Rumors & Rumblings: No act of fiction, Theo Epstein is a Hall of Famer

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CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 04:Chicago Cubs Theo Epstein talks during the Chicago Cubs World Series victory rally on November 4, 2016, at Grant Park in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Patrick Gorski/Icon Sportswire)

Theo Epstein has family roots in fiction.

His grandfather Philip and grand uncle Julius J. Epstein won Academy Awards in 1944 for writing the screenplay of “Casablanca” along with Howard E. Koch.

For so long, it seemed that the Boston Red Sox or Chicago Cubs ever winning a World Series would also be but an act of fiction.

When the Red Sox won the Fall Classic in 2004, it ended and 86-year drought that stretched to 1918. The Cubs went even longer without a title, 108 years, before beating the Cleveland Indians in a thrilling Game 7 on Wednesday night for their first World Series crown since 1908.

However, Theo Epstein helped orchestrate the end to both droughts. He was a rookie general manager with the Red Sox in 2004 and is now the Cubs’ president of baseball operations.

While Epstein was too busy celebrating to put the dual achievements into context Wednesday night, Cubs catcher David Ross made a rather simple pronouncement.

“Theo is a Hall of Famer now if he wasn’t before,” Ross said. “He reversed two curses. He won in two cities where they said a World Series could never been won. What more could he possibly do?”

Breaking the Curse of The Bambino was special for Epstein because he was born and raised in Boston and grew up a Red Sox fan. However, he seemed much more emotional following the Cubs’ victory than he did on the night the Red Sox swept the St. Louis Cardinals 12 years ago.

Part of it may have been that it was a longer process in Chicago than Boston.

With the Red Sox, he inherited a team that came within one game of reaching the World Series in 2003 under GM Mike Port. Boston lost to the New York Yankees in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series on Aaron Boone’s walk-off home run.

However, Epstein basically started from scratched when he took over the Cubs prior to the 2012 season. They lost 101, 96 and 85 games before breaking through last year by reaching the National League Championship Series before being swept by the New York Mets in four games.

Catcher Willson Contreras and second baseman Javier Baez are the only players on the roster who were in the organization before Epstein replaced GM Jim Hendry.

“Our fans just deserve this so much, and all the former Cubs — everyone,” Epstein said. “It’s been a century in the making.”

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02: Theo Epstein, President of Baseball Operations for the Chicago Cubs, celebrates with Chicago Cubs left fielder Kyle Schwarber (12) after winning game 7 of the 2016 World Series against the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field in Cleveland, OH. Chicago defeated Cleveland 8-7 in 10 innings. (Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire).

CLEVELAND, OH – NOVEMBER 02: Theo Epstein, President of Baseball Operations for the Chicago Cubs, celebrates with Chicago Cubs left fielder Kyle Schwarber (12) after winning game 7 of the 2016 World Series against the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field in Cleveland, OH. Chicago defeated Cleveland 8-7 in 10 innings. (Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire).

*****

Right fielder Jason Heyward was the player who gathered the Cubs together during the brief rain delay at the end of the ninth inning of Game 7 for a pep talk. They then went on to score twice in the top of the 10th and held on in the bottom of the inning for an 8-7 victory.

That helped ease the sting of the fact that Heyward was pretty much a bust in the first season of the eight-year, $184 million contract he signed as a free agent last offseason.

He hit just .230 with seven home runs and 11 stolen bases in 142 games in his first season with the Cubs, though advanced metrics gave him high marks for his defense and baserunning.

“The Cubs picked a good year to win it all,” a scout from an NL team said. “Otherwise, everyone would have been talking about what a horrible signing Heyward was. I just don’t get all the hype about him. Except for the first two months of his rookie season with the Braves (in 2010) what has he done that’s so special? For me, he’s just a notch above average.”

*****

Indians manager Terry Francona continually talked about the family atmosphere throughout the postseason and it showed in the aftermath of his team’s gut-wrenching Game 7 loss.

No one was more emotional in the clubhouse than president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti, who had tears in his eyes as he walked around the room and hugged his players. It was a nice moment in an era when front offices have become detached from players, often referring to them as “pieces.”

“We all want to hoist that World Series trophy, so it hurts to lose,” said Antonetti, mindful that the Indians haven’t won a World Series since 1948.

The Indians were also quick to exercise the two options years in Francona’s contract for 2019 and 2020.

“Tito did one of the best managing jobs ever in a postseason this year,” said an executive from an AL team. “He basically took a four-man pitching staff with all the injuries they had and got within one win of winning it all. Nothing against (Cubs manager) Joe Maddon but Tito is the best in the business.”

*****

Bench coach Brad Mills is one of two members of the Indians’ staff who have interviewed for the Colorado Rockies’ manager’s job. First base coach Sandy Alomar Jr. was the other and many in the Indians’ organization believe he would be a fine manager.

In fact, Alomar was the only other candidate considered when Francona was hired by the Indians following the 2012 season.

“I think Sandy would make a great manager,” Indians catcher Roberto Perez said. “He was a great player, he’s a great communicator and he really knows the game.”

The Rockies may announce a replacement for Walt Weiss as soon as Monday.

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Indians take difficult Game 7 loss with class

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Cleveland Indians' Jason Kipnis pauses during the 10th inning of Game 7 of the Major League Baseball World Series against the Chicago Cubs Thursday, Nov. 3, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

CLEVELAND — Wave after wave of reporters had come and gone at Rajai Davis’ locker when the Cleveland Indians veteran outfielder stopped to reflect.

