CLEVELAND -- The Indians hoped to have a parade to plan at the end of this past season, but instead, they were dealt a disappointing first-round exit from the October stage. Still, Cleveland's 2017 campaign was one of the most remarkable regular seasons in franchise history."We accomplished a lot of
CLEVELAND -- The Indians hoped to have a parade to plan at the end of this past season, but instead, they were dealt a disappointing first-round exit from the October stage. Still, Cleveland's 2017 campaign was one of the most remarkable regular seasons in franchise history.
"We accomplished a lot of great things this year," Chris Antonetti, the Indians' president of baseball operations, said at the end of the season. "Winning 102 games is a pretty great accomplishment. Winning 22 consecutive games and doing something no team has done for over 100 years, that's a great accomplishment. It's not the [achievement] we sought out to do. It's not the one we wanted. But there's still a lot of great things that happened during the course of the year. And I couldn't be more proud to work alongside and with the group we do."
Here is a look at five of the Indians' best moments from 2017:
5. Edwin comes to Cleveland
Inside the Tribe's clubhouse on Jan. 5, Edwin Encarnacion buttoned up his new white home jersey, hoisted his arms in the air and grinned wide for the cameras. What seemed like a pipe dream was reality. Cleveland needed a right-handed slugger, and it signed the best one on the open market.
"Here we go," Encarnacion said that day. "We're here."
As the story goes, Antonetti was with his family at "The Little Mermaid" play outside Cleveland when the deal went down in late December a year ago. Encarnacion's agent, Paul Kinzer, was at Six Flags Over Georgia with his family at the time. Between rides and songs, the largest free-agent contract ($60 million guaranteed over three years) in Indians history came to fruition.
Encarnacion got off to a slow start, but he wound up posting numbers that lived up to his paycheck. Over 157 games, he piled up 38 homers, 107 RBIs, 104 walks and 96 runs scored with an .881 OPS. Unfortunately, Encarnacion sustained a sprained right ankle that hindered his availability and production in the American League Division Series loss to the Yankees.
4. Jackson's Fenway flip
Arguably the best defensive play of the season -- not only for the Indians, but for the Majors -- came in a wild game between the Tribe and the Red Sox on Aug. 1 at Fenway Park. The author of the acrobatic catch was center fielder Austin Jackson, whose display was so incredible that even the Boston faithful offered the enemy defender a standing ovation after his effort.
"That was one of the most exciting plays I've seen in a long, long time," Indians manager Terry Francona said at the time.
The play came in the fifth inning of Boston's eventual 12-10 walk-off victory. Hanley Ramirez led off with a towering shot to deep center off reliever Dan Otero. Jackson sprinted hard to his left, jumped as he closed in on the short wall in front of the Red Sox bullpen, made the leaping catch and then disappeared out of view. With his free hand gripping the padding, Jackson flipped over the fence and maintained control of the ball for the out.
"Once I caught it," Jackson said, "the next thing I saw was me going straight to the dirt, head-first. Luckily, I was able to grab the wall a little bit and get my feet up."
3. Yes way, Jose
It was not uncommon in 2017 for Jose Ramirez to shoot a pitch into a gap for a sure-fire single, only to hit the accelerator around first for a mad dash to second for a jaw-dropping double. Over and over, Ramirez caught defenders by surprise, forced rushed throws and wound up with his helmet tumbling through the infield dirt after another successful extra base taken.
"He's turned himself into one of the best players in the game," Francona said.
When the season was over, that became more than just a manager's opinion. The Baseball Writers' Association of America voted Ramirez third for the AL Most Valuable Player Award. Ramirez started at third for the AL All-Stars, won a Silver Slugger Award and was a finalist for a Gold Glove Award. And he did so while bouncing between third and second all summer long.
When the smoke cleared on Ramirez's season, the switch-hitting infielder had a .318 average to go along with 29 homers, 56 doubles, 83 RBIs, 17 steals and 107 runs in 152 games. His 56 doubles led the Majors and were the third-most in a single season in team history. Ramirez also led the AL and was tied for the Major League lead with 91 extra-base hits, and he set an MLB record with 14 extra-base hits in a seven-game span (June 14-19).
2. Cy Kluber, Part Two
Corey Kluber surprised the baseball world when he edged out Mariners ace Felix Hernandez for the AL Cy Young Award back in 2014. When Kluber took home the same honor this year, becoming the first pitcher in Indians history to win the award twice, it did not shock anyone. Kluber has firmly established himself as one of the game's aces.
"Kluber has been so consistent every year," Indians general manager Mike Chernoff said. "It's been amazing to watch."
One of the things that made Kluber's latest season so incredible was how overpowering he was over the final four months. The righty got off to a rocky start, posting a 5.06 ERA through six outings before landing on the disabled list with a back injury. After returning on June 1, Kluber cruised to a 15-2 record with a 1.62 ERA over his final 23 turns for the Tribe. He picked up AL Pitcher of the Month honors in June, August and September along the way.
Kluber ended the season with an 18-4 record, an MLB-low 2.25 ERA and 265 strikeouts vs. 36 walks in 203 2/3 innings. It marked the fourth consecutive season that he amassed at least 200 strikeouts and 200 innings. When the AL Cy Young votes came in, Kluber was named first on 28 of the 30 ballots cast, making him a runaway winner over Red Sox ace Chris Sale.
1. The Streak
When the A's won 20 games in a row in 2002, their season was immortalized in both book form and film with "Moneyball." There has not yet been a casting call for actors to portray the '17 Indians, but they enjoyed a streak longer than any team in AL history with 22 wins in a row between August and September.
"It's something special," Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor said. "It's going to be there forever."
Cleveland's streak, which is second to only a 26-game run by the 1916 New York Giants in baseball history, ran from Aug. 24-Sept. 14, helping the Tribe run away with the AL Central crown. Over the course of the streak, the Indians posted a plus-105 run differential and finished with more home runs hit (41) than runs allowed (37). During the 22 wins, Cleveland trailed after only eight of 199 full innings.
Fittingly, win No. 20 to tie Oakland's AL record came courtesy of a shutout by Kluber. No. 22 was the most dramatic win in the streak. Lindor pulled the game against the Royals into a 2-2 tie with a two-out, two-strike RBI double off the left-field wall in the bottom of the ninth. One inning later, Ramirez pulled off a hustle double and scored on a walk-off hit from Jay Bruce.
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.