Saturday, September 15, 2018

The Indians Are the 2018 AL Central Division Champions!

great news, Tribe fans! after defeating the Detroit Tigers today, on September 15, your Cleveland Indians are the 2018 American League Central Division Champions!πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

photo courtesy of @MLB on twitter

this is their third straight season winning the division, having clinched it last year on September 16, and on September 26, 2016. the Indians have not won that many consecutive division pennants since 1995-1999! in addition, this marks the club's fourth division title since 2007 and 10th title in
franchise history (spanning back to 1994, when divisional play began)! aside from this being the fastest an Indians club has clinched since September 8, 1999, they're also the first team in baseball this year to clinch a division! way to go, boys!πŸ˜€

the Indians got their win, a 15-0 blowout, in the top of the 9th inning when Ronny Rodriguez struck out looking on a 1-2 count from Brad Hand, stranding Mikie Mahtook at 1st base to end the game.

"and for the third year in a row, Cleveland, you will have another October to remember!" --legendary WTAM 1100 radio broadcaster Tom Hamilton, via the Indians' twitter account.

photo courtesy of @clevelanddotcom on twitter

following that final out, which you can watch in a video on, all the players met on the infield grass at Progressive Field to congratulate each other with some high fives, fist bumps, hugs, and a little jumping as they gathered together in a circle. it was a rather calm sight, as the Tribe knows this is just the first step towards reaching their ultimate goal. they put on their new 2018 AL Central Champions t-shirts and hats and then several guys threw DEFEND TRIBE TOWN t-shirts to fans in the crowd. you can see some of that in clevelanddotcom's twitter video, as well as Andre Knott's postgame interview video with Michael Brantley and Josh Tomlin, courtesy of SportsTime Ohio.

photo courtesy of David Maxwell via Getty Images
photo courtesy of Chuck Crow via
photo courtesy of David Dermer via Associated Press
photo courtesy of Chuck Crow via
photo courtesy of David Maxwell via Getty Images
photo courtesy of David Dermer via Associated Press
photos courtesy of Chuck Crow via
photo courtesy of @Indians on twitter

also at some point, the 2018 AL Central Division Champions flag was raised behind the center field bullpens. though we did not get to see it go up the flagpole, clevelanddotcom posted a video of it blowing in the wind after the fact on twitter.🏁

shortly after that, the celebration moved into the clubhouse, which was prepped with plastic covering everyone's lockers and the floor. this being the Tribe's third division win in a row, all the regulars on the team knew the drill by now. it was time to pop bottles, spray champagne, cheer, and drink beer! some guys also opted to smoke cigars! πŸΎπŸΎπŸΎπŸΊπŸ»πŸ“£

you can experience the fun through videos provided by the Indians and SportsTime Ohio on twitter and's youtube vid.

"all things considered, we clinched at home, and we did it in a convincing way," Terry Francona stated in Joe Noga's postgame article on

Mike Clevinger, the starter of the clinch game, added, "you can see by the way everyone played, they wanted to get it over with now, just so we can actually celebrate and enjoy it for this short time period. we still have some games to get it together and prepare for what's going to be our toughest task--that's going to obviously be the playoffs."

photo courtesy of @ZackMeisel on twitter
photo courtesy of David Maxwell via Getty Images
photos courtesy of Chuck Crow via
photos courtesy of David Dermer via Associated Press
photo courtesy of David Maxwell via Getty Images
photos courtesy of David Dermer via Associated Press

three veterans, namely Michael Brantley, Jason Kipnis, and Yan Gomes, also took a second to embrace together in a circle--bottles in hand, of course--and savor the moment.

photo courtesy of @H_Grove on twitter

of the Tribe's three straight AL Central division wins, this one was particularly exciting because it's the first time that Michael actually participated in the clinch game (going 2-for-3 with his 16th home run of the year) and wasn't on the DL due to injury! in the past, he was still able to celebrate afterwards with his teammates, albeit carefully as he was protecting his right shoulder after biceps tenodesis surgery in 2016 and nursing his right ankle in 2017, but this year i'm sure it was nice for him to be healthy while doing it!πŸ‘Œ (especially considering this is likely the final time he will celebrate a division title with the Indians...😞)

Dr. Smooth did a quick interview with Jim Rosenhaus for WTAM 1100 during all the hoopla. i could only transcribe a small portion of it. "it's a very special day. it's well-deserved by everyone in this locker room and this organization and i'm glad to be a part of it." when asked what makes this team special, Michael replied, "the way that we compete every day. we come to the ballpark with a positive attitude every day.'s been a great ride and i'm just glad to be a part of it."

