CLEVELAND — Question: Was Indians manager Terry Francona frantically worried on Tuesday about the possibility of blowing the AL Division Series in Wednesday’s deciding Game 5 against the Yankees?
After all, the Indians did have a 2-0 series lead when they left Progressive Field on Friday and needed just one more win to move on to the ALCS. It’s not unlike last year’s World Series, when the Indians led the Cubs 3-1 and had three cracks to bring a long-awaited title to the shores of Lake Erie.
They did not get that win. The Cubs won three straight and the World Series.
Answer: Francona is the guy who managed the Red Sox when they trailed the Yankees 3-0 in the 2004 ALCS . . . and won. And reversed the curse. And won the franchise’s first World Series title since 1918.
So Francona was anything but worried during his news conference on Tuesday, which he opened by asking a local reporter what the Cavaliers’ new starting lineup will be. Here are a few of Francona’s best riffs going into Corey Kluber vs. CC Sabathia for all the ALDS marbles on Wednesday night:
- Asked if he could do anything to help MVP candidate Jose Ramirez (2-for-17 in the series) relax, Francona said: “Do you want me to give him like a Xanax?”
- Asked if having Kluber pitching gave him “solace,” Francona said: “I think I know what solace means. I’m not exactly positive.”
- Asked about the idea of the Indians possibly being tight in losing their last five games which a chance to close out a postseason series, Francona said: “I think there are so many things that are within a game that sometimes between winning and losing [there] is so little margin. Like the other night, if Judge is 6-foot-2, we win. And everybody’s like, ‘My God, you guys swept ’em.’ There’s a lot going on in between that I think people lose sight of. I don’t think you’re just either dumb or smart or good or bad.”
Francona was referring to when 6-7 Aaron Judge scaled the rightfield wall at the Stadium to rob Francisco Lindor of a two-run home run in Sunday’s 1-0 Yankees victory in Game 3.
Francona, especially with his experience in the 2004 ALCS and last year’s World Series, knows no series lead is safe and what happened before doesn’t necessarily affect what happens next. Each game, each inning, each pitch is separate. That’s part of what Francona told his team in a 30-second meeting after Monday’s Game 4 loss at Yankee Stadium.
“Our job is to just win the game we’re playing,” he said. “If you do that, it makes it a lot easier. When you get put in these situations, the coaches, myself, the players, we have something to fall back on. What’s our goal? To win the next game.”
So to recap: No, Francona is not worried.
“We believe in those guys,” he said. “For us to get where we’re going, those guys will help get us there. It’s not always going to be 72 and sunny. We realize that. You’ve got to fight through it together and that’s what we intend to do.”