caught, allowing Troy Tulowitzki to score. That was all Kluber allowed but the Indians offense couldn't overcome the Jays' slim lead, and the Tribe bullpen surrendered 3 more runs later in the game to put the result beyond them. You can't win them all I suppose but the Indians still had a commanding series lead heading into game 5.

Game 5 - Wednesday, October 19, 2016 - Rogers Centre

With the Indians rotation still hurting, the Tribe turned to rookie pitcher Ryan Merritt for game 5 of the ALCS. Merritt, the 24 year-old lefty who previously had just 1 career start (and win) to his name, stepped to the mound in the biggest game of his career and the most important in recent Indians' history.

The rookie wasn't shaken by the moment though and pitched superbly, as he lasted into the 5th inning without allowing a run, as he struck out 3 Blue Jays in the process. For a guy making just his second start in the major leagues, he certainly didn't let the bright lights get to him. Nerves of steel from the rookie.

The Tribe offense got their customary early lead, thanks to a Mike Napoli double in the 1st inning and a Carlos Santana home run in the 3rd. Veteran outfielder Coco Crisp added another post-season homer to his résumé, knocking one over the fence in the top of the 4th inning to stretch the Tribe lead to 3-0.

After Merritt departed in the 5th inning, Bryan Shaw recorded some key outs before handing the ball to Andrew Miller with 2 outs in the 6th. When Miller entered the game, even I could hear the groans from the Rogers Centre all the way over here in England. He continued his post-season dominance and was incredibly efficient in his work, throwing just 21 pitches over 2.2 scoreless innings, as he kept the Jays from mustering any sort of comeback, thanks to that unhittable slider he has in his arsenal. Miller deservedly took home the ALCS MVP award for all of his unbelievable performances in this series.

Enter Cody Allen for the 9th inning, who hadn't blown a save on the road all season. He made us sweat a bit after surrendering a lead-off double to Jose Bautista, but then Allen settled in to record the final three outs with relative ease. The Indians emerged 3-0 winners on the night and took the ALCS series 4-1 to win their first AL pennant since 1997 and progress to the World Series. Cue delirious celebrations in the Rogers Centre visitor's locker room that will undoubtedly last long into the night.


The Indians now await the victors of the NLCS, as game 1 of the World Series isn't until Tuesday 25 October. Personally I'd rather take the Dodgers than the Cubs, although Chicago have shown signs of vulnerability in October. After the Tribe's dominance over Boston and Toronto, I'm feeling confident, whoever the opposition will be.

In the meantime, if a generous soul wants to send me one of these t-shirts, I'd greatly appreciate it!

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

ALDS Review - Boston Brushed Aside

I have been conspicuously absent on England Tribe this season. I've been following the Indians all year long but quietly, hidden offline, limited to checking box scores every morning.

I'm a bit sad I haven't found the time to write more, especially when you consider what an amazing season the Tribe have had thus far. The last time Cleveland made the post-season was 2013 and England Tribe was there for every big moment. This year, not so much.

With Arsenal taking up most of my time, even when it comes to blogging, I just haven't had the chance to keep this site going.

But October baseball has returned to the corner of Carnegie and Ontariro and so I have returned also, out of the darkness of blog purgatory. So here we go, with an ALDS review of Cleveland's stunning sweep over the heavily favored Red Sox:

Unlike 2013, there was no single game Wild Card duel this time around, as the AL Central champion Indians advanced straight into the American League Division Series (ALDS) against the Boston Red Sox, AL East champions and owners of one of my favorite major league players and MVP candidate Mookie Betts.

However for this series, it wasn't hard to bury my admiration for Betts because this was easily the most important series of games in my short lifetime as an Indians fan.

Game 1 - Thursday, October 6, 2016 - Progressive Field

With Progressive Field absolutely rocking at the return of post-season baseball to Cleveland, it was vitally important the Indians made the most of their home field advantage and they did so in style, crushing 3 home runs in the bottom of the third inning to distance themselves from a stubborn Boston squad that did everything they could not to concede first blood. Roberto Perez, Jason Kipnis and Francisco Lindor launched solo efforts in that turning point of an inning before skipper Terry Francona's masterful use of his bullpen saw the game out, as the Indians emerged 5-4 victors.

