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Commentary: Indians fine with celebrating last year's success, but are ready to focus on making new memories

  • White-Sox-Indians-Baseball-6

    Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco delivers in the first inning of a baseball game against the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday during opening day in Cleveland.

    TONY DEJAK / AP

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CLEVELAND — Extra innings. An opponent from Chicago. Bryan Shaw on the mound in the 10th inning.

Not again.

In the first game at Progressive Field since the World Series Game 7 loss to the Cubs, deja vu was beginning to settle in Tuesday.

Until it wasn’t.

Starter Carlos Carrasco, the bullpen and a great defensive play by rookie third baseman Yandy Diaz allowed the Indians to hang around long enough to rewrite the ending.

Francisco Lindor walked with two outs in the 10th and Michael Brantley doubled down the left-field line to send him sprinting home for the walk-off winner, 2-1 over the White Sox. A perfect ending to what many consider a perfect day.

Shaw got the win, Brantley the adulation, Lindor the award for player of the game.

The home opener obviously isn’t in the same galaxy as Game 7 in importance. But the two were connected by the packed ballpark and the pregame celebration of the American League championship.

“The ring ceremony before the game, I think Tito said it best: It’s the last chance to kind of reflect and enjoy the run from last year and I think as soon as the first pitch is thrown, the page is turned,” second baseman Jason Kipnis said.

“We know how special it was last year and we know how much fun the city and ourselves had. I think one peek into the yearbook isn’t going to hurt before we do this, but I think this team is ready to turn the page. But we’ll enjoy ourselves today.”

Perhaps no one more than Brantley.

He quickly regained his composure after being mobbed by teammates on the infield and was his stoic self in the postgame interview. But he conceded the special nature of the moment.

“You don’t really feel your body. You’re jumping around and waiting to get wet,” he said of the standard on-field dousing from teammates.

Brantley was the Tribe’s best player until shoulder surgeries sidelined him for much of the last two seasons, including all but 11 games last year. He was around for the run to the World Series and received a diamond-encrusted ring, but his use of pronouns made it clear he didn’t feel a part of the October experience.

“They worked so hard for it last year. They accomplished so much. We accomplished so much,” he said, correcting himself.

Brantley and Lindor might be the team’s two best players. Brantley finished third in the MVP voting in 2014, and Lindor seems on a similar trajectory. He showed power with a homer in the first, unselfishness with a sacrifice bunt in the eighth and athleticism with the winning hustle home.

Lindor talked about his desire to upgrade his new jewelry for one that accompanies a World Series title. Kipnis echoed the sentiment.

The goal for this season is obvious and seems attainable. The return of Brantley and the free agent signing of first baseman Edwin Encarnacion, despite his slow start and ugly 0-for-4 Tuesday, add depth, experience and patience to the lineup.

For closer Cody Allen, who struck out all three batters he faced, the aggressive offseason by the front office made the Game 7 heartbreak easier to digest.

“With the additions and everything that we had made, I’d say it was pretty easy to get over it, to be excited for 2017,” Allen said. “We can’t get from April to October tomorrow. So we’ve got to focus on today.”

The Indians were successful in that area Tuesday. They didn’t give in when they could’ve become frustrated by missed opportunities. They did enough things well. They got great pitching and two big hits.

Manager Terry Francona said it’s easy to get excited in October. It can be hard to do the right things in April.

“It’s the teams that grind through that give yourselves a better chance to play later when it’s in front of the whole world,” he said.

And for the franchise’s first world championship since 1948.

Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him @scottpetrak on Twitter.



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