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Three homers back Bauer as Tribe tops Cubs

Guyer, Lindor, Encarnacion go deep to break up pitchers' duel
MLB.com

CLEVELAND -- Brandon Guyer raised a finger to the sky as he rounded first, celebrating the home run he just sent ricocheting off the pole down the left-field line. His fifth-inning shot on Wednesday night stirred the Indians' offense, which is trying to wake from its April slumber.

Not long after that, both Francisco Lindor and Edwin Encarnacion followed suit, providing just enough power to pick up a 4-1 victory over the Cubs at Progressive Field. Pitching is what has carried Cleveland to the top of the American League Central to date, and the trio of Tribe homers in this one backed another strong outing from Trevor Bauer.

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CLEVELAND -- Brandon Guyer raised a finger to the sky as he rounded first, celebrating the home run he just sent ricocheting off the pole down the left-field line. His fifth-inning shot on Wednesday night stirred the Indians' offense, which is trying to wake from its April slumber.

Not long after that, both Francisco Lindor and Edwin Encarnacion followed suit, providing just enough power to pick up a 4-1 victory over the Cubs at Progressive Field. Pitching is what has carried Cleveland to the top of the American League Central to date, and the trio of Tribe homers in this one backed another strong outing from Trevor Bauer.

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"It was good getting on the board and giving Bauer some runs," Lindor said. "We haven't been able to do that in the last outings for him. Giving him the lead is always good. To be honest, all we need is two or three guys.

"It's fun to see nine guys getting multiple hits. It's always good, because it calms you down, gives you a little relief. The most important part is two or three guys scoring a couple of runs and giving the pitching staff the lead. That's enough."

Given how Cleveland has been pitching, that has indeed been enough lately.

Heading into Wednesday's win, the Indians' rotation had a 2.85 ERA on the season. Bauer continued that trend by limiting the Cubs to one run over 6 2/3 innings with a season-high eight strikeouts, trimming his season ERA to 2.41 in the process.

Bauer escaped damage at a handful of turns, but finally flinched in the fifth. Back-to-back walks with one out came back to bite the starter via an RBI single from Anthony Rizzo.

Video: CHC@CLE: Bauer strikes out eight over 6 2/3 innings

"Trevor competed his rear end off. He battled," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "I thought he was really good. It looked like he was frustrated at times, but I thought he was really good."

The Cubs' 1-0 lead was short-lived, however. Cleveland answered with three home runs in a span of six batters off Cubs lefty Jon Lester, who worked seven innings for Chicago. Guyer ignited the comeback with a two-out shot in the fifth, then Lindor and Encarnacion followed with their own solo homers in the sixth.

"Whoever says solo homers can't beat you is full of it," Lester quipped.

The Indians will take it. Through 22 games, Cleveland has launched 28 home runs, including 17 of the solo variety. As a team, the Tribe has turned in a .218/.290/.368 slash line to go with 3.5 runs per game, on average. The club is searching for signs of life from its offense, and Wednesday felt like another small step forward.

"I don't think anybody in here was worried about it or had doubts that we were going to hit," Bauer said. "We all know what we're capable of offensively. When the weather warms up and guys get a month or two under their belts, have seen pitching, get in midseason form, we're pretty confident we're going to start rolling."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Guyer beats Lester: When a lefty is on the mound against the Tribe, Guyer typically starts in the outfield. Heading into Wednesday, however, Guyer was just 3-for-21 against left-handed pitching, falling short of his reputation as a weapon vs. southpaws. His fortunes shifted in the fifth, when Guyer sent a 3-1 pitch from Lester deep to left, where the ball caromed off the pole for a game-tying home run with two outs.

Video: CHC@CLE: Guyer knocks a solo homer off the foul pole

"We need him so much against left-handers," Francona said of Guyer. "Boy, against one of the tougher lefties in baseball. Just to get it back tied, man, it felt so good. And we're going to face some lefties coming up here in the next week. So I think that's good."

Give an out, get a run: The Indians tacked on an insurance run in the eighth, but got some help from the Cubs in the process. Jason Kipnis used a sacrifice bunt to move Lindor up to second. After getting the out at first base, Rizzo fired the baseball to second in an effort to double up Lindor, but threw wildly into left field. Thanks to the error, Lindor scored with ease to put the Indians ahead, 4-1.

Video: CHC@CLE: Lindor scores following Rizzo's errant throw

"Kip getting a bunt down," Francona said. "Sometimes good things happen when you play the game right."

MILLER EXITS
In the seventh, relief ace Andrew Miller was summoned from the bullpen to face Rizzo with two outs and a runner on base. The big lefty grabbed at the back of his left leg following his second offering. Miller was quickly met on the mound by Francona and a member of the Tribe's medical staff. He exited the game with what the team announced as left hamstring tightness.

Video: CHC@CLE: Miller exits the game after just two pitches

"He's had it before," Francona said. "We're going to get him MRI'd [Thursday] morning. The hope is, I think last time he said it was 3-4 days. That would really be the hope. We'll know a lot more [Thursday]."

Video: CHC@CLE: Francona on 4-1 win over the Cubs

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
In the seventh inning, Lindor and Javier Baez -- good friends and fellow Puerto Ricans -- had some fun with each other. Baez sent a sharp ground ball into the hole on the left side, where Lindor made a spectacular diving stop. The shortstop's throw was a tick late, and Baez waved a finger in Lindor's direction as he crossed first base. Lindor laughed out at short.

Video: CHC@CLE: Baez wags finger at Lindor from first base

"I loved it. I would've done the same," Lindor said. "I wanted him to be out so I could fist-pump at him. But, he beat it. Baez one, me zero."

UP NEXT
The Indians will send right-hander Mike Clevinger (2-0, 1.75 ERA) to the hill on Thursday, when the Tribe hosts the Mariners in the opener of a four-game set at Progressive Field. Lefty James Paxton is slated to start for Seattle in the 6:10 p.m. ET clash in Cleveland.

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.

Cleveland Indians, Trevor Bauer

Miller exits with hamstring tightness, to get MRI

MLB.com

CLEVELAND -- Andrew Miller grabbed at the back of his left leg on Wednesday night and Indians fans held their collective breath. They can exhale a little for the time being.