“It’s a cruel game,” Davis said. “It’s a roller coaster. You can be at top of the world one minute and have your heart broken the next.”

Davis found that out on both ends Wednesday night during the final three innings of one of the most dramatic World Series Game 7s ever.

Davis’ two-run home run off closer Aroldis Chapman capped a three-run eighth inning that tied the game at 6-6 and resurrected the Indians’ fading hopes of winning their first World Series title since 1948.

“I’ve never felt like that in my entire life,” Davis said. “It’s hard to even describe. A game-tying home run in Game 7 of the World Series? That’s stuff you dream about.”

However, Davis and the Indians saw their dream turn into a nightmare when the Chicago Cubs ended an even longer title drought by scoring twice in the top of the 10th inning, then holding on for an 8-7 victory at Progressive Field to win their first world championship since 1908.

The loss left Davis and the rest of the Indians with conflicted emotions after having three chances to put the Cubs away after winning three of the first four games. While certainly no one was smiling or cracking jobs, there also seemed to be few tears shed in the clubhouse despite such a difficult loss.

“We played in the World Series and we went to extra innings in Game 7,” shortstop Francisco Lindor said. “That’s really, really good. We’re proud of what we accomplished.”

Davis echoed that sentiment.

“It’s disappointing but it isn’t,” he said. “You want to win the game, obviously, win the World Series but we also can walk out of here feeling good. We battled back to force extra innings. We brought the winning run to the plate. We did what we did all year and that’s battle, all the way to the final out of Game 7.”

The Indians were down 6-3 in the bottom of the eighth with two outs and no one on base when Jose Ramirez hit a two-out single off Cubs ace Jon Lester, who was working in his fourth inning of his first relief appearance since 2007.

On came the flame-throwing Chapman, and lefty-masher Brandon Guyer greeted him with an RBI double to make it a two-run game. Then Davis, choking high up on the bat, hit a drive onto the home run porch in left field to make it 6-6.

“You better be short to the ball against that guy,” Davis said. “I just tried to keep battling him until I could get a pitch to hit. I wasn’t expecting a home run.”

Cleveland Indians' Rajai Davis celebrates after his two run home run against the Chicago Cubs during the eighth inning of Game 7 of the Major League Baseball World Series Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Cleveland Indians’ Rajai Davis celebrates after his two run home run against the Chicago Cubs during the eighth inning of Game 7 of the Major League Baseball World Series Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

After neither team scored in the ninth inning, a sudden burst of rain caused the umpires to call a delay. Though play was stopped for just 17 minutes, momentum seemed to shift to the Cubs.

Indians manager Terry Francona kept rubber-armed reliver Bryan Shaw in the game following the delay, and he gave up a leadoff single to Kyle Schwarber. Pinch-runner Albert Almora Jr. advanced to second base on Kris Bryant’s fly out to the warning track in center field.

The Indians intentionally walked Anthony Rizzo, but Ben Zobrist, the series MVP, foiled the strategy with an RBI double. With runners on second and third, Francona called for another intentional walk, this time to Addison Russell, and Miguel Montero followed with a run-scoring single to make it 8-6.

During a postseason in which Francona seemingly made every right decision while the Indians swept the Boston Red Sox in three games in the American League Division Series, beat the Toronto Blue Jays in five games in the best-of-seven American League Championship Series, then took a 3-1 lead over the heavily-favored Cubs in the World Series, both intentional walks backfired.

“It was the right move to make in both instances,” Shaw said. “I didn’t get the job done.”

The Cubs needed the insurance run when Davis’ RBI single in the bottom of the 10th made it a one-run game.  However, Michael Martinez grounded out to third base to end the game.

Shaw said the delay had no bearing on his giving up two runs in the 10th.

“Really, it was no different than if you sit through a long inning,” he said. “I felt fine.”

The Indians were forced to dig out of a hole on a night when two of their pitching stars of the postseason struggled.

Corey Kluber gave up four runs in four innings while attempting to become the first starting pitcher to win three games in a World Series since Mickey Lolich in 1968 with the Detroit Tigers. Dexter Fowler led off the game with a home run and Javier Baez hit a leadoff shot in the fifth to chase Kluber.

Kluber had gone 4-1 with a 0.89 ERA in his previous five starts in this postseason, but wasn’t sharp while pitching on short rest for the second time in the series. However, he would not use the heavy workload as an excuse.

“I wanted to pitch three times in this series,” Kluber said. “I was all for it.”

Left-handed reliever Andrew Miller followed Kluber and allowed two runs in 2.1 innings, one of which came on a solo home run by David Ross in the sixth inning. Prior to Wednesday, Miller had only allowed one run in 17 innings over nine games in the postseason.

“For Corey Kluber to take the ball three times in a series and our relievers to be available as often as they were and be effective, it’s not luck,” Francona said. “It’s will. At times tonight, they proved they’re human, but we don’t get anywhere close to here without them.”

The Indians lost starting pitchers Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco to injuries in September. Yet Francona patched together his pitching staff in the postseason by using heavy doses of Kluber, right-handed starter Josh Tomlin, Miller and closer Cody Allen.

It worked all the way through the first four games of the World Series before falling apart at the end.

“We kind of ran out of pitching,” Davis said. “It’s unfortunate. I think we would have won this series if we had all of our pitchers.”

