The countdown of the top 16 Indians moments in 2016 continues. If you missed Part 1, click here.
10. Tribe Rotation Pitches 3 Complete Games in 4 Days
There were so many memorable performances from the Indians’ 14-game winning streak that it’s impossible to reduce it to just a few. But one that stands out was a moment when the Tribe rotation really flexed their muscle and showed just how hard it was going to be for any team to match them on the mound. Over the course of four games in late June, Tribe starting pitchers hurled three complete games, including two shutouts.
Corey Kluber led the way, as he so often does, blanking the Rays 6-0, yielding just three hits and striking out nine. The very next night, Trevor Bauer held the same Tampa squad to one run on three hits, whiffing 10. The Tribe then headed up to Detroit where Carlos Carrasco stifled the Tigers 6-0, allowing only four hits and a walk against seven strikeouts.
9. Merritt Baffles Jays in Second Career Start
Before the season started, if someone told you the Indians would play an ALCS elimination game in Toronto, you might have believed them. If that person told you Ryan Merritt would start that game, you might have assumed there was a labor lockout, and the league was using replacement players.
Ryan Merritt’s a soft-tossing lefty drafted in the 16th round from community college. He had one career Major League start. His 11 career innings were the fewest ever for a starting pitcher in an ALCS game. He was never supposed to start a game like this. But that’s why baseball is the absolute best. Not only did he start, he pitched 4.1 scoreless innings, slicing through a potent Toronto lineup, and sent his team to the World Series.
8. Bauer’s Heroic Relief Effort to Extend Winning Streak
The Tribe had won 13 in a row, dating back to Carlos Santana’s walk off bomb against the White Sox (appearing at #11 on this list). Each of the five Cleveland starting pitchers were on a roll, determined to avoid being the guy who broke the streak. In that spirit, Josh Tomlin gave the team six quality innings of one-run ball. But he didn’t get enough run support.
The 1-1 game went to extra innings, and by the 14th inning, Terry Francona had run out of relievers. Trevor Bauer, scheduled to start the following day, volunteered to take the ball on short rest and go as long as he could to preserve the winning streak. All he did was pitch five innings of scoreless, two-hit ball. It was one of the gutsiest performances in recent memory. Most importantly, it kept the Blue Jays at bay long enough for Carlos Santana to hit yet another clutch homer in the top of the 19th, extending the franchise-record winning streak to 14.
7. Coco’s Blast Over the Green Monster
Grabbing Coco Crisp at the trade deadline was a quiet move by the Indians’ brass. It was seen simply as insurance for Abraham Almonte’s looming postseason ban. While Coco may have never been a fan favorite during his early years in Cleveland, the Tribe faithful won’t soon forget what he did in Game 3 of the ALDS.
With the Tribe leading 2-1 in the sixth, Crisp came to bat against Boston’s Drew Pomeranz with Jose Ramirez on second base. The 36-year old veteran saw a pitch he liked and lofted it over the wall in left, giving the Indians a 4-1 lead. They would go on to win 4-3 in a clean sweep of the Red Sox.
6. Clinching the Central in Detroit
Dating back to 2001, the Indians had only won the AL Central once in 14 seasons. Meanwhile, the Tigers won the division in four straight seasons from 2011-2014. That recent dominance made the 2016 clincher, on Detroit’s home turf, even sweeter.
5. Miller’s Playoff Heroics
Indians fans knew they were getting a lights-out reliever when they acquired Andrew Miller at the trade deadline. But no one could have predicted the monster that would be unleashed on the 2016 postseason. In 10 appearances, Miller went 19.1 innings, with a ridiculous 30 strikeouts. He was rightfully awarded the ALCS MVP award. Best of all, he’s under team control for the next two seasons as the Tribe looks to get back to the World Series.
4. Naquin’s Infamous Inside the Parker
You knew this was going to appear somewhere on the list. No recap of the 2016 season would be complete without paying homage to one of the most exciting plays in all of sports this year.
Down 3-2 in the ninth, Jose Ramirez blasted one into the seats, giving the Indians new life to tie the score at 3-3. Little did we know that would only set the stage for an even more incredible home run to win the game. It was the kind of moment that will be ingrained in every fan’s mind for decades.
3. Rajai’s Clutch Game 7 Homer
It’s hard to include a moment from a game that fans are still trying to heal from. But Rajai Davis’ shot to the Home Run Porch in the eighth inning to tie the game off of Aroldis Chapman was magical in its own right. The Indians fought like crazy to score enough runs to paper over a pitching staff that had been taxed to its limit. Facing one of the best relievers in the history of the game, Rajai Davis punched a 98-mph fastball just over the wall in left to give the Indians one last chance to win a World Series. Let’s all pretend that time stopped in that moment, though.
2. Kluber’s Untouchable Game 1 Performance
Even with all the energy and pressure of a World Series Game 1, it came as no surprise that Corey Kluber looked calm, composed, and lethal on the mound. He was nothing short of brilliant. Six shutout innings, nine strikeouts. Again and again, he made some of the best hitters in the world look silly. He’s widely recognized as one of the best pitchers in the game, but that performance, on that stage, reminded us all that he is as untouchable as any pitcher alive.
1. Santana’s ALCS Game 5 Catch
The image of Carlos Santana, on his knees, hands raised towards the heavens, will forever be etched in Indians history. Like Naquin’s devil horns salute, it almost seemed planned. Santana grabbed the pop fly, dropped to his knees, and threw his arms to the sky, almost in one fluid motion. The Indians, and their fans, were finally returning to the World Series. It was the greatest Indians moment of 2016, and nothing else really comes close. We can only hope that Carlos catches a pop fly in the same fashion next year, clinching the World Series.