Relief ace Andrew Miller was brought into the game with 2 outs in the fifth inning after Tribe starter Trevor Bauer had done an admirable job holding the Boston behemoth lineup at bay. Miller took the ball much earlier than he was used to but he never looked back. The giant lefty dominated for 2 innings, striking out 4 and conceding just 1 hit and 1 walk. Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen took the reigns after Miller's superb performance, and the duo held the lead until the end despite making the home crowd sweat a bit, especially when Allen battled through a 5 out, nail-biter of a save.

Game 2 - Friday, October 7, 2016 - Progressive Field

Progressive Field witnessed the battle of the aces but it was the Tribe's 2014 AL Cy Young winner Corey Kluber who got the best of Boston's 2012 AL Cy Young champ David Price in a comprehensive 6-0 win.

In the end Price was a shadow of his former self and appeared to succumb to the post-season pressures that have plagued his October career. The Indians got off to a hot start, hanging 4 runs on Price before the second inning had finished, with a Brandon Guyer RBI and a Lonnie Chisenhall 3 run homer putting a good distance between the two teams.

Kluber on the other hand, making his first post-season start and battling a nagging quad injury, showed no signs of nerves on the big stage. The 30 year-old right hander was magnificent and the Sox could hardly touch him. After game 1 made good use of Cleveland's top bullpen arms, it was imperative Kluber provide innings at the very least in game 2. As is the ace's habit, Kluber went the extra mile and pitched seven stellar innings, with 3 hits, 3 walks and 7 strikeouts over 104 pitches. Not bad for a guy coming off an injury, as Kluber routinely pitched inside to the frightening Boston lineup and kept them off balance all game. It was exactly what the Indians needed from him and Kluber delivered.

Game 3 - Monday, October 10, 2016 - Fenway Park

Before the ALDS began, it was only in my wildest dreams I could imagine the Indians taking a 2-0 lead to Fenway Park, forcing Boston into an elimination game they surely never expected to be facing, at least so soon. Well the Indians went one step better and picked up another win to take an unlikely series sweep and progress to the ALCS.

Josh Tomlin took the mound for the Tribe and did sterling work, limiting the Red Sox over 5 innings. He gave up 4 hits, 2 earned runs, 1 walk and struck out 4 before handing the game to the bullpen, who have been such a strength for the Tribe this season.

Yet again Andrew Miller stood up when it mattered, striking out 3 over 2 clean innings, the only blip being Dustin Pedroia scoring on a sac-fly that was tabbed on Tomlin. Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen combined, nervously at times, to go the rest of the way, keeping the Sox at arm's reach.

Tyler Naquin, a strong AL Rookie of the Year candidate (and a guy I tipped to break out in 2016), got the offense started for Cleveland in the top of the fourth inning, lining a single into right field that plated 2 runs to give the Tribe a lead they never relinquished. Coco Crisp, picked up in a late August trade with the A's, probably wasn't expected to contribute much this post-season but the veteran outfielder clubbed a deep home run over the Monster in the top of the sixth inning to stretch the Indians' lead to 4-1. It proved to be just enough as the Red Sox couldn't draw even.

After the final out, a fly ball gloved by Lonnie Chisenhall in right field, the Indians celebrated in front of a stunned and silent Fenway crowd. I don't think anyone gave the Tribe much of a chance in this series but they shocked the baseball world by not just beating Boston but sweeping them out of the playoffs.


The Indians will now battle the Toronto Blue Jays for the American League pennant, and their first match-up will be on Friday in the ALCS opener. It's likely Corey Kluber will get the nod for the Tribe and should now have sufficient rest before taking the mound. There's rumors Danny Salazar, battling his way back from a forearm injury, could be activated in time for the series, providing a late boost to the Tribe rotation.

This ALDS victory is one to be savored for sure, a huge playoff win over a rival who have so often gotten the better of us in the past. In 2007 when I was only just learning what baseball really was, that ALDS series against the Yankees went straight over my head. I didn't know how massive it was at the time, how rare these playoff wins can be. Now in 2016 I fully appreciate everything about this Boston sweep and will cherish it for some time.

Yet again the Indians will enter a series as underdogs, as the Jays are already tipped to advance to the World Series. But history has shown that people don't always learn from their mistakes, and those who have already written off this gutsy Indians team may just have a surprise coming their way.

Thanks for reading.