Instead, the Indians fell agonizingly short by a single run in extra innings.

“We might not have won but we sure put on a pretty good show,” Davis said. “People are going to remember this game for a long time.”

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Francona hopes he doesn’t have another nightmare in Game 7

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CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 30: Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona (17) answers questions from the media prior to the 2016 World Series Game 5 between the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago Cubs on October 30, 2016, at the Wrigley Field in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Patrick Gorski/Icon Sportswire)

CLEVELAND — Terry Francona had a nightmare early Wednesday morning.

However, the Cleveland Indians manager wasn’t dreaming about his team missing its chance to wrap up the World Series in Game 6 with a 9-3 loss to the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday night at Progressive Field. He also wasn’t having subliminal thoughts about facing a winner-take-all Game 7 on Wednesday night.

Instead, Francona dreamed that someone was trying to break his ribs.

“I woke up to go to the bathroom and my ribs really, really hurt,” Francona said.

It turned out the reason that Francona’s ribs hurt was because he fell asleep on the television remote control in his bed in his apartment a few blocks away from the ballpark.

Furthermore, Francona had a hard time seeing when he tried to get to the bathroom. His glasses were covered in peanut butter, which he also had in bed to use in dipping pretzels while watching TV.

“It was a bad night, man,” Francona said with a smile. “My room looked like a national disaster. I’m going to have to change a few habits when we’re done here.”

As far as on-field matters, Francona decided to tweak his lineup for Game 7 by benching rookie center fielder Tyler Naquin in favor of veteran Rajai Davis.

Naquin let a fly ball drop between him and right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall in the first inning of Game 6 that resulted in a two-run double by Addison Russell that gave the Cubs a 3-0 lead. Naquin also struck out with the bases loaded to end the fourth inning with the Indians trailing 7-1.

Naquin has gone 4-for-23 (.176) with 14 strikeouts in the postseason after hitting .296 with 14 home runs in 116 regular-season games.

“He is pressing a little bit,” Francona said. “During the regular season you might kind of let him get through it but with one left and (ace Corey) Kluber pitching, we’re trying to put a premium on catching the ball. It’s not punishment. It’s trying to win.”

Davis led the American League with 43 stolen bases in the regular season while batting .249 with a career-high 12 home runs. The 11-year veteran is just 3-for-29 (.103) in the postseason.

Davis had minus-5 defensive runs saved in 80 games in center field during the regular season, while Naquin had minus-17 defensive runs saved in 105 games.

With Davis playing center field, veteran Coco Crisp will start in left behind Kluber, who is trying to become the first starting pitcher to win three games in a World Series since Mickey Lolich in 1968 with the Detroit Tigers.

Designated hitter Carlos Santana will lead off for the Indians and be followed by second baseman Jason Kipnis, shortstop Francisco Lindor, designated hitter Mike Napoli, third baseman Jose Ramirez, Davis, Crisp and catcher Roberto Perez.

“We don’t have a crystal ball, but we should catch the ball and play a clean game,” Francona said.

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Title-starved Cubs, Indians taking World Series to limit

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CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 01: The Chicago Cubs take batting practice before game 6 of the 2016 World Series against the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field in Cleveland, OH. (Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire).

CLEVELAND — Of course, this World Series matchup could end no other way.

The Chicago Cubs have been waiting since 1908 for another title. The Cleveland Indians last captured the Fall Classic in 1948.

So, it is quite fitting the two franchises would go the full seven games before deciding the winner of the 2016 World Series.

Game 7 is set for Wednesday night with major league ERA leader Kyle Hendricks starting for the Cubs against Indians ace Corey Kluber, who looks for his third win in the series, at Progressive Field.

The Cubs forced the winner-take-all game Tuesday night by winning their second straight game, a 9-3 pasting of the Indians in Game 6.

“It’s been a very well-contested series,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “Both sides have played really good baseball. (The Indians have) been outstanding pitching. All of a sudden, our offense is having a resurgence, which we need. We want to be the group that breaks the string, but it’s just correct and apt that we’d go seven games.”

Though his team has now missed two chances to close out the Cubs, Indians manager Terry Francona maintained his sunny disposition following Tuesday night’s loss.

“It will be exciting to come to the ballpark,” Francona said. “Shoot, I might just wear my uniform home. I might get ice cream on it though, so maybe I better not.

“Like I said before (Game 6), it’s an honor to even be a part of it, and we’re going to give it everything we have. I can’t imagine a better group of guys to go through something like this with. I’m looking forward to it already.”

This will mark the 38th time the World Series has gone the distance, including 1912 when a Game 8 was necessary following a tie in Game 2. The road team has won 19 of the previous 37 games, but the home team has been victorious in nine of the last 10.

“Game 7, it’s a kid’s dream,” said Cubs shortstop Addison Russell, whose six RBI on Tuesday night tied the World Series record.

Chicago Cubs' Addison Russell celebrates after his grand slam against the Cleveland Indians during the third inning of Game 6 of the Major League Baseball World Series Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Chicago Cubs’ Addison Russell celebrates after his grand slam against the Cleveland Indians during the third inning of Game 6 of the Major League Baseball World Series Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Hendricks pitched 4.1 scoreless innings in Game 3 but did not factor in the decision as the Cubs lost 1-0. He is 1-1 with a sparkling 1.31 ERA in four starts during this postseason following a regular season in which had a 16-8 record and 2.13 ERA in 31 games, including 30 starts.

