Indians face great expectations, Cubs seek

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The Cleveland Indians are done marvelling at their record-setting season, focused instead on avenging their dramatic extra innings Game Seven loss in last year’s World Series and snapping Major League Baseball’s longest title drought. There are big expectations on Cleveland in a post-season where the Chicago Cubs will chase a second consecutive World Series and the Washington Nationals look to finally win a division series. The Indians, who were beaten by the Cubs in last year’s World Series, are favoured to celebrate their first championship since 1948.

Todd Frazier
Todd Frazier

Cleveland open their best-of-five games American League Division Series on Thursday against big-hitting rookie Aaron Judge and the New York Yankees “It’s time to get to work,” Indians pitcher Josh Tomlin said. “Everybody is looking forward to that. This is when the fun begins.” The Indians have all the tools necessary to make another deep post-season run given a lineup featuring plenty of power from the likes of Jose Ramirez and Edwin Encarnacion, a shutdown rotation and bullpen that can make quick work of most teams.

Cleveland used a torrid second half of the season, which included an AL-record 22 consecutive victories between August and September, to finish two wins short of the National League’s Los Angeles Dodgers for the best record in the majors. “For whatever reason, it took us a while to get — whether it’s your rhythm, whether it’s your footing,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “But once they did, it’s like they never took their foot off the gas.”

As a result, the Indians are brimming with confidence and should they eliminate the Yankees will face either the AL East champion Boston Red Sox or a Houston Astros team that won the AL West by a 21-game margin. The Astros had the AL’s best record on Aug. 31 when they added Justin Verlander to a rotation that already featured fellow Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel. The addition of Verlander, who has been brilliant since joining his new club, tilts the series in the Astros favour but they face a Boston rotation anchored by Chris Sale in the best-of-five series.

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