"i'm savoring every moment of this," Michael proclaimed in Jordan Bastian's postgame article on "this never gets old to me. this is a lot of hard work that this group has put in to get to this point. it's all well-deserved, well-earned, and i'm glad to be a part of it."

Ryan Lewis had more from Michael in his article on in regards to ownership and the front office, "they've set out for one goal, just as we have as players, and i think it's going to be something special. this is step one of step three and four, but at the same time, you've got to enjoy these moments and embrace these moments."

"you understand how hard everybody worked to get here," Michael continued in Chris Assenheimer's article. "this is a group effort all the way around and i'm glad to be a part of it. we're trying to build something special here, and i think we're doing it."

"i want the guys to enjoy it, because sometimes they're young and they think they're going to do it all the time, and you don't," Francona remarked. "so, enjoy the heck out of it."

"it feels good to celebrate," Francisco Lindor confessed via Bastian's article, "give that little teaser to all the guys, like, 'this is what could happen if you continue to win.' now, we have to continue to compete day in and day out."

"i'm really trying to soak it in, because Tito's message was to soak it in," rookie Shane Bieber said. "it doesn't happen for a lot of teams every year. to have it be three in a row and have these guys know what they're doing, take me under their wing, really teach me how this club operates is big. i'm really enjoying it right now."

this postseason has more on the line than usual, as change is on the horizon for the squad. "it could be a lot of guys' last year here," Cody Allen admitted in Lewis' article. "you don't take this for granted. the city of Cleveland and this organization will, no matter what happens, hold a special place in all of our hearts."

Jason Kipnis echoed the reality that this team could look very different in 2019. "it hasn't been talked about as much, but amongst us, within that group, more or less this might be our last hurrah. there are a bunch of guys who are not going to be here next year with free agency and all that stuff. there's no guarantee myself, that i'll be around next year." way to bring the room down, y'all.😟

the FOX Sports Ohio youtube channel uploaded a lot of player interviews amid the chaos in the locker room. i'm going to link them here:

Cody Allen. "there's a lot of guys on this team that we've been very, very fortunate enough to be together for a very long time."

Yonder Alonso. "i love it. i want it in my eyes, i want it everywhere. this is the reason i came here obviously."

Trevor Bauer. "it's a lot of years of hard work getting to this point, people building their skills and work ethic and stuff like that, so that's great."

Shane Bieber. "if you would have asked me two years ago if i'd thought i'd be here, i'd be lying if i said, 'yeah.'"

Carlos Carrasco. "we need to finish the season really strong and start the postseason really strong, too."

Mike Clevinger. "i know we only had one game to go, so i wanted [today] to be the day."

Edwin Encarnacion. "you play for this. you play for winning and to go to the playoffs." (as for how to hit 30 home runs and get 100 RBI? "see it [the ball] and hit it. that's it." lol)

Yan Gomes. "we don't want to take this time for granted. there's... a lot of teams fight for what we're doing and we have a tremendous team. we're doing it three years in a row and there's no stopping us now, we got a long way to go still."

Jason Kipnis. "the regular season doesn't mean as much. this is what you want, you want to do it with the biggest stage."

Corey Kluber. "i think that we all realize how difficult this is to accomplish. it takes a lot of guys, a lot of people behind the scenes to get to this point and so i think you embrace it and have as much as fun as you can."

Francisco Lindor. "it's special. it means a lot. it's a dream, it's a dream come true. i never thought i was gonna be in this situation like this where you get to be in the postseason every single year."