“I’m just going to embrace the opportunity like I have the rest of this postseason, honestly,” Hendricks said. “Approach it like any other game, simple thoughts, the same old thing.”

Kluber has pitched six innings in both starts against the Cubs, allowing no runs in Game 1 and one run in Game 4. Game 7 will mark the final outing of what has been an amazing postseason for the 30-year-old as he has gone 4-1 with a 0.89 ERA in five starts.

During the regular season, Kluber went 18-9 with a 3.14 ERA in 32 starts. His record was identical to 2014, when he won the American League Cy Young Award.

“First and foremost, it’s been a blast,” Kluber said of pitching in the postseason for the first time in his six-year career. “We’ve all really enjoyed ourselves. We can take a lot from the way we approached it, and not treating it more than just each game is another game and trying to go out and win that day.

“Not trying to look too far ahead or things like that. I think there’s value to taking that approach throughout the course of a season, too.”

However, now it comes down to a one-game season. In a series in which bullpens have dominated, the Indians seemingly have the edge.

Closer Cody Allen did not pitch Tuesday and lockdown left-hander Andrew Miller did not appear in either Game 5 or Game 6.

Meanwhile, Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman has pitched a combined four innings in the last two games over a three-day span, including being called on in the seventh inning Tuesday night despite the Cubs holding a 7-2 lead.

Chapman, though, said he would be able to pitch in Game 7 for “as long as they need me.”

Maddon and Francona will be willing to go to the bullpens early and often. After all, neither team will have another game until late next February when the Cactus League season beings in Arizona.

“You always want to win the game, but the next best thing, and we’ve talked about this before we even started, was try to make (the Cubs) use pitching even in a loss,” Francona said. “So we hung around enough, at least Chapman had to pitch. You never know, maybe that helps us.”

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Indians’ pitchers have worst game at worst time

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CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 01: Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Josh Tomlin (43) takes the mound in the first inning during game 6 of the 2016 World Series against the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field in Cleveland, OH. Chicago defeated Cleveland 9-3. (Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire).

CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Indians’ wounded pitching staff had racked up out after out throughout the postseason, shutting down three of best offenses in baseball.

Then came Tuesday night.

With a second chance to wrap up the franchise’s first World Series title since 1948, the pitchers struggled mightily in a 9-3 loss to the Chicago Cubs in Game 6 at Progressive Field.

By losing two games in a row, the Indians have been forced into a winner-take-all Game 7 on Wednesday night. Ace Corey Kluber, who has two of Cleveland’s three wins in the series, will face Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks.

“Sooner or later our guys were going to have a bad game,” Indians catcher Roberto Perez said. “You’re not going to hold down good teams every single game. You’re going to give up some runs.”

The nine runs allowed were easily the most by the Indians in 14 games during this postseason, surpassing the five they gave up to the Toronto Blue Jays in Game 4 over the American League Championship Series.

Furthermore, the Indians had been touched for just 35 runs in their first 13 playoffs game. The Cubs had managed just 10 runs in the first five games of this series.

Perhaps the law of averages finally caught up to a pitching staff that has overcome injuries to starting pitchers Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar and Trevor Bauer. The Indians swept the Boston Red Sox in their American League Division Series, beat the Blue Jays in five games then split six games with the Cubs.

However, losing pitching Josh Tomlin was having none of that talk after getting rocked for six runs and six hits in 2.1 innings.

“It was a matter of not executing pitches,” Tomlin said. “I made some bad pitches and I paid for them, the team paid for them. It was disappointing to go out there and not pitch the way I know I’m capable of pitching.”

Tomlin retired the game’s first two batters, then the Cubs erupted for three first-inning runs.

Kris Bryant hit a 433-foot home run to left field, the first Tomlin allowed on an 0-2 pitch all season. Anthony Rizzo and Ben Zobrist followed with singles to put runners on the corners.

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 01:  Chicago Cubs Third Base Kris Bryant (17) rounds the bases after hitting a home run during the first inning of the 2016 World Series Game 6 between the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians on November 01, 2016, at Progressive Field in Cleveland, OH. Chicago defeated Cleveland 9-3. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire)

CLEVELAND, OH – NOVEMBER 01: Chicago Cubs Third Base Kris Bryant (17) rounds the bases after hitting a home run during the first inning of the 2016 World Series Game 6 between the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians on November 01, 2016, at Progressive Field in Cleveland, OH. Chicago defeated Cleveland 9-3. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire)

Tomlin appeared to get out of the jam when he induced Addison Russell to hit a pop up into center field. However, a miscommunication between rookie center fielder Tyler Naquin and right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall caused the ball to fall between them for a two-run double and the Cubs were suddenly up 3-0.

Indians manager Terry Francona has often said Tomlin is as good a teammate as he has ever been around. Tomlin lived up to the lofty praise by refusing to blame either outfielder.

“Those things happen sometimes,” Tomlin said. “I made a bad pitch to Bryant, I made a bad pitch to Rizzo and I made a bad pitch to Zobrist. If I don’t make three bad pitches, we’re out of the inning with no runs. That’s on me.”

Naquin has had lapses in communicating throughout the year but it never proved as costly as Tuesday night.

“I have to take control there,” Naquin said. “The crowd was loud but I have to yell louder and take control. That was a big mistake.”

Tomlin was pulled in the third inning after the Cubs loaded the bases.

