Opinion: The 2017 Indians are on a date with destiny

Jack Kopanski

Jack Kopanski

Nothing can be taken away from the success of the 2016 Cleveland Indians.

That was a squad that had some of the most fun I’ve ever seen a team have on a baseball field, and had they not run into a Cubs team on a date with destiny, they would have been hoisting the Commissioner’s Trophy.

The team came together and got hot at the right times, at one point rattling off 14 straight wins mid-summer.

How guys like Mike Napoli, Rajai Davis and Tyler Naquin became the heroes they did last year, all with Michael Brantley sidelined, is beyond me.

With the combination of timely hitting, consistent starting pitching and the ace-in-the-hole named Andrew Miller they acquired at the trade deadline, the 2016 Indians easily had one of the most impressive seasons in franchise history.

After last year’s impressive run by the Indians, it seemed like no team could match the success of that 2016 team, this current squad being no exception.

Twenty games ago, the Indians were nothing more than a team leading a weak American League Central Division, looking bound for an early exit from the playoffs.

The hitting remained streaky, injuries started piling up and, while they had a solid record at the time (69-56), the Red Sox and Astros were still the teams no one wanted to go up against.

Fast forward nearly a calendar month from the last time the Indians lost a game on Aug. 23. What’s happened in that time has been nothing short of spectacular, and now has me believing that, as strong and magical as last season was, this is the team that is going to bring home the hardware in October.

Let’s review all that’s happened in those 21 games.

Corey Kluber propelled himself into the AL Cy Young lead (thanks also in part to Chris Sale’s recent implosion).

He racked up four wins in four starts, 35 strikeouts over 32 innings, has given up only five runs and, to put the cherry on top of their 21-game streak, he nonchalantly threw a complete game shutout.

In other words, #CyKluber.

The Tribe laid the wood to Sale to begin this streak, tacking him for a career-high seven runs and lasting only three innings. What pitcher could possibly get a good night’s sleep, knowing they have to face a team that is in the top 10 in runs scored, batting average and RBIs?

While Jose Ramirez’s MVP discussion has cooled down significantly since earlier this summer, he is still a force to be reckoned with at the plate. Throw in the fact that Francisco Lindor is hitting bombs and that Edwin Encarnacion is looking like the player fans were hoping he would look like at the start of the season, and you’ve got an unstoppable force that will win any matchup against an immovable object.

Plus, last time I checked, the Indians have the best bullpen in baseball.

Cody Allen is as dominant as they come in the ninth inning, Joe Smith is filling in perfectly as a seventh/eighth inning man while Andrew Miller is sidelined and Bryan Shaw seems to be making the slow transition from pariah to prized.

It’s not just them, though. Guys like Nick Goody and Tyler Olson have held down middle-relief like it’s their job.

This streak propelled the Indians into first place in the AL, putting them just four games behind the Dodgers for the best record in the majors.

Say what you will about the opponents the Tribe faced in those 21 games, but, in a sport like baseball, winning is never guaranteed. There’s a reason it’s been 15 years since any team has won 21 straight games; it’s been over 80 years since a team won 21 straight.

Last year’s team was a blast to watch. But, just like last year’s championship Cubs team, the 2017 Indians are a team of destiny.

Roll Tribe.

Jack Kopanski is a columnist. Contact at [email protected].