Andrew Miller. "it's huge. you never want to take it for granted. winning a division's not easy, our goals are bigger than this. it shows what we can put together over six months. the first step is complete. we hope to get a lot more t-shirts and do this a few more times."

Jose Ramirez. "i'm very happy. thank god for us that we made it here another year. i'm really happy with everything that we've achieved, but we need to keep with the goal of winning the World Series."

1st base coach Sandy Alomar, Jr. "this year's been a little rough. problem with the bullpen, problem with injuries, and sometimes you just gotta grind it out. ...this team remind me so much of '97 because we didn't have a spectacular year in the regular season, but it was a grind. we had great players and we put it all together at the end and we went to the World Series."

President of Baseball Operations Chris Antonetti. "you can never take success for granted and it's really hard to get to this point and to do it three years in a row i think is a testament to all the guys in this clubhouse, our coaching staff, really an organizational effort."

once the champagne ran out, many of the players returned to the field, where their wives and families were waiting to greet them, according to Hammy.

after this W, the Indians now have 83 wins with 14 games to go. they likely won't reach my 94-68 preseason prediction, but that's okay. regular season records don't matter much when you get into the playoffs because anything can happen!

although the team pretty much had the division on lock since the year began due to the struggles of the other four teams within the AL Central (they've been in 1st place since April 21!), this was no easy feat. the Tribe faced several setbacks along the way, which isn't unusual.

first off, numerous key players dealt with injuries, including some of our top starters.

--Corey Kluber had a right knee issue and was shut down for week after receiving a gel injection, coinciding with the All Star Game and being unable to pitch.

--Carlos Carrasco went on the disabled list in mid-June after getting hit in the right forearm area and missed almost three weeks.

--Josh Tomlin struggled and was removed from the rotation before eventually going on the DL in July with a right hamstring strain, where he stayed for a month and a half.

--Danny Salazar was a non-factor after suffering an injury in the offseason. he began the year on the DL with what was named right shoulder rotator cuff tendinitis, and, after many valiant efforts to make a comeback, ultimately had season-ending surgery to clean up the inflammation and remove bursa on July 2.

--Trevor Bauer is currently on the DL after he was hit in the right ankle on August 11, which turned resulted in a small stress fracture of the right fibula.

so things haven't exactly been smooth sailing. yet, Kluber looks to be back in the running again for the AL Cy Young Award, Carrasco is having another strong season, Mike Clevinger became a mainstay starter and is having a career year, not to mention how their two rookie starters, Adam Plutko and Shane Bieber, have entered the rotation and have done an admirable job filling into the open spots.

the next big issue for the Tribe was how their bullpen was a mess for the first two months of the season.

--Andrew Miller had a tough time staying healthy and was placed on the DL three separate times: first for a left hamstring strain in April, then right knee inflammation in May, and lastly an impingement in his left shoulder at the end of August. but he's back now and so far looks like he's headed to becoming the Miller from 2016 again.

--Nick Goody was placed on the DL in May with right elbow inflammation and had season-ending surgery on August 31.

--Zach McAllister had a disappointing year and was DFA'd in August.

--Tyler Olson struggled and missed time with a left latissimus dorsi strain before being optioned to Columbus for a bit.

--Dan Otero has not been as reliable this season as he was in 2017.

--Cody Allen, who became the franchise leader in saves on July 4, recently had some hiccups as well, but currently righted his wrongs on the mound.

the pen this year isn't what it was last year. the Indians called up a number of guys from Triple A, many of whom they signed to minor league deals in the offseason and had never pitched in the majors with the Tribe before. while some didn't pan out, a few did. Oliver Perez and Neil Ramirez became important pieces of the pen and helped get it back on track. they also acquired Brad Hand and Adam Cimber before the trade deadline. getting Hand was huge because now the Indians basically have three closers and if all three are healthy and pitching their best, well, the opposition should be afraid. very afraid. the pen looks pretty solid now, but it definitely took a while to get here.

finally, let's talk about our injured outfielders. i know a lot of people didn't believe Michael Brantley was going to stay healthy this year, but guess what? he did and thank GOD he did because pretty much everybody else got hurt. (Michael is also going to be a candidate for AL Comeback Player of the Year since he returned to his high level of play self. but i digress.)

