Indians Use Agonizing World Series Defeat As Motivation For Upcoming Season

CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – Game 7 of the 2016 World Series might be one of the most exciting baseball games ever to be played.

But the Indians have no desire to go back and watch it.

Unfortunately, they lived every heart-wrenching second of the extra-inning loss to the Chicago Cubs in Game 7. They rode the highs and lows associated with the thrilling game-tying, two-run homer by Rajai Davis in the eighth followed by the two-run Cubs rally in the 10th.

The final out recorded at first base and Chicago’s race on to the field to celebrate the end of their championship drought is something they would prefer to leave in the past. Reliving that disappointment again is something Cleveland will pass on.

“I was there,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “I like the journey. I think the journey is fun and then I’m ready to move on pretty quick. Win, lose or draw, I’m ready to do the next thing.”

That sentiment was a familiar one throughout the weekend’s annual TribeFest event at the Intercontinental Hotel in Cleveland.

Shortstop Francisco Lindor and ace Corey Kluber also haven’t watched Game 7.

In fact, Kluber has not gone back to watch any of last season’s playoff run by the Indians, a destination that ended one win shy of ending their own championship drought. The same can be said for Lindor, who also indicated he has no desire to revisit the anguish.

The physical and mental grind of getting to a Game 7 was enough to take its toll.

“I was falling asleep everywhere I went for the first week,” Lindor said. “At the mall, I’d sit down and just be mentally exhausted. On the couch, there was no one keeping me up. I didn’t watch TV for the first week. That probably helped me sleep a lot.”

Many of the Indians had the same feeling after it was all over.

Cleveland was stretched pretty thin, particularly in the pitching department after injuries to Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco in the final month of the regular season. By the time Game 7 rolled around, Kluber was on his third turn pitching on short rest in the postseason.

The final time on three days rest, of course, was not on par with the rest of Kluber’s spectacular postseason. And the eventual disappointment of the loss to Chicago was one the ace knew would take some time to process.

He did not, however, join Lindor in a one-week slumber.

“I would have liked to,” Kluber joked. “There’s definitely a couple of days where it was deflating. Obviously, you’re so close to being the last team standing. Once I started getting into my work and normal offseason routine… all the focus goes toward next year.”

But this season, the Indians will not be able to surprise anyone.

Cleveland has gone from the hunter to the hunted. And while their run through the postseason was special given the injuries they overcame, a trip to the World Series last season does nothing to guarantee a return to the Fall Classic in 2017.

“We’re going to have the same goal of last year: make it to the World Series and win it,” Lindor said. “We just have to make sure we play the game the right way. We have to make sure we represent the Tribe and the city the right way and respect the game and our opponents and everybody in the clubhouse and enjoy the ride, because it’s going to be fun.”

The other major difference, other than a potential return to health for the rehabbing Michael Brantley, is the addition of slugger Edwin Encarnacion to an already potent lineup.

The free-agent signing of the former Blue Jays first baseman and 40-home run threat to a three-year, $60 million deal was far from the normal way the organization operates. But the surprising acquisition certainly energized the ball club beyond the excitement already tied to the start of the season.

“I think it shows commitment that ownership has to our team to be able to go out and sign a guy like that,” Kluber said. “It’s not something that they’ve done often, but hopefully this is a sign of the faith they have in our team, the way it is now, one extra piece that can hopefully push us over the top.”

Cleveland hopes the addition of Encarnacion combined with some health and good luck will be enough to help make that happen. But getting back to the postseason and riding deep into October doesn’t happen by accident.

And a renewed hunger to avoid another unpleasant ending should provide the only motivation the Indians need.

“The only thing I think we earned from last year is a target on our backs,” Brantley said. “We are the defending [American League] champions. When you come into town, everybody’s going to know they’re going to have to play a great game to beat us. It just raises everybody’s expectation level, ours as well. We’ve got to go out there and get the job done.”

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August 10, 2017
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