In the seventh inning of Cleveland's 4-1 victory over the Cubs, Miller exited his outing after only two pitches due to tightness in his left hamstring. Manager Terry Francona noted that the relief ace would undergo an MRI exam on Thursday morning, and the initial hope is that the injury is not serious.

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CLEVELAND -- Andrew Miller grabbed at the back of his left leg on Wednesday night and Indians fans held their collective breath. They can exhale a little for the time being.

In the seventh inning of Cleveland's 4-1 victory over the Cubs, Miller exited his outing after only two pitches due to tightness in his left hamstring. Manager Terry Francona noted that the relief ace would undergo an MRI exam on Thursday morning, and the initial hope is that the injury is not serious.

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"We'll know a lot more tomorrow," Francona said on Wednesday night. "I think him not throwing another pitch was really smart on his part."

Miller entered the game with two outs, a runner on first and the Indians holding a 3-1 lead. Immediately following his second pitch to Cubs slugger Anthony Rizzo, Miller grimaced and motioned toward the Cleveland bench. Francona and a member of the team's medical staff met the reliever on the mound, then Miller headed for the training room after a brief conversation.

Miller indicated to the Indians that he had a similar issue flare up on him in 2014, when he pitched for the Orioles. In that instance, the hamstring problem surfaced on Sept. 1 and Miller did not appear in a game again for Baltimore until Sept. 6. Francona is hoping a short rest period -- rather than a stint on the disabled list -- is all that is required this time around, too.

"That would really be the hope," Francona said. "Hopefully, that's all it is."

Miller, who had two stints on the disabled list last season due to a right knee injury, has allowed zero runs in 11 appearances, with 17 strikeouts in 10 innings, this season.

Following his departure Wednesday night, left-hander Tyler Olson came out of the bullpen, warmed up on the field and inherited a 2-0 count against Rizzo. Three pitches later, Olson induced an inning-ending flyout to center off Rizzo's bat. The lefty then returned for the eighth and teamed with reliever Nick Goody to turn in another scoreless frame. That bridged the gap to closer Cody Allen, who converted his fifth save.

Video: CHC@CLE: Olson sends Schwarber down swinging

"That's a really underrated job by Olson tonight," Indians starter Trevor Bauer said. "I don't think the casual fans understand how difficult that is, to go from sitting down. Mentally, too. You put Andrew in and then you put Cody in -- that's how it goes. So everyone down there is like, 'OK, they're going to slam the door, and we get to watch.' And all of a sudden, two pitches later, you go from sitting there thinking the night is over to, 'Oh shoot, I've got to go get ready.'

"And you don't get to do your normal routine, you've got to throw in front of people. The adrenaline spike is different. How your body responds and gets loose is different. I think he said that was his first time doing that. Great job by him, and Goody comes in and Cody comes in and does the job. All of us have tremendous confidence in everyone down there in the 'pen."

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.

Cleveland Indians, Andrew Miller

Indians eager to get switch-hitter Melky in lineup

Club will be patient with veteran outfielder, who signed Minors contract Wednesday
MLB.com

CLEVELAND -- The loss of Carlos Santana via free agency in the offseason removed a key switch-hitter from the Indians' lefty-heavy lineup. Manager Terry Francona might soon have another switch-hitter at his disposal to help improve the balance of the batting order.

On Wednesday, the Indians announced the signing of veteran outfielder Melky Cabrera to a Minor League contract that includes a $1 million base salary plus incentives. Francona noted that Cabrera would train at the Tribe's complex in Goodyear, Ariz., for 7-10 days before joining a Minor League affiliate.

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CLEVELAND -- The loss of Carlos Santana via free agency in the offseason removed a key switch-hitter from the Indians' lefty-heavy lineup. Manager Terry Francona might soon have another switch-hitter at his disposal to help improve the balance of the batting order.

On Wednesday, the Indians announced the signing of veteran outfielder Melky Cabrera to a Minor League contract that includes a $1 million base salary plus incentives. Francona noted that Cabrera would train at the Tribe's complex in Goodyear, Ariz., for 7-10 days before joining a Minor League affiliate.

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"From all accounts, he's been working pretty hard," Francona said prior to Wednesday's game against the Cubs. "Let's let him get his legs under him. You send him right to Triple-A and you're asking for a sore arm or [something]. So rather than rush, we want to do it right and give him a chance to get in really good playing shape. And I think he understands that, and then we'll see where it goes from there."

Tweet from @Indians: Roster move: - We���ve signed Melky Cabrera to a Minor League deal. He���ll report to Goodyear. pic.twitter.com/SjQGkzv0ix

The Tribe's current outfield consists of Michael Brantley in left field, Bradley Zimmer in center and a combination of Tyler Naquin and Brandon Guyer in right. Rajai Davis has served as a backup at all three spots. As a group, Indians outfielders entered Wednesday with a 72 weighted runs created plus, indicating that they have collectively performed 28 percent below league average offensively.

The 33-year-old Cabrera rated as a below-average corner outfielder in 2017 -- he had minus-20 defensive runs saved between left and right field combined -- but had a solid showing at the plate. In 156 games between the White Sox and Royals, Cabrera hit .285 with 17 home runs, 30 doubles, 85 RBIs and a 98 wRC+.

"He's amazingly consistent," Francona said of Cabrera, who has hit .285 with a 102 wRC+ over 13 seasons in the Majors. "[He's a] switch-hitter. Sometimes you see him in April [starting slow], then you look up [later in the season] and he's got 85-90 RBIs. He's been a good hitter for a long time."

Worth noting

• Double-A Akron pitching prospect Shane Bieber has put himself on the Major League radar with his strong start this season. Through four outings, the 22-year-old Bieber was 3-0 with a 1.04 ERA and 28 strikeouts against zero walks in 26 innings. Bieber, who was taken in the fourth round of the 2016 MLB Draft, ranks eighth among the Indians' Top 30 prospects, according to MLB Pipeline.

Video: Top Prospects: Shane Bieber, RHP, Indians

Francona said evaluators in the Indians' player development department have raved about the young right-hander.

