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The Yearning Not to Be Yanked Away



What was I thinking? In October of 1996 I was reeling from the stunning series loss of the Indians in the ALDS against the Baltimore Orioles. Seemingly in the blink of an eye, the defending American League champs were out of the playoffs in just four games.


Once the World Series rolled around it was Atlanta Braves vs. the New York Yankees. The Braves had defeated the Indians in the previous World Series, I did something of which now I cannot fathom doing ever again....I cheered for the Yankees to win.


After falling behind 2-0, they won 4 straight including Game 6 at Yankee Stadium, their first championship since 1978. And as a naïve 12 year boy I was happy about it.


It didn't take long for my feelings about the team to change a year later when those same Yankees went up 2-1 against my beloved Cleveland Indians in the 1997 ALDS. That's when I suddenly realized that this franchise was to be hated.


Thankfully on the cusp of another quick playoff exit, Sandy Alomar blasted an opposite field homer off Mariano Rivera to tie the score in Game 4 at 2-2 which propelled the Tribe to an amazing, thrilling ride to Game 7 of the World Series that year.


Those Darn Yankees


Little did I know that 1997 would be the only year the Yankees wouldn't reach the World Series from 1996-2001. They'd go on to win three straight championships from 1998-2000 and four of five overall. The "Evil Empire" as they were sometimes referred to now ruled the baseball world.


In a sense, the mid-to-late 90's Cleveland Indians were stuck from reaching more World Series because of this Yankees dynasty; even if only once did they defeat us directly in the playoffs.


That was in the 1998 ALCS. Boasting in an American League record 114 wins (at that time), the 1998 Yankees seemed invincible crushing the Indians in Game 1 by a score of 7-2, Cleveland handed New York their only losses in the playoffs that year in Games 2 and 3.


Game 3 was an electrifying 6-1 win which featured 4 homers blasted by the Indians, including 3 in the 4-run 5th. Unfortunately, the Yankees rebounded to win the next three games to take the series 4-2.


It was the first sting of defeat the Yankees dealt us in the playoffs. Fast forward nearly a quarter of a century later and much has changed while remaining the same.


The Yankees may only have one championship since 2000, but continue to be a thorn in Cleveland's side continuing to possess the appropriate title as the "Bronx Bombers."




Indeed Cleveland baseball fans have grown to hate those "darn" Yankees. Why? Perhaps it's the 27 World Series championships that the franchise boasts about when Cleveland has the longest running drought in professional sports at 75 years and counting.


Or maybe it's the seemingly unlimited payroll the team operates off on buying the best free agents off the market year after year while Cleveland has always struggled to keep their star players from leaving.


But in recent memory it's not hard to know the reason why the hatred runs so deep. The Cleveland Guardians currently have lost 3 straight playoff series against the Yankees dating back to 2017. Their regular season record against New York since that devastating 2017 ALDS is an awful 12-21 (through yesterday's game on May 2nd).


Before we take a quick look back at the past few years of frustration in facing off against the Yankees, let's reminisce of some good memories against New York:


Bronx Beatdowns


The Cleveland Indians have handed the Yankees three of their worst losses in franchise history during the regular season.


The first was on August 31st, 2004 in which the Tribe annihilated the Bronx Bombers for their worst shutout ever at home. The final score was a mind boggling 22-0!


At that time the Indians were rebuilding while the Yankees were coming off a World Series appearance in 2003. Omar Vizquel tied a franchise record with 6 hits in 7 at bats while driving in 4 runs.


Just two years later, on the 4th of July at home, the Cleveland Indians once more humiliated the Yankees by a final score of 19-1! They blasted 5 homers with Jhonny Peralta and Travis Hafner both hitting 2 homers each.


Lastly, in 2009 the Yankees opened their new ballpark against the Cleveland Indians in mid-April. After winning the opening game, the Tribe walloped New York for another complete beatdown by the final score of 22-4!


In the second inning, the Indians scored a franchise record 14 runs, putting up two touchdowns with 6 total homers in the game! The 2009 team would go on to lose 97 games in a miserable year, but this was easily the highlight of that season.




2007 ALDS


There were no big blowouts wins for the Tribe in the 2007 regular season, in fact there were no wins at all to be found. Cleveland was swept in both series home and away posting a 0-6 record heading into the ALDS.


Thanks to possessing home field advantage, the Indians destroyed the Yankees in a 12-3 win in Game 1, then with the help of insect midges off the lake Erie, won a memorable Game 2 in 11 innings 2-1.


After losing Game 3 at Yankee Stadium, manager Eric Wedge had Paul Byrd pitch Game 4 in what was considered a risky move.


The move paid off as Cleveland crushed Yankee starter Chien-Ming Wang for 4 runs in the 1st inning and held on for dear life for a close 6-4 victory to win the 2007 ALDS.


This win marked the end of Joe Torre's tenure as manager for the Yankees and the franchise's last playoff game ever held at the historic Yankee Stadium. The Indians clearly had the bragging rights over the Bronx Bombers at this point but then it all changed a decade later....




2017 ALDS


In 2017, the two franchises met again in the playoffs with completely new rosters under much different circumstances. The Indians has just completed an amazing month of September with an American League record 22 straight wins, including their first sweep at Yankee Stadium (August 28-30) since April of 1989.


