CLEVELAND -- The days left in 2019 are dwindling. It’s the time when social media feeds have started to clog up with photos of people comparing what they looked like at the beginning of the decade to the end. No matter what’s being shown, the majority of these posts have the same common denominator: positive change. And that’s exactly what the Indians experienced over these last 10 years.
In 2010, the Tribe’s Opening Day lineup consisted of Asdrúbal Cabrera, Grady Sizemore, Shin-Soo Choo, Travis Hafner, Jhonny Peralta, Matt LaPorta, Mark Grudzielanek, Lou Marson and Michael Brantley. It was the beginning of a season in which Cleveland would go 69-93 and finishing with a non-winning record for the seventh time in nine seasons. It was also the second in what would become four straight years of falling below the .500 threshold. But then came 2013.
Guys like Jason Kipnis, Carlos Santana and Brantley, with later additions of José Ramírez and Francisco Lindor, have since led the Tribe to seven consecutive winning seasons, including three American League Central titles and an AL pennant. At the beginning of the decade, Cleveland went 69-93. Ten years later, the Tribe wrapped up what was considered a disappointing season, going 93-69.
Let’s take a look at 10 of the best games from the decade that helped turned the organization around:
1) Jay Bruce walks it off to extend win streak to 22 games
Sept. 14, 2017
The “Bruce” chants radiated through Progressive Field. The Indians had already set the AL record for longest win streak at 21 games and they were on the cusp of 22. After entering the bottom of the ninth inning trailing by one, Francisco Lindor hit a two-out RBI double to knot the game at 2. With runners on first and second in the 10th, Bruce sent a 2-0 fastball down the right-field line for a double to give the Indians sole possession of the second longest win streak in Major League history with a 3-2 win over the Royals. His teammates doused him in baby powder and water in the middle of the field in what would become their final celebration during the historic run.
2) The “ALCS Kid”
Oct. 19, 2016
The Indians' rotation consisted of Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, Josh Tomlin and Mike Clevinger. So who better to send to the mound with their first World Series appearance since 1997 on the line than ... Ryan Merritt? Bauer injured his right pinky finger in a drone incident days before Game 5 of the AL Championship Series (more on that later) and the Indians had to turn to a 24-year-old lefty who had just four Major League appearances under his belt, including one start. Although the Blue Jays infamously commented that the young southpaw would be “shaking in his boots” during his start, Merritt did quite the opposite, allowing just two hits in 4 2/3 innings that led the Tribe to its first World Series berth in nearly 20 years.
3) Jason Giambi’s pinch-hit walk-off homer
Sept. 24, 2013
Cleveland was creating a September to remember in the middle of its first winning season in six years. In the throes of an AL Wild Card race, 42-year-old Giambi was sent to the plate in place of Matt Carson with a runner on first in the bottom of the ninth. The Indians were trailing the White Sox by one when Giambi launched a walk-off homer to allow the Tribe to hold on to the second AL Wild Card spot. It was the club’s fifth consecutive victory before going on to win-out through the remainder of the Indians' schedule, coming out on top in their last 10 games.
4) Bauer’s bloody finger
Oct. 17, 2016
The Indians thought Bauer would be ready to go for Game 3 of the ALCS. He was set to start Game 2, but he was pushed back after getting 10 stitches in his right pinky finger due to a drone accident. But when he took the mound in Toronto, he lasted just two outs before the bleeding became too much. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons pointed it out, and despite the efforts of the Tribe’s training staff, Bauer couldn’t continue pitching. Despite having to take on 8 1/3 innings of work, the bullpen was stellar in a 4-2 victory.
5) 19-inning marathon
July 1, 2016
Before the 22-game winning streak came the 14-game win streak. At the time, 14 consecutive victories were the most for the Tribe in franchise history. It just took 6 hours, 13 minutes to finally get there. The Indians took a 1-0 lead in the third inning and the Blue Jays tied it up in the bottom of the sixth. From there, both teams posted 12 straight scoreless frames before Carlos Santana hit the deciding solo homer in the 19th.
6) Tyler Naquin inside the parker
Aug. 19, 2016
Naquin may not have been able to catch his breath, but that didn’t stop him from leaping to his feet and thrusting his arm high above his head as he let out a celebratory scream while his teammates jumped on him. The Indians were tied at 2 with the Blue Jays in the bottom of the ninth when Naquin hit a ball off the right-field wall that trickled away from B.J. Upton. Naquin raced around the bases, losing his helmet around third, and he scored the winning run on a walk-off inside-the-park home run.
7) Josh Tomlin leads Indians to victory in Game 3 of the World Series
Oct. 28, 2016
When the postseason started, Tomlin’s father, Jerry, wasn’t sure if he’d be able to watch his son pitch in the postseason in person. In the middle of August, Jerry had emergency surgery to treat what is called an arteriovenous malformation that saved his life, but it left him paralyzed from the chest down. Through the first two rounds of the playoffs, Jerry watched Tomlin from his hospital bed. But after he was released on Oct. 19, the day the Indians clinched their World Series berth, he knew there was a chance he’d be able to make the next start. After Tomlin got word he was starting Game 3 at Wrigley Field, the family made travel plans to get to Chicago. Tomlin made the trip well worth it for his parents, as he allowed just two hits in 4 2/3 stellar frames in a 1-0 win.
8) Francisco Lindor's slam sparks comeback in Game 2 of the ALDS
Oct. 6, 2017
The Yankees took a comfortable 8-3 lead in the top of the fifth, but in the bottom of the sixth, Lindor launched an improbable grand slam to cut the Yanks’ lead to one. The Tribe’s shortstop crossed the plate and pounded his chest in front of a raucous home crowd at Progressive Field. Jay Bruce hit the tying homer in the eighth and Yan Gomes became the hero in the 13th, singling in Austin Jackson for an 9-8 victory.
9) Win it for Tito
June 26, 2017
The Indians dug themselves an early hole. Entering the bottom of the fourth, the Tribe trailed the Rangers, 9-2. But suddenly, the Indians were losing more than a game. Manager Terry Francona had to leave for the Cleveland Clinic during the first few innings with an illness. He underwent a few tests that did not reveal any major health issues, but he was unable to come back to the game that night or the next. What seemed like a daunting deficit was quickly erased when the team rallied over the next four innings, taking a 15-9 lead in the bottom of the seventh that would hold for the remainder of the night.
10) Travis Hafner launches walk-off grand slam
July 7, 2011
“If that doesn’t give you goosebumps, you don’t have a pulse.” These were the words of Indians radio play-by-play voice Tom Hamilton as Hafner entered the dogpile at home plate. The Tribe was down 4-0 entering the bottom of the ninth inning against the Blue Jays, but they managed to load the bases with none out against Frank Francisco. Following an Asdrúbal Cabrera RBI single, Hafner absolutely demolished a ball to deep right field to give his team an improbable 5-4 victory.
Mandy Bell covers the Indians for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MandyBell02.