"They really think this kid's got a chance to be special," Francona said. "For a young kid, you talk about routines and things. Those are things that, normally, come last. You see stuff or the way a guy pitches. They say he's kind of beyond his years with those types of things. So it's kind of cool to see."

• Francona noted that left-hander Ryan Merritt (10-day disabled list, left knee) will make one more appearance in extended spring training before potentially being cleared to begin a Minor League rehab assignment.

• Outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall (10-day DL, right calf) is "getting pretty close" to being symptom-free, according to Francona. Once Chisenhall reaches that point, a return-to-play plan will be formulated.

• Righty Danny Salazar (10-day DL, right shoulder) continues to throw off a mound in Arizona, but there is still no timetable for his return to games, per Francona.

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.

Cleveland Indians, Melky Cabrera

Wednesday's top prospect performers

Blue Jays products impress in upper Minors
MLB.com

Here's MLB Pipeline's roundup of the top prospect performances in the Minor Leagues on Wednesday.

A plethora of Blue Jays prospects showcased their skills across multiple levels as a trio of the organization's top prospects led Triple-A Buffalo to a win and the top prospects in the system fared well for Double-A New Hampshire.

Here's MLB Pipeline's roundup of the top prospect performances in the Minor Leagues on Wednesday.

A plethora of Blue Jays prospects showcased their skills across multiple levels as a trio of the organization's top prospects led Triple-A Buffalo to a win and the top prospects in the system fared well for Double-A New Hampshire.

The Fisher Cats were unable to win the game, but No. 3 overall prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Blue Jays' No. 1) and Bo Bichette (No. 13 overall, Blue Jays' No. 2) once again showed why they are ranked so high. Bichette, 20, went 2-for-5 with a double and is batting .303 after going 4-for-10 over his past two games.

Guerrero registers second RBI

Guerrero, also experiencing the Double-A level for the first time, put together his second three-hit game of the season and drove in a trio of runs, including a game-tying sacrifice fly in the ninth.

Up at the Triple-A level, it was No. 47 overall prospect Anthony Alford (Blue Jay's No. 3), Ryan Borucki (No. 8) and Reese McGuire (No. 14) leading the Bisons to a win over Durham.

Alford and McGuire combined to go 4-for-6 with three RBIs and McGuire hit his first homer of the season, a two-run blast in the fourth, in the process.

On the mound, Borucki spun his best start of the season, giving up one run on five hits over six innings. The lefty also threw 61 of his 90 pitches for strikes, walked one and struck out seven, a season high.

Other top prospect performances from Wednesday's action:

• No. 10 overall prospect Michael Kopech (White Sox No. 2) put together another strong start for Triple-A Charlotte. Kopech, who has given up one earned run or fewer in three of his four starts, gave up one run on one hit in six innings. The right-hander walked two and also struck out eight, bringing his total to 29 through 21 innings this season.

Kopech fans eight

• No. 22 overall prospect Willy Adames (Rays' No. 2) continued his hot stretch with Triple-A Durham. Adames, who hit for the cycle on Monday, extended his hitting streak to eight games with a 2-for-4 effort. The 22-year-old has increased his average from .212 to .355 during that span and has two or more hits in three of his past four games. Rays No. 4 prospect Jesus Sanchez (No. 57 overall) also had a good game for Class A Advanced Charlotte, going 2-for-4 with a double and his fifth homer of the season.

• No. 48 overall prospect Justus Sheffield (Yankees' No. 3) continues to pile up the strikeouts with Double-A Trenton. The lefty gave up three runs (one earned) on four hits over six innings while striking out eight. Sheffield has spun 22 innings this season and collected 30 strikeouts.

• No. 50 overall prospect Adrian Morejon (Padres' No. 6) was lights-out for Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore. After giving up four runs in his last start, Morejon limited the damage this time around to one run on two hits. The lefty also struck out five in as many innings.

• No. 95 overall prospect Adam Haseley (Phillies' No. 6) is heating up for Class A Advanced Clearwater. After going 2-for-4 with two doubles and three RBIs, Haseley has two hits in four of his past five games and at least one hit in 12 of his last 13. He's also increased his batting average from .200 to .280 in that span.

Post game Interview: Haseley

Angels No. 11 prospect Jesus Castillo was nearly flawless for seven innings with Double-A Mobile. The 22-year-old right-hander didn't surrender a hit and threw 51 of his 70 pitches for strikes in his first scoreless start of the season. Castillo struck out four and only allowed one baserunner via a hit batter.

Castillo notches the K

Braves No. 16 prospect Dustin Peterson put together his second straight three-hit day for Triple-A Gwinnett. Peterson, who went 3-for-5 with a double and a homer, is 6-for-10 with two homers and six RBIs over his past two games.

Indians No. 7 prospect Will Benson showed off some power with his third career two-homer game. Benson went 2-for-3 with a pair of solo home runs for Class A Lake County in Game 1 of a doubleheader, a game that also featured a no-hitter.

Orioles prospects Cedric Mullins (No. 7) and Keegan Akin (No. 9) led Double-A Bowie to a win over Richmond. Mullins extended his hitting streak to six games with a 2-for-4 performance that included a double and a solo homer. On the mound, Akin yielded just three hits and struck out five across six scoreless innings. The 23-year-old gave up seven runs over nine innings to start the season but has since allowed just one run in his past 12 frames.

Twins No. 14 prospect Travis Blankenhorn hit a pair of solo homers for Class A Advanced Fort Myers. Blankenhorn, who has four home runs this season, has gone deep three times over the past three games. The two-homer game also marked his first of the season and the second of his career.

White Sox No. 10 prospect Micker Adolfo went deep in both games of Class A Advanced Winston Salem's doubleheader. The 21-year-old, who now has five homers this season, went 1-for-2 with a solo homer in the first game, then exploded for five RBIs - via an RBI double, sacrifice fly and three-run homer - in the second game.

William Boor is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter at @wboor.

Indians duo throws no-hitter for Lake County

MLB.com

A pair of Indians' prospects -- Francisco Perez and James Karinchak -- combined to throw the fourth no-hitter in Class A Lake County history, as the duo led a 4-0 win over West Michigan on Wednesday.