The reliable Dan Otero, who had allowed only one run in six innings this postseason, relieved and served up a grand slam to Russell on an 0-2 pitch, a clout that carried 434 feet to center field.

That made it 7-0 and the games was effectively over. Though the Indians cut the lead to 7-2 in the fifth inning, rookie right-hander Mike Clevinger gave up a two-run home run to Rizzo in the ninth inning.

Tomlin said he had no feel for his curveball, which had been such an effective pitch while he went 2-0 with a 1.76 ERA in his first three postseason starts, and instead was forced to go with his cutter more often.

For just the second time in his seven-year career, Tomlin was pitching on short rest. The only other time he pitched with just three days off between starts was in his second career outing on July 31, 2010.

However, he said he felt no ill effects, especially after being limited to just 4.2 innings last Friday in Game 3.

“It was all a matter of executing pitches,” Tomlin said. “That’s it.”

Tomlin’s tough night, though, set up what should be great theatre on Wednesday night in Game 7 between the title-starved Indians and the Cubs, who last won the World Series in 1908.

Though his team missed it second chance to secure the title, Francona maintained his sense of humor.

“I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s a really important game tomorrow,” he said with a smile.

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So many years later, Eddie Robinson remembers Indians’ last title

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The last living player from the 1948 Cleveland Indians, Eddie Robinson sits in a box at Wrigley Field before Game 6 of the Major League Baseball World Series against the Chicago Cubs Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

CLEVELAND — It has been a long time since the Cleveland Indians have won a World Series. So long that not a lot of people are still around who remember it.

Eddie Robinson was not only there when the Indians beat the Boston Braves in the 1948 Fall Classic, but right in the middle of it all as Cleveland’s starting first baseman.

Robinson went 6-for-20 with one RBI as the Indians won in six games. His lone RBI was a big one, coming on an eighth-inning single off Hall of Famer Warren Spahn that pushed the Indians’ lead to 4-1 in a game they hung on to win 4-3.

Now 95, Robinson flew from his native Texas to be at Game 6 of this year’s World Series between the Indians and Chicago Cubs at Progressive Field. The Indians lead the best-of-seven series 3-2, putting them one win away from their first world championship in 68 years.

“I’ve been pulling for them all year,” Robinson said prior to the game. “I was little worried there but (manager Terry) Francona did a great job. He should be Manager of the Year.”

Though nearly seven decades have passed, Robinson vividly remembers the Indians winning their last World Series with the victory at Braves Field.

“It was a great day,” Robinson said. “We didn’t celebrate like they do today. After we won, we went in and changed and got on a train. Once we got on the train, we had a dining car and a club car. That’s when the party started.”

Robinson then laughed.

“The next day, the champagne was dripping from the ceiling,” Robinson said. “I think (owner) Bill Veeck, that cost him a few thousand dollars to put those cars back into shape.”

The 1948 Indians is the most recent team picture of the Cleveland Indians on Oct. 3, 1948 in Cleveland. Front row left to right: Eddie Robinson, first base; Ken Keltner, third base; Al Rosen, third base; Mel Harder, Coach; Manager Lou Boudreau, shortstop; President Bill Veeck; Muddy Ruel, Coach; Bill McKechnie, Coach; Joe Gordon, second base; and Johnny Beradino, traveling secretary; Sam Zoldak, Ed Kleiman, Steve Gromek, Russ Christopher, Gene Bearden, Bob Lemon, Satchel Paige, Bob Feller, and Bob Muncriff (all pitchers); and Lefty Weisman, trainer. Top row: Walt Judnich, Allie Clark, Hal Peck, Larry Doby, Hank Edwards, Dale Mitchell, Bob Kennedy, all outfielders; Jim Hegan, catcher; Ray Boone, shortstop and catcher; Joe Tipton, catcher; and Thurman Tucker, outfielder. In front of group is. (AP Photo)

The 1948 Indians is the most recent team picture of the Cleveland Indians on Oct. 3, 1948 in Cleveland. Front row left to right: Eddie Robinson, first base; Ken Keltner, third base; Al Rosen, third base; Mel Harder, Coach; Manager Lou Boudreau, shortstop; President Bill Veeck; Muddy Ruel, Coach; Bill McKechnie, Coach; Joe Gordon, second base; and Johnny Beradino, traveling secretary; Sam Zoldak, Ed Kleiman, Steve Gromek, Russ Christopher, Gene Bearden, Bob Lemon, Satchel Paige, Bob Feller, and Bob Muncriff (all pitchers); and Lefty Weisman, trainer. Top row: Walt Judnich, Allie Clark, Hal Peck, Larry Doby, Hank Edwards, Dale Mitchell, Bob Kennedy, all outfielders; Jim Hegan, catcher; Ray Boone, shortstop and catcher; Joe Tipton, catcher; and Thurman Tucker, outfielder. (AP Photo)

The train arrived in Cleveland the following morning and the players were put into convertibles for a victory parade down Euclid Ave.

“Looked like everybody in Cleveland has turned out to celebrate our championship,” Robinson said.

The 1948 Indians had six Hall of Famers: right-handers Bob Feller and Bob Lemon, reliever Satchel Paige, second baseman Joe Gordon, shortstop Lou Boudreau and center fielder Larry Doby.

Conversely, the 2016 Indians had only three players selected to the All-Star Game: right-handers Corey Kluber and Danny Salazar and shortstop Francisco Lindor.