For the first time ever, the Cleveland Indians were picked as favorites to beat the Yankees in the series. As the defending American League champs, owners of 102 regular season wins, and home field advantage it was largely assumed that the team would have little problem beating the Bronx Bombers.


Despite an odd decision by Tito Francona to start Trevor Bauer over ace Corey Kluber, the Tribe easily won the opener 4-0 in a shutout victory at home. Then disaster seemed to fall on the Indians in Game 2 when slugger Edwin Encarnacion got hurt in the bottom of the 1st inning attempting to go back to 2nd base on a pickoff play.


New York would wallop Kluber early and often taking a commanding 8-3 lead in the 5th. But shockingly the Indians roared back to life thanks in part to Francisco Lindor's majestic grand slam off the right field foul pole in the bottom of the 6th and a game tying opposite field homer off of Jay Bruce's bat in the 8th.


It took an exhausting 5 plus hours and 13 innings before the Indians won on a Yan Gomes single in an epic 10 pitch at bat to take Game 2.


Up 2-0 in the series headed to New York, the 2017 Cleveland Indians looked well on their way to the ALCS. Then the wheels came off and the magic was gone in a blink of an eye.


In the next 3 games, the Indians scored a combined 5 runs while committing 7 errors; blowing a 2-0 series lead, which lead to having to watch the hated Yankees celebrating at Jacobs Field after a 5-2 win in Game 5...with Aroldis Chapman on the mound no less.


The Script Has Been Flipped


While the Yankees still haven't reached the World Series since 2009, the script has been flipped for the two franchises. The Indians (now Guardians) won one more division title in 2018, but seemed to sleep walk through the regular season, then were destroyed against the Houston Astros in a 3 game sweep in the ALDS.


After failing to make the playoffs in 2019 despite 93 wins, the 2020 Indians in the bizarre pandemic 60 game season reached the playoffs as a wild card. Their opponent in the opening series? The New York Yankees.


Eventual Cy Young award winner Shane Bieber was on the mound in Game 1 of a thee-game series, all at home in front of NO fans. The Yankees crushed him for seven runs in four and two-thirds innings in a 12-3 loss.


Despite scoring 4 in the first inning of the do-or-die Game 2, the Yankees fought back to take an 8-6 lead in the 6th. Cleveland tied the score at 6-6 in the bottom of the 7th and took the lead in the bottom of the 8th, 9-8.


But Brad Hand couldn't close out the game in the 9th as New York scored twice and won 10-9 to sweep the wild card series.


As heavy underdogs in last year's 2022 ALDS the Guardians came in as the youngest team in baseball. The two teams were direct opposites of one another.


The Yankees were indeed the Bronx Bombers boasting an offensive homerun hitting juggernaut led by Aaron Judge who broke the American League record of homers with 62 last season.


Meanwhile the Guardians were second to last in long flies in baseball relying on making contact and their hustle baserunning.


The Yankees won Game 1 at home, then the Guardians came through with thrilling wins in Game 2 at New York which was in 10 innings and a 6-5 walk-off win at home in Game 3 with Oscar Gonzalez down to his last strike driving in the game-tying and game winning runs on a single back up the middle.



Sadly, the Yankees once more overcame a series deficit against Cleveland winning Game 4 on the road as their ace Gerrit Cole dominated the Guardians as he's done his entire career in a 4-2 victory.


A questionable rainout the following day in New York, allowed the Yankees to start lefty Nestor Cortes and they easily won 5-1 thanks to scoring 3 in the first inning and taking a 4-0 lead after just 2 innings.


Believeland and the Bronx Bombers


Since Game 2 of the 2017 ALDS, Cleveland has lost 8 of 10 playoff games against the Yankees. They've lost 3 straight playoff series to them. In the regular season they've posted a 12-21 record with no blowout wins or sweeps.


So why did I write this long detailed history of these two franchises facing off against one another? Because if the Cleveland Guardians want to erase their recent playoff misery, they'll need to redeem themselves against the hated New York Yankees.


With the MLB playoffs now including a wild card series the odds are that if Cleveland does want to have an October to remember, they'll first need to defeat their nemesis of the past 6-7 years--the Bronx Bombers.


Our playoff hopes continue to be yanked away by New York time and time again. However Cleveland baseball fans yearn for that day when the script is flipped once more as our beloved Believeland team buries the past playoffs, beats the "darn" Yankees and propels on to another World Series appearance.


Perhaps this October we'll witness a new chapter in the rivalry and once more gain bragging rights over the Yankees. Oh what a glorious sight this will be!



Sources:


https://www.baseball-reference.com/postseason/1997_ALDS1.shtml


https://www.baseball-reference.com/postseason/1998_ALCS.shtml


https://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/NYA/NYA200408310.shtml


https://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/CLE/CLE200607040.shtml


https://www.baseball-reference.com/postseason/2007_ALDS2.shtml


https://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/NYA/NYA200904180.shtml


https://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/CLE/2017-schedule-scores.shtml


https://www.baseball-reference.com/postseason/2017_ALDS1.shtml


https://www.baseball-reference.com/postseason/2020_ALWC2.shtml


https://www.baseball-reference.com/postseason/2022_ALDS1.shtml


All pictures courtesy of Flickr.com


























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