While the Yankees spent Saturday reeling from Friday’s American League Division Series loss, the Indians came to Yankee Stadium like a team with hardly a care in the world.
Well, one care: Finishing off the Yankees and advancing to the American League Championship Series.
The Indians enter Sunday night’s Game 3 with a two-games-to-none lead in the best-of-five series. They have 18-game winner Carlos Carrasco slated to face Masahiro Tanaka.
After losing last year’s World Series to the Cubs in the 10th inning of Game 7 — after taking a three-games-to-one lead in the series — manager Terry Francona knows nothing is guaranteed. But he’d rather be in his position than Joe Girardi’s right now.
“We’re not there yet,” Francona said. “We came really close last year. I mean, we have work to go in this series. And then if you’re fortunate enough to move on, you’ve got a lot of work to go. It’s hard to win.”
The Indians won a game for the ages on Friday when they rallied from an 8-3 deficit and beat the Yankees, 9-8, in 13 innings. From Francisco Lindor’s grand slam to Jay Bruce’s tying home run to Yan Gomes’ walk-off single, Cleveland had big moments aplenty. And that was after ace Corey Kluber allowed six runs in 2 2⁄3 innings.
“[Friday’s] game, win or lose, I was so honored to go through that game with our guys, because it was fun through the ups and downs,” Francona said. “We had some downs in that game, but you go through them together. And that’s kind of how I feel about the whole season . . . I like these guys. I like going through the journey with them. It’s fun.”
Francona even got good news about designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion, who left the game in the first inning after suffering what appeared to be a nasty ankle injury on a play at second base. Encarnacion has improved to the point that Francona said he might play on Sunday, although he is more likely to sit.
“He’s doing much better,” Francona said. “I don’t think he’s going to start, but he’s not been ruled out either. So we’ll take our time and allow to him continue to get treatment. But if he’s that close to being available, that’s a really good sign. So we’re obviously not going to do anything roster-wise.”
If Encarnacion can’t start, Francona has Michael Brantley ready to step in as the DH. Brantley is just returning from his own ankle problems and Francona had plans to start him in leftfield in Game 3. Brantley replaced Encarnacion on Friday and went 0-for-5.
Brantley missed Cleveland’s postseason run in 2016 because of injury. He has worked hard to get back for this one, which the Indians hope lasts all month.
“We don’t have a crystal ball,” Francona said. “We don’t know how it’s going to end.”
But they know when they’d like this round to end. On Sunday.