BOSTON -- The celebration did not start immediately. Cleveland's players gathered in a circle in the center of the small visitors' clubhouse at Fenway Park, bottles of champagne in hand, and waited for the words of Jason Kipnis, who held his drink high in the air."One shake for Brant!" Kipnis
BOSTON -- The celebration did not start immediately. Cleveland's players gathered in a circle in the center of the small visitors' clubhouse at Fenway Park, bottles of champagne in hand, and waited for the words of Jason Kipnis, who held his drink high in the air.
"One shake for Brant!" Kipnis yelled.
The Indians' players answered his call with a collective roar and bottles lifted high, twisting back and forth, building up the kind of pressure required for a proper cork-popping party. That opening display, which followed the Indians' 4-3 win over the Red Sox in Game 3 of the American League Division Series on Monday night to complete a sweep of Boston, summed up the Tribe.
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Kipnis' cry was for Indians outfielder Michael Brantley, who played in only 11 games for the team this year due to injury. The outfielder is done for the year after surgery on his right shoulder, but he was in the middle of the Fenway locker room, dousing his teammates as they sprayed him in return. Brantley can't help on the field, but his teammates still view him as an integral piece to what is taking place.
Cleveland does not boast a payroll like Boston. The Indians do not have the superstar names that will be on the back of the Blue Jays' jerseys during the upcoming AL Championship Series, which begins on Friday (8 p.m. ET, TBS). The AL Central champion, now four wins away from the franchise's first trip to the World Series since 1997, takes pride in finding success through the sum of its parts.
"Everybody loves each other," Indians starter Josh Tomlin said. "We said it from Day One, it's not going to take 25 guys to do what we're capable of going. It's going to take a 40-man roster and guys stepping up and guys getting traded over here, whatever. It's going to take a collective group of guys to do what we're capable of doing."
What the Indians did in the ALDS was overcome even more obstacles.
Right-hander Danny Salazar is currently in Arizona working through a throwing program due to a forearm injury. Starter Carlos Carrasco was in the clubhouse celebrating with a plastic sleeve over his cast, protecting his fractured right hand. Without those two arms, it was not a stretch to expect Boston's high-powered offense to overpower the Tribe's pitching.
Cleveland went out and held the Red Sox to seven runs in three games.
"It's just something they've done all year long," Indians team owner Paul Dolan said amid the celebration. "They just stepped up when they needed to and just [did] what nobody else thought they were capable of doing. The depth of the team, the character of this team, I mean they just swept the Boston Red Sox. That kind of speaks for itself."
Moments after speaking those words, Dolan was drenched in champagne by a smiling Chris Antonetti, Cleveland's president of baseball operations. A few minutes after that, Antonetti was splashed by pitcher Trevor Bauer, who had a camera strapped to his hat.
"You having fun, Trevor?" said Antonetti, who then emptied his bottle on the pitcher in response.
No one was safe inside the clubhouse.
Tomlin, who logged five-plus innings in the Game 3 victory, was doing a radio interview when ace Corey Kluber uncorked some bubbly on the pitcher's back. Manager Terry Francona walked into the room and was swarmed by Carlos Santana, Mike Napoli and Kipnis, who dumped three full bottles on their skipper. With his face red and eyes squinted and stinging, Francona poured his bottle on Napoli.
"We're happy, we're thrilled, we're honored that we won," Francona said. "We'll let them blow it out tonight a little bit and then we'll regroup tomorrow and start thinking about Toronto."
During the division-clinching celebration in the final week of the regular season, Brantley had to stay back from the mob inside Comerica Park's visitors' clubhouse. The sidelined outfielder was a little more brave -- sans the sling he has worn in recent weeks -- during Monday's festivities. He donned some ski goggles and made sure he was not only on the receiving end of the bubbly.
"It was fun," Brantley said with a smile. "Anytime you get to celebrate with this great group of guys that work so hard throughout this entire year, I'm just so glad to be a part of it."
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 listen to his podcast.