As 2016 comes to an end, it’s a perfect time to look back on a great year in Cleveland Indians baseball. The 2016 Tribe was a 94-win team that led MLB with 11 walkoff wins, and played all the way through extra innings in Game 7 of the World Series. In a season like that, there is no shortage of exciting and memorable moments. I’ve chosen the top 16 moments and performances from an unforgettable 2016.
Honorable Mentions: World Series Game 1 sharing a night with Cavs’ ring ceremony, Jose Ramirez’s orange hair and flying helmet, Lonnie Chisenhall’s ALDS blast off David Price, Juan Uribe’s reason for not wearing a cup, and so many more.
16. Josh Tomlin’s Extra Special Game 3 Win
It may be a cliché, but baseball is a game of fathers and sons. Tomlin almost lost his father this summer to a heart condition. Paralyzed from the chest down, Jerry Tomlin needed months of rehab before he was finally stable enough to travel – and see his son pitch Game 3 of the World Series. Tomlin went 4.2 extremely strong innings, yielding only 2 hits and no runs. Tribe fans won’t soon forget the image of Jerry Tomlin at Wrigley Field, beer in hand, cheering on his son Josh.
15. Tribe Starts Season 11-0 Against Tigers
For most of the last decade, Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander have led the Tigers to dominance over the Indians. It seemed like the Tribe could never quite gain an edge on the Tigers. That changed in a massive way this season, as the Indians swept the first 3 series en route to 11 straight wins against the division rivals.
One of the quirks of this year’s regular season schedule was that the Tigers and Indians’ rotation lined up for Josh Tomlin to face Justin Verlander three times in the first half of the season. In those three tilts, Tomlin went a combined 20.2 IP, allowing 19 hits, 2 walks, and a 2.04 ERA. Verlander stumbled to an 0-3 record thanks to a 9.17 ERA in 16.2 innings.
14. The Unintentional Bullpen Game, Regular Season Edition
Maybe this should go down in history as The Paul Hoynes Game. This game led the veteran beat writer to make an ill-fated proclamation about the Indians’ playoff chances. On the second pitch of the game, Ian Kinsler ripped a line drive off Carlos Carrasco’s right wrist, ending his season. In one of the most impressive feats of the entire season, the bullpen went to work.
Jeff Manship, Kyle Crockett, Cody Anderson, Zach McAllister, Perci Garner, Bryan Shaw, Cody Allen, and Andrew Miller stepped in, one after the other, to throw a combined 10-inning, 4-hit shutout of the Tigers. The Indians bullpen was a strength of the team all season long, but this was the game where it became clear they owned the best and deepest pen in all of MLB in 2016.
13. The Unintentional Bullpen Game, Playoff Edition
When a team is unexpectedly forced to use its bullpen for an entire game, it’s not usually a good sign. The Indians were fortunate enough to pull out the September win after Carrasco’s injury, but asking the bullpen to do it again in a road ALCS game against a potent Blue Jays lineup seemed like way too much to ask. But when Trevor Bauer’s drone-mangled pinky started gushing blood in the bottom of the first inning, that’s exactly what happened.
The bullpen gutted out 8.1 innings of 2-run ball to bring the Indians one win away from the AL Pennant.
12. Indians Acquire Andrew Miller
With the benefit of hindsight, one would probably point to the Indians’ trade for Andrew Miller as the first sign of a new philosophy within the organization. For years, the Indians were notoriously risk-averse, especially when it came to dealing away top prospects. But the front office saw an opportunity to add a bullpen arm that can really impact a game. In order to get Andrew Miller, they had to take on his significant salary and part with two of their most prized prospects in Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield.
11. Santana’s Walk-Off Blast
So much has happened that it’s easy to forget that for the first couple months of the season, the White Sox looked like the team to beat in the AL Central. They jumped out to a 23-10 record on May 9th, and then things fell apart. On June 17th, the White Sox came to Cleveland at 33-33, desperate to stop the bleeding. For their part, the Indians were standing at 35-30, having lost three in a row, in need of a win to stay atop the division.
The Tribe managed to hand a 2-1 lead to closer Cody Allen in the ninth, who blew his second save of the season. He managed to get out of the inning, which brought Carlos Santana to the plate to lead off a tie game in the ninth. Tom Hamilton can take it from there.