“No resemblance other we had great pitching, like this team,” Robinson said when asked to compare the two clubs. “But this team is comprised of a bunch of players that are kind of no-name players. I went to see Cleveland play when they came to Texas this year and I told my wife Betty ‘They have a good team but I never heard of anybody.’”

While the game has changed since Robinson’ 13-year major league career ended with the Baltimore Orioles in 1957, he still enjoys going to games and watching them on television.

“Oh, it’s exciting,” Robinson said. “A lot of home runs. They build these parks with short fence. I would have liked that if I was still playing. With the bigger gloves, they make spectacular catches. We played with smaller gloves and couldn’t afford to dive for those balls. We had to knock them down and make sure they didn’t go for extra bases.

“It’s a different game but it’s still an exciting game.”

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Indians’ Tomlin, Cubs’ Arrieta won’t let pressure of Game 6 get to them

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CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 28: Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Josh Tomlin (43) looks on during the second inning of the 2016 World Series Game 3 between the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago Cubs on October 28, 2016, at the Wrigley Field in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Patrick Gorski/Icon Sportswire)

CLEVELAND — Josh Tomlin has been with the Cleveland Indians longer than any player.

The right-hander was selected in the 19th round of the 2006 amateur draft from Texas Tech, then made his major league debut on July 27, 2010.

Now, the 32-year-old has a chance to pitch the franchise to its first World Series title since 1948 as he will start Tuesday night against the Chicago Cubs and Jake Arrieta in Game 6 at Progressive Field.

The Indians hold a 3-2 lead in the best-of-the-seven series after the Cubs staved off elimination Sunday night with a 3-2 victory at Wrigley Field in Chicago.

“It means a lot to not just to 25 guys that are in that locker room but the organization as a whole,” Tomlin said of being in position to win it all. “There have been a lot of guys that have been here a long time and never got to experience anything like this. So, for us to be able to experience this as an organization is very special to us, and it’s something that we are humbled to be able to do.

“We understand it’s not just about getting here, it’s about trying to win as well. There’s nobody in that clubhouse that’s complacent. It’s not like we have a 3-2 lead, it’s just going to happen. That’s not the mindset we take at all.”

Tomlin pitched 4.2 scoreless innings in Game 3, falling one out shy of qualifying for the win in the Indians’ 1-0 victory. He is 2-0 with a 1.76 ERA in three postseason starts after going 13-9 with a 4.40 ERA in 30 games, including 29 starts, during the regular seasons.

Arrieta, last year’s National League Cy Young Award winner, pitched 5.2 shutout innings to get the win in Game 2 and is 1-1 with a 3.78 ERA in three starts in this postseason following a regular-season in which went 18-8 with a 3.10 ERA in 31 starts.

He, meanwhile, will be trying to keep the Cubs’ chances of winning their first world championship since 1908 alive. It is a lot to carry on one’s shoulders, but the 30-year-old righty says he is not feeling any extra pressure.

“It’s just like any other game where you feel comfortable with the game plan and you go out there to do your best to follow through on the execution,” Arrieta said. “So, that’s really the only thing that I’ll be thinking about, is just trying to be efficient, trying to be as good as I can about moving the ball in and out, up and down and changing speeds and trying to keep those guys off balance.”

Tomlin will be trying to deliver Cleveland its second championship in six months. The Cavaliers won the NBA Finals in June, giving the city its first major professional sports championship since 1964, when the Browns won the NFL pre-Super Bowl.

“I watched a little bit of the parade,” Tomlin said. “We had a game that day, so I remember it was tough to get to the ballpark. The city was in full support of what they just accomplished, and they should be. What they accomplished was huge, and it was cool to watch. The support the city has given us all year long has been huge.

“So it would be an honor for us to be able to have another parade here and to see that support that the Cavs got as well. But our main focus right now is to try to win this thing so we can have a parade.”

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Rumors & Rumblings: Rivera, Hoffman marvel at World Series relievers

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Former New York Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera laughs during a news conference as he introduces the 2016 Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year award winner Baltimore Orioles' Zach Britton before Game 4 of the Major League Baseball World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians, Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)

CLEVELAND — One of the recurring themes of the postseason and World Series has been managers willing to use their best relievers for multiple innings.

Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona had done so with left-hander Andrew Miller and closer Cody Allen. Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon has done the same with closer Aroldis Chapman.

The strategy has helped both teams reach the World Series, with Game 6 scheduled for Tuesday night at Progressive Field with the Indians holding a 3-2 lead and the opportunity to clinch their first title since 1948. The Cubs haven’t won a Fall Classic since 1908.

Mariano Rivera (652) and Trevor Hoffman (601), the only two pitchers in major league history with 600 career saves, have been watching the postseason with interest. Both reached the major leagues after closers became almost exclusively one-inning pitchers.

“We’ve been talking about this and it’s amazing because you’re talking about the playoffs, especially now in the World Series where there’s no tomorrow,” Rivera said. “So those guys are aware of that. They need to do whatever they need to do to get it done. Both managers have done tremendous jobs.”

Rivera has been particularly impressed with Miller, who has pitched 17 innings over nine games while allowing only one run.

“[Francona] has used Miller in situations where he’s been shining,” Rivera said. “It’s great to see that, but again, there’s no tomorrow. So, whatever he has to do, he has to do it now.”

Hoffman said that the relievers deserve credit for stepping outside their comfort zone.