--Lonnie Chisenhall strained his right calf in early April and was on the DL for two months. but after returning in June, he went back on the DL a month later in July with a left calf strain and he is not going to return this year.

--Bradley Zimmer went on the DL on May 15 with a left rib contusion, was activated on June 1, then optioned to Columbus when Chiz came off the DL. barely a week after being down in Triple A, Zimmer injured his right shoulder and had labral tear surgery on July 15. he's done for the year.

--who else isn't going to play in the postseason? Tyler Naquin. he didn't open the year with the Tribe, but was recalled when Chiz got hurt. but Naquin went on the DL twice: first with a left hamstring strain in May and then a right hip strain in late July. he underwent hip surgery to stabilize a stress reaction on August 2, and though he's recovering quickly, he won't be on the playoff roster.

to make up for all these injured guys, the Tribe had to rely on the likes of Greg Allen, Rajai Davis, and Melky Cabrera, who wasn't even anywhere in the organization on Opening Day. the Tribe signed Cabrera to a minor league deal in late April, but he needed reps because he did not play a spring training anywhere, so he went to extended spring and then down to Columbus. the Tribe called him up on May 20, DFA'd him on June 14 (roster move casualty), then re-signed him to a minor league deal on July 5 and brought him up for good on July 20. he's performed very well in his second go-round, i might add.

--Brandon Guyer had a slow start to the year with his bat and spent about three weeks on the DL with a cervical neck strain.

--to solidify their OF for the playoffs, the Indians made a trade for Leonys Martin on July 31. but after playing in six games with the Tribe, he contracted a life-threatening bacterial infection. after getting treated at Cleveland Clinic, he's expected to make a full recovery, but will not be able to return to baseball activities this year.

the only area of the team that didn't deal with a massive amount of injuries was the infield. that said, DH/1B Edwin Encarnacion dealt with a minor injury. he got hit in the right hand the day before the All Star Break. he ended up with a bone bruise, which greatly affected his performance at the plate, and he had to alter how he held the bat after making contact with a ball. he then developed a swollen left biceps and the Indians put him on the DL on August 12. he returned 10 days later and so did his power.

so you can clearly see that the adversity this year was real. on the bright side, as has been the case in the past couple seasons, every time a guy went down, somebody else filled in and positively contributed to the squad. their motto of "next man up" really holds true and this group of Indians is the epitome of a team. while there hasn't been anything close to a 22-game win streak this time around, i don't think that's necessary. and i don't think you should count them out against any of the tough teams the might face in October. they acquired Josh Donaldson on August 31 and recently activated him from the DL. that could be the final piece that helps them finally win the whole thing this year. we will soon find out!

now that we are officially going to the postseason, for the 14th time in club history and fourth time in Terry Francona's six seasons as Tribe manager, i might add what are your predictions? will the Indians beat the Houston Astros in the American League Division Series and is it possible for the Tribe to gain home field advantage in that series? also, which two teams do you think will face off in the ALCS and World Series? is this the Indians' year? will the 70-year championship drought finally come to an end? leave all your guesses and thoughts in the comments below!πŸ’­

don't forget to keep following me on twitter @clevelandgirl23 for all the latest on Michael, including live tweets of everything he does during games. i've also still got a couple weeks to go with my #CelebratingMichaelBrantley series, too. i'm going to spotlight some special memories from Michael's career with the Indians on each Monday that's left in the regular season, but there will be several anniversary date postings towards the end of the month as well. besides that, i'll likely continue to tweet some things in October as/if the Indians advance in the playoffs. you can revisit the celebration by searching the hashtag and looking back through the thread. feel free to share your favorite moments from Michael's time in Cleveland because i'd love to hear them!πŸŽ‰

and if you want to receive notifications when i publish new blogs, then sign up to be on my subscription list. just enter your email address in the box underneath the Blog Archive sidebar over on the upper right side of this page and you'll be all set!πŸ“§

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