The duo walked six, but struck out five over seven scoreless innings, as the game was the first half of a doubleheader.

A pair of Indians' prospects -- Francisco Perez and James Karinchak -- combined to throw the fourth no-hitter in Class A Lake County history, as the duo led a 4-0 win over West Michigan on Wednesday.

The duo walked six, but struck out five over seven scoreless innings, as the game was the first half of a doubleheader.

Perez, making his third start of the year, got the ball for the Captains and threw the first 6 1/3 innings. The lefty, who walked seven in his last start, struggled with command once again as he walked six and threw 57 of his 98 pitches for strikes. However, Perez struck out four and kept the Whitecaps out of the hit column before handing off to Karinchak.

Taking over with the bases loaded, Karinchak came in to a tough spot, but made quick work of the final two batters, notching a strikeout and then getting a flyout to end the game.

Will Benson, the Indians' No. 7 prospect, provided half of the offense for the Captains as he drove in two of the four runs via solo homers in the fourth and sixth innings.

William Boor is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter at @wboor.

Tomlin struggles, Tribe falls in '16 WS rematch

MLB.com

CLEVELAND -- The Indians have been down this road with Josh Tomlin in the past, but it does not make things any easier to handle in the moment.

In a 10-3 loss to the Cubs on Tuesday night, Tomlin's history of being prone to home runs once again hindered Cleveland. The right-hander surrendered four homers, including two to Kyle Schwarber, in an abbreviated outing that dug an early hole and led to the end of the Tribe's modest three-game win streak.

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CLEVELAND -- The Indians have been down this road with Josh Tomlin in the past, but it does not make things any easier to handle in the moment.

In a 10-3 loss to the Cubs on Tuesday night, Tomlin's history of being prone to home runs once again hindered Cleveland. The right-hander surrendered four homers, including two to Kyle Schwarber, in an abbreviated outing that dug an early hole and led to the end of the Tribe's modest three-game win streak.

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"There's a lot of trust with his desire and everything to be what he needs to be," Indians manager Terry Francona said of Tomlin. "He'll get after it. He'll figure it out. And he won't be alone."

Video: CHC@CLE: Tomlin K's Baez to start off the 3rd inning

Over 3 2/3 innings, Tomlin was charged with five runs, which included solo home runs by Ian Happ and Willson Contreras in addition to Schwarber's shots. It marked the second time this season Tomlin yielded four home runs in an outing, having also done so on April 3 against the Angels.

Complicating matters on Tuesday night was the Tribe lineup's inability to mount much against Cubs starter Tyler Chatwood. The righty lasted six-plus innings for Chicago and dodged the potential damage that could have surfaced in light of his five walks issued. The Indians' only breakthrough against Chatwood came via a run-scoring groundout from Jason Kipnis in the third.

Video: CHC@CLE: Kipnis brings home Zimmer on RBI groundout

Tomlin, who entered the night averaging 1.6 homers per nine innings in his career, has given up eight blasts in 12 2/3 innings this season. For comparison, Cleveland's top four starting pitchers (Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer and Mike Clevinger) have allowed 10 homers combined in 124 1/3 innings.

All four of the home runs by the Cubs came on pitches in the middle third of the strike zone and off each of Tomlin's pitches. Schwarber tagged a 2-1 changeup for Chicago's first homer in the second, and he later crushed a 2-0 curve in the fourth. Contreras belted a 1-2 cutter from Tomlin for his third-inning homer, and Happ went the opposite way with a 2-1 fastball over the outside edge in the fourth.

"I'm making too many of those mistakes," said Tomlin, referring to pitches over the heart of the plate. "I've got to either make an adjustment quicker than what I'm making or change what I'm doing out there in the moment, try something different at that time. Definitely, what I'm doing right now is not working, so it's something that needs to be addressed."

Tomlin said he would begin poring over video footage of his start on Wednesday, and then the righty will get to work on the identified issues with pitching coach Carl Willis.

Through four appearances this season, Tomlin now has a 9.24 ERA. The right-hander endured a similarly rough start to last year, when he posted an 8.87 ERA in five starts in April. Over his next 21 outings in 2017, Tomlin went 8-6 with a 4.21 ERA, including going 6-0 with a 3.11 ERA in his final 10 turns (55 innings).

"It kind of started out the same last year," Francona said. "It seems like right now when he makes a mistake, catching too much of the plate, and he's paying the price for it right now."

One issue for the Indians at the moment is the fact that right-hander Danny Salazar and lefty Ryan Merritt -- considered the next two arms on the rotation depth chart -- remain on the disabled list. Both pitchers are in extended spring camp working through their respective throwing programs, with Merritt appearing closer to a Minor League rehab assignment.

In the meantime, Tomlin will continue to fight his way out of his early-season slump.

"The good side of it is, knowing Tomlin, he's going to figure it out," Francona said. "He and Carl will get back at it tomorrow, and he's not going to shortchange anybody on effort. We know that."

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
In the third inning, when the Cubs held a 3-1 lead, Jose Ramirez singled to right field with two outs, and Rajai Davis tried to score from second on the play. Cubs right fielder Jason Heyward made a strong throw to Contreras, who applied the tag as Davis slid across the plate headfirst for the rally-ending out. The Indians challenged the out call, but it stood following a replay review.

Video: CHC@CLE: Heyward nabs Davis at home to retire side

Francona noted that Davis looked toward right field while rounding third, creating the slightest hesitation that likely cost him on the sprint home.

"He always gives you good effort," Francona said. "He kind of looked over his shoulder a little bit. And we like when they know where the ball is, but I think it might have been the difference of him scoring."

Davis -- a veteran of 13 Major League seasons -- knew his mistake.

"It's a refresher," Davis said. "This is the big leagues. You've got to run -- that's it. Just got a reminder. That's all it is."

SOUND SMART
Schwarber's first home run of the night off Tomlin included an exit velocity of 117.1 mph, per Statcast™. That represented the fifth-hardest homer in the Majors this season and the hardest hit by a Cubs batter since Statcast™ began tracking the statistic in 2015.

