Opinion: Rajai Davis homer worth the World Series disappointment

Dan Armelli

I felt every bit of human emotion during the 24 hours following the Cleveland Indians Game 7 World Series loss to the Chicago Cubs.

As with any seven-game series, there were a lot of angles at play, all of which made for an emotional World Series.

Ultimately, the Indians’ championship hopes cruelly came down to the bat of Michael Martinez, the journeyman utility player called into action for defensive purposes. A Martinez dribbler to third was the final nail in the Indians’ coffin.

So many times during that series, I had a bad feeling about the Indians’ chances. When I saw Martinez come to the plate, I had a feeling the Tribe used up their last miracle when Rajai Davis lined one to the home run porch in the eighth.

But let’s rewind for a moment.

I was in downtown Cleveland for the Cavaliers’ Game 7 win in the NBA Finals, and will never forget the elation I was able to share with my friends and thousands of other strangers. I wanted to feel that again, which was one of the multiple reasons I wanted to see the Tribe pull off the second Cleveland championship in five months.

The Tribe went up 3-1 in the World Series, a position almost no one outside of Cleveland thought could happen – and for good reason.

The Indians were down their second man in the rotation, pitcher Carlos Carrasco, who got hit in the wrist on a liner in his last start of the season. Another starter, all-star Danny Salazar, barely made the World Series roster after recovering from a forearm injury.

The Indians only had their best hitter, Michael Brantley, for 11 games this year after a shoulder injury lingered and forced him to be shut down for the rest of the season.

Starting catcher Yan Gomes, who got hit in the wrist during a separate rehab stint, received limited playing time in the playoffs.

The Indians used a three-man rotation headed by ace Corey Kluber, back end starter Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer, who opened the year in the bullpen.

Roberto Perez and his .183 batting average took over for Yan Gomes and hit two home runs in the Indians’ Game 1 win.

Jose Ramirez, who seemingly came out of nowhere this season, took over Brantley’s offensive productivity and became the Tribe’s every day third baseman during the year.

Jason Kipnis, who played with a grade-two ankle sprain – which looked like a softball growing out of his foot – hit .290 with two homers against his childhood team in the World Series.

The most production, both offensively and defensively, for the Indians came from Francisco Lindor.

On top of it all, the greatest Indians home run of all time came from a 35-year-old free agent who led the American League in stolen bases with 43.

Rajai Davis made everything I went through in that week so worth it.

For Game 1 of the World Series, I returned to the scene where I had watched the Cavs end the Cleveland championship drought. When the Indians needed one game to clinch a championship of their own, I went back again and again.

In the span of eight days, I drove four times from Kent to Cleveland and back. I spent a lot of money, mileage and time on trying to recreate that special moment Kyrie Irving gave me June 19.

Down two runs in the bottom of the eighth with a runner on second and two outs, Rajai Davis gave me his version of “The Shot.”

I celebrated as if the Indians had won, still knowing they had a long way to go, to actually accomplish that. But the Tribe had no business being where Davis just took them: tied in the in the bottom of the eighth in the winner-take-all-game of the World Series.

Down 5-1 and 6-3 at different times, a day removed from getting creamed 9-3 to the Cubs, deep down I knew the game was over.

Given all of that, the Davis home run made the struggle worth it. All I wanted was a chance, and Davis gave the Indians just that.

I’d be lying if I said I can re-watch Davis’ home run without developing a pit in my stomach, knowing the Indians came just short of pulling off the best World Series in MLB history. I’m still not over the loss and probably won’t be until the Indians actually win a championship.

It still hurts to talk about the Indians, their season and the World Series. There are times I haven’t been able to watch SportsCenter.

But the Indians delivered in a way that I truly did not believe they could – even for a resilient group like them. For that, I am proud and thankful, even in defeat.

Dan Armelli is a columnist, contact him at [email protected]