CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – It doesn’t take the baseball equivalent of a rocket scientist to realize how massive of a blow the injury to Carlos Carrasco was to the Cleveland Indians.
But if there’s any team that has earned the benefit of the doubt, it is the 2016 Tribe.
Whether it’s fighting through the absence of Michael Brantley for all but 11 games, overcoming Yan Gomes’ worst offensive season of his career and the shoulder and wrist injuries which will keep him from returning, being forced to deal with Danny Salazar’s shoulder, elbow and forearm issues in the second half or now learning of the news of Carlos Carrasco’s fractured right hand on Saturday, being met with adversity every step of the way is nothing new for the Indians this season.
Yet, here they are, positioned to win their first AL Central Division crown since 2007, holding an eight game lead on the Detroit Tigers entering Sunday’s matchup at Progressive Field.
If there is any club equipped to give it a go in October — even without some of their most talented players — it’s Cleveland. Even if the obvious challenge of clearing another obstacle is staring them right in the face, ready to deliver a slap of harsh reality.
“I don’t think anybody’s in here feeling sorry for ourselves because of it,” Indians ace Corey Kluber said. “I don’t think there’s a gloomy outlook or anything. Other guys have pitched well up to this point to get us where we are now so I don’t think there’s any reason why we can’t continue to going forward.”
Nothing was a clearer indication of the Tribe’s resiliency than Saturday’s 1-0 walk-off win over the Tigers on Saturday night. With their starter knocked out by a liner to Carrasco’s hand on the second pitch of the game, the bullpen picked up the slack to contribute 10 scoreless innings against a club fighting for their postseason lives.
And when it came down to a hero stepping up, it was none other than Jose Ramirez, the player who has impressively filled the shoes of Brantley in shocking fashion, delivering the walk-off RBI single.
“We just have a good group of guys in here that love playing for each other and love to compete,” pitcher Josh Tomlin said. “I think you see that on a day in and day out basis, guys coming to the park prepared, ready to go. We just go out there and compete. We know what we do well and we’ll try to do it well every day and win games.”
Of course, there’s no way of sugarcoating the reality of the situation; The Indians have a gigantic mountain to climb. And there’s a pretty good possibility that Saturday’s knockout blow of the loss of Carrasco could ultimately send Cleveland to the mat for a TKO in October.
Quite frankly, that wouldn’t shock anyone at this point. Losing two starting pitchers, a starting catcher and getting essentially nothing from one of their most talented hitters? Who would truly be floored if there was only so much Cleveland could withstand?
But somehow, the Indians continue to find ways to surprise everyone.
“It becomes more challenging, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t get it done,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “That’s just how I feel.
“If you start looking too far ahead, it kind of can seem daunting. But, when you kind of put it in smaller terms like, man, we’ve just got to be one run better than the team we’re playing today, we can do that. We might not, but we can. That just seems like the best way to go about it.”
If it’s piecing together a postseason rotation with duct tape and Francona’s used Dubble Bubble or hoping another unexpected hero can emerge, they’ve earned the right to try before being declared dead and buried.