Video: CHC@CLE: Schwarber ropes solo home run to right field

HE SAID IT
"Watching those guys go out there and compete and do well, it's fun for me. I enjoy every minute of it. And I will continue to enjoy every minute, whether I throw 15 scoreless innings or whether I give up another 15 runs. That's never going to change. That's never going to waver. It's about trying to get this team to win first, and wherever my stats may be at the end of the year, let them be. But if we end up where we want to end up -- in the playoffs -- I'm fine with that." --Tomlin, on the success of Cleveland's other starters

Video: CHC@CLE: Francona, Tomlin on 10-3 loss vs Cubs

UP NEXT
Right-hander Bauer is scheduled to take the mound for the Indians on Wednesday, when they host the Cubs in a 7:10 p.m. ET tilt at Progressive Field. Bauer is 7-5 with a 3.03 ERA in 21 career Interleague appearances. Chicago will counter with veteran lefty Jon Lester.

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.

Cleveland Indians, Josh Tomlin

Brantley defying trend with contact rate

Tribe's LF entered Tuesday leading MLB at 97.3 percent
MLB.com

CLEVELAND -- Baseball has changed, but Michael Brantley's swing has not. As strikeout rates have soared to historic heights, the Indians' veteran outfielder has become a kind of renaissance man in the batter's box.

Throughout his career, Brantley has defied the Major League-wide trends of plummeting contact rate and increasing strikeout percentage among hitters. Through his first dozen games this season, Brantley led baseball with a 97.3 percent contact rate (minimum 50 plate appearances).

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CLEVELAND -- Baseball has changed, but Michael Brantley's swing has not. As strikeout rates have soared to historic heights, the Indians' veteran outfielder has become a kind of renaissance man in the batter's box.

Throughout his career, Brantley has defied the Major League-wide trends of plummeting contact rate and increasing strikeout percentage among hitters. Through his first dozen games this season, Brantley led baseball with a 97.3 percent contact rate (minimum 50 plate appearances).

View Full Game Coverage

"We're just in a different day and age now," Brantley said on Tuesday. "Computers and stuff are telling us different things. Everybody wants to talk about launch angle. It's just a different time. I don't know how to explain it -- the evolution. I just know what's been successful for me in the past and what's worked for me in the past, and I don't want to change.

"I had success doing it my way, and I'll continue to do it my way. That's hitting line drives and getting the barrel to the ball as consistent as possible. It's something I pride myself on, and I will continue to do it."

MLB's league-wide contact rate has dropped to 76.5 percent this year (through Monday's games) from 80.5 percent in 2009. The league's strikeout percentage has climbed accordingly to 22.9 percent this year, compared to 18 percent when Brantley broke into the Majors in '09. For his career, Brantley had a 91.3 percent contact rate and a 10.8 percent strikeout rate entering Tuesday.

Video: CLE@MIN: Brantley goes back-to-back with Ramirez

Brantley, who received a scheduled day off from starting for Tuesday's game against the Cubs, was batting .320/.346/.460 through 12 games. The All-Star left fielder had only three strikeouts in his 52 plate appearances, which equates to a 5.8 percent strikeout rate. Heading into Tuesday, that ranked third overall in baseball (minimum 50 plate appearances). Brantley's teammate, Jose Ramirez, ranked fifth at 6.7 percent.

"[Brantley] and Josey kind of stick out," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "Maybe it's because I'm older, but I like it. Just the idea of making adjustments with two strikes and taking what the other team gives you, hitting the ball the other way, I really do like that."

Tweet from @MLBastian: Michael Brantley currently ranks 1st in MLB with a 97.3 contact% (min. 50 PA), while league rate is down to 76.5%. He's defied the league-wide trend throughout his career. pic.twitter.com/lRCmlCPnVJ

Worth noting
• MLB.com confirmed on Monday night that the Indians have reached an agreement on a Minor League contract with veteran outfielder Melky Cabrera, pending a physical. Francona declined to comment on the deal on Tuesday, given that there were still steps to complete in the signing process.

Video: Cabrera signs Minor League deal with Indians

"I know it's out there," Francona said. "Until things are official, I need to stay away from it. There will be a time for that. It was on the internet, though, so it must be true."

• This marks the Cubs' first trip to Progressive Field since defeating the Indians in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series. Francona downplayed the significance of Chicago's visit to Cleveland.

"It's April. It was two years ago," Francona said. "Maybe for the fans, it will be a little more cool or something. I think under different circumstances -- if it was September or something -- but, no, I think it's more just baseball."

• Infielder Gio Urshela (10-day disabled list), who continues to work his way back from a right hamstring injury, went 1-for-4 with a double on Monday in his sixth Minor League rehab appearance for Triple-A Columbus.

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.

Cleveland Indians, Michael Brantley

A rogue hot dog has escaped Cleveland's Hot Dog Race and we're all doomed

If you turned on the Cubs-Indians pregame on Tuesday, you might've expected to see some players stretching, a live look at batting practice or perhaps highlights from the last time the two teams met.

You probably weren't ready for this. 

Carrasco improves to 4-0 behind Alonso's HR

Special to MLB.com

BALTIMORE -- The crack of the bat brought Oriole Park at Camden Yards to life, the Orioles' faithful intoxicated by the possibility of the sound. The ball flew high off Anthony Santander's bat, beckoning for the right-field wall.

Not this time. Not on Monday night, not against Indians right-hander Carlos Carrasco. Right fielder Brandon Guyer settled under the fly and caught it, ending the seventh inning. The Indians would go on to win, 2-1, and clinch the four-game series thanks in large part to a dominant showing from Carrasco.

View Full Game Coverage

BALTIMORE -- The crack of the bat brought Oriole Park at Camden Yards to life, the Orioles' faithful intoxicated by the possibility of the sound. The ball flew high off Anthony Santander's bat, beckoning for the right-field wall.

Not this time. Not on Monday night, not against Indians right-hander Carlos Carrasco. Right fielder Brandon Guyer settled under the fly and caught it, ending the seventh inning. The Indians would go on to win, 2-1, and clinch the four-game series thanks in large part to a dominant showing from Carrasco.

View Full Game Coverage

Video: CLE@BAL: Carrasco induces flyout to end the inning

Indians manager Terry Francona attributed Carrasco's success to his ability to get early contact in at-bats.