“I think the thing that stands out to me is the unselfishness on the players’ part to embrace the opportunity and know you’re in a leverage situation that will impact the game maybe sooner than you’re used to,” Hoffman said.

“Fortunately there are guys other than just Miller on [The Indians’] staff. The job [Bryan] Shaw has done this year and Allen, it’s pretty amazing as a group what they’ve been able to accomplish.”

However, both Rivera and Hoffman were quick to point out that managers would not be able to employ the same strategy during the regular season, with its 162-game schedule crammed into 184 days.

“You’d find people probably getting hurt in the middle of May,” Hoffman said. “So, it’s something that the urgency of the postseason can provide. It makes sense to me. But I don’t think you’re going to see a full swing to the regular season.”

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 28: Cleveland Indians relief pitcher Andrew Miller (24) pitches during the sixth inning of the 2016 World Series Game 3 between the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago Cubs on October 28, 2016, at the Wrigley Field in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Patrick Gorski/Icon Sportswire)

(Photo by Patrick Gorski/Icon Sportswire)

*****

While it is a good sign that right-hander Danny Salazar has returned to pitch in the World Series, the Indians privately have some trepidation about him going forward.

Salazar’s last regular-season start was Sept. 9, when he left after four innings against the Minnesota Twins with a strained forearm. He did not pitch again in a major league game until last Wednesday, when he threw one scoreless inning against the Cubs in Game 2.

Strained forearms are often a precursor to torn elbow ligaments and Tommy John reconstructive surgery. Furthermore, after going 10-3 with a 2.75 ERA in 17 first-half starts this year, Salazar went 1-3 with a 7.44 ERA in eight starts following the All-Star break.

However, what troubles the Indians the most is Salazar’s refusal to pitch through even the most minor of aches in his pitching arm.

“He’s a great talent, no one questions that,” an Indians person said. “You just don’t know when he’s going to ask out of a game. We need to be able to depend on him. He needs to learn how to work through some pain or stiffness. We’re not asking to pitch injured, just through the normal aches and pains every pitcher feels over the course of a season.”

*****

On the other side of the pain threshold is Cubs left fielder Kyle Schwarber, who has surprisingly returned to play in the World Series after tearing two knee ligaments during the first week of the season.

The Cubs had the chance to trade Schwarber to the New York Yankees for Miller in July but declined. The Yankees instead dealt him to the Indians for a package of four prospects.

However, the Cubs have no regret about not pulling the trigger on that trade, even though Miller is under contract for two more years.

“He’s a special bat and a special kid, too,” a Cubs’ person said. “We’ve known that since the day we drafted him and the way he worked to come back from the surgery just confirmed it. You never say never about trading any player but it’s almost impossible to envision a scenario in which we would trade him.”

*****

Indians bench coach Brad Mills and Cubs bench coach Dave Martinez are expected to interview for the vacant Colorado Rockies manager’s job as soon as the World Series end.

Both received endorsements from their current bosses.

“I’ve probably learned more about the game from him that he’s learned about the game from me,” Indians manager Francona said of Mills, who managed the Houston Astros for three seasons from 2010-12.

Martinez also served as Maddon’s bench coach with the Tampa Bay Rays.

“When the guy does the bench coaching properly, I absolutely believe it sets him up to be a manager,” Maddon said. “He should be there to let the manager intellectualize the day.”

The post Rumors & Rumblings: Rivera, Hoffman marvel at World Series relievers appeared first on Todays Knuckleball.

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Indians bullpen more like an extremely functional family

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Cleveland Indians relief pitcher Cody Allen celebrates after their 2-1 win against the Toronto Blue Jays in Game 2 of baseball's American League Championship Series in Cleveland, Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

CLEVELAND — Andrew Miller and Cody Allen have garnered the bulk of the attention for the outstanding work the Cleveland Indians’ bullpen has done throughout the postseason.

That doesn’t bother the rest of the relievers. They are as in awe of the Miller/Allen duo as anyone else.

“They’ve been great,” right-hander Bryan Shaw said. “What they’ve done against some of the best lineups in baseball has been amazing.”

Miller, the big left-hander, has allowed one run in 17 innings while Allen, a right-hander, has yet to be scored upon in 11.2 innings.

However, righty Dan Otero and Shaw have been very good, too. Otero has given up only one run in six innings and Shaw has allowed three earned runs in 9.1 innings.

In total, the foursome has combined for a 1.02 ERA in helping the Indians get within one win of their first World Series title since 1948.

Following a day off Monday, the Indians will host the Chicago Cubs in Game 6 on Tuesday night at Progressive Field. The Indians lead the best-of-seven series 3-2, though the Cubs stayed alive with a 3-2 victory in Game 5 on Sunday night at Wrigley Field in Chicago.

“It helps that there aren’t many egos down there,” Otero said of the Indians’ bullpen. “I remember during the trade deadline happening, Cody offered up his closer role to somebody, if the front office wanted to bring somebody in, and I think that set the tone.”

Indeed, when rumors circulated that the Indians were trying to acquire either Miller or Aroldis Chapman — who wound up going to the Cubs — from the New York Yankees in late July, Allen approached Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti to express his willingness to accept a lesser role.

The Indians traded for Miller on July 31 but he became a hybrid set-up/middle reliever while Allen remained the closer.

“We have a lot of confidence in one another, and we care about each other on and off the field and we help each other out,” Otero said. “If we see something in somebody’s delivery, we try to help them.

