CLEVELAND -- It would have been easy for the Indians to check out early Monday night. Their starter was out of the game before the end of the fourth inning and their manager had left due to illness. The Rangers were turning Progressive Field into their personal launching pad and
CLEVELAND -- It would have been easy for the Indians to check out early Monday night. Their starter was out of the game before the end of the fourth inning and their manager had left due to illness. The Rangers were turning Progressive Field into their personal launching pad and the home crowd was restless.
Then, it happened. The fight that was on display throughout last summer's incredible run to a division title -- that aggressive take-it-to-them mentality that had seemingly gone missing for the Tribe this year -- returned in striking fashion. The scoreboard said the Indians were out of it but the players went out and pulled off a stunning 15-9 victory over Texas anyway.
"This is the best win of the year," Indians outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall said.
Chisenhall delivered the decisive blow: A two-run single with the bases loaded in the sixth inning to give Cleveland a 10-9 lead. The Indians kept plowing forward from there, churning out 13 unanswered runs by the time the smoke cleared from the postgame fireworks. The Indians were down by four runs in the first, six runs by the second and seven runs by the fourth.
It was the first time the Indians overcame a deficit of at least seven runs in a win since April 17, 2012.
"We haven't had a whole lot of games like this where we were able to come back," Indians bench coach Brad Mills said. "But now these guys see that they can do it, and they saw how much fun [they had] and how they did it. They did a great job of coming back. I can't say it enough: It was a whole team effort."
After the Twins stifled the Tribe's bats during a three-game sweep last weekend, the Indians registered a season high in runs and tied a 2017 best in hits (19). The Indians also went 11-for-28 with RISP, marking their most such at-bats in a game dating back to at least 1974.
Cleveland accomplished all of this without manager Terry Francona in the dugout. Mills took over early on in the game after Francona became ill and exited the game. The Indians announced later that the manager checked out fine, following similar similar symptoms as on June 13, when he dealt with dehydration and left that day's game against the Dodgers.
"We got a big win for him tonight," Indians outfielder Bradley Zimmer said. "Hopefully that'll cheer him up."
And perhaps it will be a win that lights a fire under an Indians club that has fought a heavy dose of inconsistency this season.
A reminder of last year's never-say-die squad was front and center on Monday, when former Tribe slugger Mike Napoli (now with the Rangers) received his American League championship ring from Francona in a pregame ceremony. Napoli provided Cleveland's clubhouse with a veteran, experienced voice last season, and helped the team form its personality.
This season, the new-look Indians have been searching for their identity while trying to hit their stride in an AL Central that looks winnable once again. The next few months will reveal whether Monday's win helped that process along.
"Coming off the type of series we just came off of, any win would be a good win," Indians setup man Bryan Shaw said. "But for us to come out today, and come back the way we did, just shows the heart, the drive that we have to win."
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.