"I thought Carlos was outstanding. A different set of circumstances, he could've stayed out there a while," Francona said of Carrasco, who threw 81 pitches (58 strikes).

Video: CLE@BAL: Francona on Carrasco's start, win

Carrasco improved to 4-0 with a 2.31 ERA through five starts this season. He also extended his win streak to 10, dating back to Aug. 11, 2017.

The Indians' scoring came in the second inning, when Yonder Alonso blasted his fifth home run of the season -- and second of the series -- 421 feet over the center-field fence. Cleveland hit six homers over the four-game series.

Video: CLE@BAL: Alonso crushes a two-run shot to center

Carrasco returned to the mound for the eighth, retiring the first batter before giving up a single to Tim Beckham. He left having allowed one earned run, six hits and two walks against seven strikeouts, with Baltimore's only run coming on Chance Sisco's RBI single in the second.

Video: CLE@BAL: Sisco drives in Jones with an RBI single

Left-hander Andrew Miller spelled Carrasco, and after allowing a single to Manny Machado, escaped the frame by inducing Adam Jones into a forceout. Right-hander Cody Allen struck out the side in the ninth to seal the win.

Video: CLE@BAL: Allen strikes out the side, notches the save

SOUND SMART
Miller and Allen have been nearly unhittable this season. After Monday's win, both relievers have thrown 10 scoreless innings.

Video: CLE@BAL: Miller induces forceout to end the inning

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
The Orioles were threatening in the bottom of the second inning, with two runners on base and Santander at the plate. Santander ripped a liner back to Carrasco, who gloved it and, from one knee, fired to first to complete the inning-ending double play.

"To be honest with you, I didn't see the ball, I just put my glove [up]," Carrasco said. "I [caught] the ball and threw it to first."

Video: CLE@BAL: Carrasco catches quick liner, turns DP

UP NEXT
Josh Tomlin returns to the mound for his first start since April 10 in the opener of a two-game set against the Cubs, countering Tyler Chatwood at 6:10 p.m. ET on Tuesday. Tomlin, who has been battling a back issue, started the season in disappointing fashion, surrendering eight earned runs in three innings on April 3. Francona said the rest has provided some relief for Tomlin, who pitched a frame in Wednesday's 16-inning game in Puerto Rico.

Joshua Needelman is a contributor to MLB.com based in Baltimore.

Cleveland Indians, Yonder Alonso, Carlos Carrasco

Melky signs Minor League deal with Indians

MLB.com

CLEVELAND -- With an offense still working to find its rhythm in the season's first month and one outfielder currently on the disabled list, the Indians have added some experience to their depth chart.

MLB.com confirmed on Monday night that Cleveland has agreed to a Minor League contract with veteran outfielder Melky Cabrera, pending the completion of a physical. Cabrera will head to the Indians' headquarters in Goodyear, Ariz., prior to joining an affiliate.

View Full Game Coverage

CLEVELAND -- With an offense still working to find its rhythm in the season's first month and one outfielder currently on the disabled list, the Indians have added some experience to their depth chart.

MLB.com confirmed on Monday night that Cleveland has agreed to a Minor League contract with veteran outfielder Melky Cabrera, pending the completion of a physical. Cabrera will head to the Indians' headquarters in Goodyear, Ariz., prior to joining an affiliate.

View Full Game Coverage

As things currently stand, the Indians are featuring All-Star Michael Brantley in left field, Bradley Zimmer in center and Tyler Naquin in right, with Rajai Davis and Brandon Guyer getting playing time mostly against lefties. Lonnie Chisenhall, who opened the year as the Tribe's starting right fielder, is on the DL with a right calf injury and likely remains a few weeks from a potential return.

Collectively, Indians outfielders have posted a 66 Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) through 20 games, indicating that the group has played 34 percent below league average.

Video: KC@CWS: Cabrera makes a leaping catch at the wall

Cabrera, 33, spent 156 games between tours with the White Sox and Royals last season. The switch-hitting corner outfielder posted a .285/.324/.423 slash line with 17 home runs, 85 RBIs and a 98 wRC+. Overall, Cabrera had a combined minus 20 Defensive Runs Saved (minus 10 in 348 2/3 innings in right field and minus 10 in 878 innings in left) in 2017.

In parts of 13 Major League seasons, Cabrera has hit .286/.335/.418 in 1,676 games with the Yankees, Braves, Royals, Giants, Blue Jays and White Sox.

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.

Cleveland Indians, Melky Cabrera

Indians, Cubs and what might have been

MLB.com

They met, by chance, on Michigan Avenue, the would-be World Series hero and the general manager of a title team 108 years in the making.

Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis spends his offseasons in his native Chicago, where Jed Hoyer and the rest of the Cubs were the toast of the town in that winter following the 2016 season. The two crossed paths there among the upscale shops that line the Magnificent Mile, and what might have otherwise been a quick nod of recognition, instead became an opportunity to connect and dissect a World Series for the ages, mere weeks after it wrapped.

They met, by chance, on Michigan Avenue, the would-be World Series hero and the general manager of a title team 108 years in the making.

Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis spends his offseasons in his native Chicago, where Jed Hoyer and the rest of the Cubs were the toast of the town in that winter following the 2016 season. The two crossed paths there among the upscale shops that line the Magnificent Mile, and what might have otherwise been a quick nod of recognition, instead became an opportunity to connect and dissect a World Series for the ages, mere weeks after it wrapped.

"We ended up standing there talking for a while," Hoyer says.

Video: WS2016 Gm7: Cubs win World Series with Game 7 win

Shared respect emanates from being on separate sides of an enrapturing experience like 2016's four-hour, 28-minute Game 7. So it was in that Streeterville scene in which a ring-bearer and a runner-up could converse cordially, and so it will be on Tuesday and Wednesday nights at Cleveland's Progressive Field, where the Indians and Cubs will have their first formal meeting since one of the greatest games any of us has ever seen.

"At the core of it," says Kipnis, "we're still baseball kids who know how great that Series was."

The unspoken but understood undertone of the Kipnis-Hoyer conversation and this Cubs-Indians reunion is how thin the line separating these squads really was.