“So I think you have the support of your teammates down there, since we spend so much time together, it helps you be more confident when you do go out there. So, I think that’s a big part of our success down there.”

The bullpen is the primary reason why the Indians have gone 10-3 in this postseason.

They pulled off a three-game sweep of the Boston Red Sox in their American League Division Series, then beat the Toronto Blue Jays in five games in the best-of-seven American League Championship on their way to the franchise’s first World Series berth since 1997.

The Indians have done that despite scoring an average of just 3.2 runs a game. Furthermore, their starting pitchers have averaged just 4.8 innings a game.

Otero winced when asked if manager Terry Francona might opt to use his relievers that much in the regular season next year after having so much in this postseason.

“It does take a special group down there to do what we’ve done but with the built-in off days, you’re able to do that in the postseason,” Otero said. “In the regular season, our arms would fall off by mid-April, not even the end of April.”

The Indians have their two best starteing pitchers lined up with right-hander Josh Tomlin slated to pitch Game 6 against Jake Arrieta and ace righty Corey Kluber ready to go against Kyle Hendricks if a winner-take-all Game 7 is necessary Wednesday night.

However, everyone in the Indians’ bullpen will be willing to pitch as much as needed.

“All of us down there will be ready from inning one,” Shaw said. “We’ll have all winter to recover.”

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Indians fall run short in first of three chances to win Series

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Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona, right, takes the ball from relief pitcher Bryan Shaw during the seventh inning of Game 5 of the Major League Baseball World Series against the Chicago Cubs, Sunday, Oct. 30, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

CLEVELAND — Terry Francona gave a simple explanation for his team’s loss.

“Sometimes you’ve got to respect what the other team can do, too,” the Cleveland Indians manager said. “Sometimes they beat you. I didn’t think we beat ourselves. I thought they beat us.”

The Indians have not been beaten very often in this postseason, but they missed a chance to wrap up their first world championship since 1948 on Sunday night when they lost, 3-2, to the Chicago Cubs in Game 5 of the World Series at Wrigley Field.

The Indians still lead the best-of-seven series, 3-2. After an off day Monday, the series will resume Tuesday night at Progressive Field in Cleveland.

It was just the third time the Indians have lost 13 playoff games this year.

Rather than fretting about missing a chance to wrap up the series, the Indians preferred to remind everyone that they are still in the driver’s seat. They took two of three games at Wrigley, which hadn’t hosted a World Series game since 1945.

“We feel good about we did this weekend,” Indians right fielder Brandon Guyer said. “We came into an extremely difficult to place, especially under the circumstances, and won twice. I think we can feel good about that.”

The Indians and Cubs split the first two games of the series at Progressive Field. The Indians have gone 5-1 at home in the postseason and had a distinct advantage there in the regular season as they hit .288 with an .827 OPS compared to .236 and .691 on the road.

“We’re going home and that’s always a good feeling,” Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor said. “We’ve just got to go out and play the way we’ve played all season and win one of two games. The Cubs have a great team but we know we’re capable of beating them one more time. If they beat us twice at home then they deserve to win.”

Cleveland Indians' Francisco Lindor sits at second after getting caught stealing during the sixth inning of Game 5 of the Major League Baseball World Series against the Chicago Cubs Sunday, Oct. 30, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Cleveland Indians’ Francisco Lindor sits at second after getting caught stealing during the sixth inning of Game 5 of the Major League Baseball World Series against the Chicago Cubs Sunday, Oct. 30, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

While the Indians were held to six hits by Jon Lester, Carl Edwards Jr. and Aroldis Chapman, they had some opportunities but went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position.

Down 3-2 and facing Chapman, the star closer who was brought into a game in the seventh inning for the first time since 2012, the Indians had a chance to tie it in the eighth.

Rajai Davis singled with one out and stole second base, but Jason Kipnis fouled out. After Davis stole third, Lindor struck out looking as he took back-back called strikes to end the plate appearance.

“I was looking for something to hit there but he didn’t give me anything,” Lindor said. “He’s one of the best relief pitchers in baseball for a reason. He just got me with two good pitches.”

Right-hander Trevor Bauer took his second loss in the series, giving up three runs and six hits in four innings with seven strikeouts and no walks.

After third baseman Jose Ramirez gave the Indians a 1-0 lead with a second-inning home run off winning pitcher Jon Lester, the Cubs scored all three runs in the fourth. Kris Bryant hit a leadoff homer, Addison Russell had an RBI single and David Ross hit a sacrifice fly.

“I thought I executed my pitches pretty well and the only one I would really like back was the single (Ben) Zobrist hit in that inning,” Bauer said. “(Catcher) Carlos Perez puts down the sign, I try to executive the pitch and everything that happens after that is pretty much out of my control.”

If nothing else, Bauer showed self control following the game. Because the visitor’s clubhouse at 102-year-old Wrigley Field is tiny, the Indians players instead met the media in front of the dugout on the first base side.

One particularly obnoxious Cubs fan repeatedly yelled, “Hey Bauer, why don’t you pitch Game 6, too, so we can win again.” While Bauer was clearly perturbed, he did not respond.

Francona did not second-guess his decision to pitch Bauer on short rest for the first time in his five-year career; the 25-year-old had just three days off between starts.

“He came out really good,” Francona said. “He threw a couple of fastballs that were down but caught too much of the plate (in the fourth inning) and that was the damage.”

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