In another world, with another swing on a hanging slider, Kipnis would have represented -- to Hoyer and to all the other Cubs fans walking Michigan Avenue that day -- not just an October opponent but the embodiment of an unkillable curse, the Chicago kid who lived on the same street as Steve Bartman and grew up to keep the billy goat breathing.

Had that happened, the sense of urgency currently surrounding a small-market Cleveland club with the longest active championship drought in the game would instead apply to a Cubs team perhaps still trying to shake the curse conversation.

"I think we're all kidding ourselves if we think the difference between the winning and the losing is big," Hoyer says. "It's not as big as it might seem."

To many, that difference emanated from a 17-minute rain delay that's been romanticized in Cubs lore as the long-suffering franchise's moment of spiritual awakening and literal cleansing, en route to the 8-7 triumph in the 10th.

It's a pretty good story.

This is not that story. This is the story of what happened just before the rain put a pause in the proceedings. The inning in-between Rajai Davis' moment of game-tying glory and Jason Heyward's Knute Rockne-like role in the visiting weight room gets lost in the shuffle of the Game 7 narrative. But in pure baseball terms, it's an inning that allowed the Cubs to steal the Tribe's thunder and seal the way we think about 2016.

Video: WS2016 Gm7: Davis ties game with clutch two-run homer

This is the story of the ninth inning and the three small moments that, if altered ever so slightly, would have created an entirely different conversation on Michigan Avenue that winter day and at Progressive Field this week.

The Leadoff Walk
In the broadcast feed from the start of the ninth, interspersed with the images of Indians fans excitedly stirring in the stands, there is a shot of a sweating, stunned Aroldis Chapman sitting in the Cubs dugout and a quick cut to Davis, whose heroic homer had tied the tilt at 6 mere minutes earlier. Davis is shown glancing into the heavens with the dazed expression of a man who can't believe what he just did.

"Everybody on our side," Davis says now, "felt everything shift in our direction."

Then, Cody Allen throws the first pitch of the ninth to David Ross.

And it's a ball.

"I literally wasn't able to feel my legs," says Allen, who at that point had recorded the last four outs for the Indians. "I went out there and freaking walked the leadoff guy."

On the surface, it might seem that walk had no bearing on the ballgame, for here's how the rest of the half-inning played out:

• Ross was replaced by pinch-runner Chris Coghlan, who was forced out at second on Heyward's ground ball to Kipnis.

• Terry Francona summoned reliever Bryan Shaw. Heyward stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error by catcher Yan Gomes, but the Indians caught a break when Joe Maddon had Javier Baez bunt with two strikes, resulting in a foul ball for strike three.

Video: WS2017 Gm7: Shaw strikes out Baez on foul bunt

• With two out, Dexter Fowler sent a one-hopper up the middle that drifted right of the second-base bag. Shortstop Francisco Lindor ranged hard to his left to make the stop and the perfect strike to first for the third out, leaping and raising his arms as the crowd went wild.

"When Dexter hit that ball, my wife hugged me," Hoyer says. "But Lindor made an amazing play. It's like, 'You were just hugging me a second ago...'"

Video: Must C Clips: Lindor keeps game tied in the 9th

The Indians had done their job to maintain the momentum from the Davis homer.

Yet the leadoff walk still haunts Allen.

"If I would have gotten Ross out, I could have finished the inning," Allen says. "Then the rain delay wouldn't have affected Shaw."

Because of the delay, Shaw, who by that point was into his 77th inning of work of the season, had roughly a 30-minute break between pitches. Maybe it was Heyward's speech that properly pumped up the Cubs in advance of their extra-inning awakening at the plate, or maybe Allen's hypothesis has merit.

Whatever the case there, it's clear the freebie baserunner -- parlayed with Gomes' error at second -- did have consequence in another way. Because when the Cubs got their runner to third that inning, Francona replaced Coco Crisp in right field with Michael Martinez, who had the stronger throwing arm. This would come back to bite the Tribe when Martinez, owner of a .197 career average and .507 OPS, was due to hit with two out, the tying run at first and no bats left on the bench in the 10th. (Martinez's game-ending groundout might have been the only predictable outcome in an otherwise surreal Game 7.)

So the leadoff walk meant nothing, and it meant everything.

"I've thought about that walk a lot," Allen says. "A lot."

Video: WS2016 Gm7: Allen doesn't allow hit over two frames

The Hanging Slider
Carlos Santana still thinks about what happened next.

The Indians had the top-third of their order due up in the bottom of the ninth against a gassed Chapman, who had just surrendered his first homer since June 18 and thrown 87 pitches in three games over four days. The conditions were aligned in favor of the Indians getting the winning run across and ending a 68-year title drought of their own.

"It's like two years ago," Santana says, "but I can still see myself there."

He was there leading off the inning and putting up the kind of disciplined at-bat that would eventually earn him a lucrative contract with the Phillies. Santana went to the plate hunting a fastball, but Chapman went slider-heavy and fell behind, 3-1, looking more vulnerable than ever.

"A situation like that," Chapman says through an interpreter, "we have to be mentally tough, because it's the end of it all, it's the end of the whole season."

If Chapman walks Santana in that spot, he's in the same jam Allen had been earlier in the inning. He had to challenge the hitter, and he had to do it with diminished stuff. Chapman's next pitch was a fastball that came in not at his typical 101 mph, but rather 96.5 mph and elevated in the zone. The notoriously patient Santana took the pitch for strike two.

"My approach is don't swing at that pitch," Santana says. "I was trying to look middle-in, but it was middle away. I had another opportunity at 3-2. He had more pressure. I remember that he threw a 3-2 slider."

It wasn't just any 3-2 slider. Chapman's sixth pitch to Santana was what can only be described as a meatball, coming in at 84.8 mph and hanging over the heart of the plate despite catcher Miguel Montero's low target.

Santana just misses the mark
Santana swung and connected, but not off the barrel of the bat. What could have been Santana's Mazeroski moment was, instead, a lazy fly to left. Santana's body language -- a frustrated hop out of the batter's box -- said it all. Chapman had given him the kind of pitch that can put a hitter in the history books, and he missed it by a fraction of an inch.

"It happened," Santana says. "The pitch is emotion, the swing is emotion, everything is emotion. It's tough."

The crazy thing isn't that Chapman got away with such a huge mistake in such a huge spot.

It's that he got away with another one against the very next batter.

That was Kipnis, the Chicago kid.

The Hanging Slider, Part II
Kipnis' story had been an easy media magnet. The Northbrook, Ill., native was painted as a one-time bleeder of Cubbie blue now thrust into the awkward position of facing the North Siders on the Series stage.

As is often the case, the truth was more nuanced.

"It's not like I was a season-ticket holder when I was 7 years old," he says with a laugh. "They were blowing it out of proportion. I went to White Sox games, too. I was a baseball fan. If they really wanted to dig deep, they'd find out the Cardinals were probably my favorite team for a few years with Albert Pujols and Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen."

But Kipnis' Cubs connection was real from the standpoint that his Facebook feed was loaded with Cubs love from old pals, and four of Kipnis' best friends are season-ticket holders at Wrigley.

"It's weird," he says. "You take on this villainous mindset. Your friends, people who have been in your corner for everything, all of a sudden they're all against you. So you kind of buy into it. That urge to be liked, to be friends with people? That just went straight out the window. I wanted nothing more than to piss all of them off and then smile at them."

Had he done just that, Kipnis would be as infamous in Cubs' lore as his old Northbrook neighbor, Bartman, who also went to the same school as Kipnis and his siblings.

Video: Kipnis discusses hard loss for Indians after Game 7

"He was on our bus going to St. Norbert's [School]," Kipnis says. "He was more my sister's age, who's the oldest. I remember there being cop cars outside his house for like a month after what happened [in the 2003 National League Championship Series] just to make sure nobody came to his property."

As in the Santana at-bat, Chapman abandoned his fastball in favor of a not-so-sharp slider. Kipnis took the first one for a borderline strike one. The second one was wide, and Kipnis let it pass for ball one.

The 1-1 pitch is the one that still stings for Kipnis. He didn't assume it would be another slider.

"You're expecting one or two sliders, but never back-to-back-to-back," he says. "You still have to defend against that fastball. People say he threw right over the plate. Well, you try to be on time for both pitches. It's easier said than done."

That's why Kipnis' swing was just the slightest tick ahead of the 83.9-mph slider -- a pitch virtually identical to the one Santana had gotten at 3-2. Kipnis connected. And if you were watching on TV, or in the seating sections directly behind home plate, that connection looked climactic.

"When he swung the bat, my heart just stopped," Hoyer says. "I thought we had just been walked off."

The thought lasted all of a second or two, because the batted ball that could have changed the course of history instead took its own curved course into the seats down the right-field line, well short of the foul pole.

"I was out in front and hooked it just enough," Kipnis says. "It had enough English on it that it was taking a right turn a third of the way down the line."

Video: WS Gm7 CHC@CLE: Kipnis laces one foul in the 9th

Chapman continued to flirt with disaster. He threw Kipnis a total of six sliders in that at-bat, three of them hanging. The last came on a 3-2 pitch that, again, Kipnis just missed, fouling it straight back and angrily spinning out of the box. Chapman somehow finished Kipnis off with a 97.4-mph fastball that badly missed above the strike zone after Montero set his glove low and away. Kipnis swung through it for strike three.

And when Chapman retired Lindor on a first-pitch popout with probably his best pitch of the outing -- a 98-mph fastball on the inside corner -- he had somehow survived an inning that, on stuff alone, he had little business surviving.

Video: WS2016 Gm7: Chapman retires Lindor to end the 9th

"That was a big tone-setter," says Kyle Schwarber, who led off the Cubs' 10th. "For Chapman to do what he did, given the circumstances [the Davis homer] that were still probably on his mind at that time, was impressive."

Kipnis expressed regret about his at-bat against Chapman.

"This guy's tired at 98, 99 mph," he says. "But being tired, he was starting to catch more of the plate. I think it was hard for all of us that inning not to think of trying to end it with just one swing. You want to be a hero. But adding effort to that at-bat versus that kind of velo is not the way to go about it. Staying short and singling him to death would have been a better approach."

The better approach came from the Cubs, against Shaw, in the 10th inning that cemented their legend.

The Reunion
Even in a sport that demands daily prioritizing of the present, Game 7 maintains a real resonance with those who played it.

Outside the Cubs' home clubhouse is the giant replication of the fan chalk art that colored Wrigley's brick walls in the wake of the victory. Inside, on a recent day, a stack of reprints of the Sports Illustrated cover celebrating the triumph sat next to a Sharpie marker, awaiting the signature of cover boy Anthony Rizzo.

Cubs fans might be frustrated by the 2017 NLCS exit and a ho-hum start to the season, but the members of the 2016 club have a permanent place in hearts, minds and Chicagoland card shows.

"Even now," Schwarber says, "even with where we're at in the season, sometimes I still catch myself thinking back on it. It's just a special time."

The opposite is true in Cleveland, where Game 7 is still the source of some sleepless nights.

"I can sit here and tell you that I've turned the page on it, and for the most part I did," Allen says. "But there is a day a month, a few days a year, where I'm just wide awake at night. I don't know if that's the right way to handle it or not, but that's the way I handle it. … I'll just say this: I kept track of the Cubs last year. I knew their record, I knew who they were playing. That's probably not the best way to do it, either, because it's a new year and I probably should have been keeping track of the damn Yankees and not the Cubs. So hopefully we can use all of that as a learning experience."

The experience of having a World Series title within reach is something the Indians and Cubs are both chasing again here in 2018. Kipnis was asked what it would mean to again be in that situation, with a ring on the line and the bat in his hands.

"It means I did something right, it means this team did something right," he says. "That's all any player ever wants is the redemption. To get right back in that situation? Where do I sign? I would love that."

He'll settle, for now, for an opportunity to impact an Interleague series with the Cubs -- a reunion that reminds us how the slightest separation in a single inning can create a lasting legacy. 

Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns, listen to his podcasts and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. MLB.com reporters Todd Zolecki and Bryan Hoch contributed to this story.

Cleveland Indians, Jason Kipnis