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This Is Believeland

Oct 5 2017
Photo by
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Photo by
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Andrew Miller
Cleveland Indians
Oct 5 2017

I realized something important about this Indians team on a Thursday night a few weeks ago in Cleveland.

We had won 21 in a row at that point. The game that night, number 22, was for the record. It was a big national story — more people were watching and paying attention to our team than ever. Everyone was checking up on us to see whether we’d make it happen, but the Royals had taken the lead early. We were down 2–1 in the bottom of the ninth.

With two outs.

Francisco Lindor was our last hope. Against Kelvin Herrera, their All-Star closer.

Frankie walked up to the plate like he had complete control of the situation. It just felt like one of those moments when you’re not sure what’s going to happen, but you know it’s going to be something to remember.

I had pitched earlier in the night, so I was in the dugout and had a front row seat to everything as it was playing out.

Frankie had fallen behind in the count and yet … everyone in our dugout knew what was about to happen.

We all had confidence in him even though he was backed into a corner — 2-2, down to our last strike.

As I scanned the dugout, I was amazed at what I didn’t see. I didn’t see any weakness. I didn’t see any fatigue. No one would have blamed us for losing game number 22 — we had already tied the modern record. We had an iron grip on our division race. Still, I didn’t see anyone giving up. We expected Frankie to come through and that the team would find a way to win the game. All of us.

We all just kind of … had a feeling.

They don’t call this town Believeland for nothing, right?

And then, a moment later …

BOOM.

Lindor rocketed a double off the wall, tying the game. A half hour after that, we won it in extras.

History.

Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire/AP Images

Looking back now, I was in a pretty unique position during that crazy run we went on this summer. I have a perspective on the streak that almost no one else has.

Because I was part of it, but, at the same time, I missed almost all of it.

For nearly the entire streak, I was in Cleveland rehabbing my knee. By the time I was activated on September 13, we were already 20 games deep into it. So I can’t claim much responsibility for what went down.

But here’s the thing: Even though it was tough to miss all those games and hang back in Cleveland during team road trips, it gave me some time and distance to really appreciate how special this team is.

While I was on the DL, Michael Brantley and Jason Kipnis were also rehabbing injuries. Every night during the streak, we’d tune in, watching our guys win one game after another. When they came back home, we’d all get to the park earlier than normal just to bask in the energy.

It was quite a scene, especially as the wins kept piling up. Everyone was working hard to pretend it was business as usual. It was funny to watch, from my perspective — Tito keeps a really loose locker room, yet everyone is focused and works hard. I could tell guys were trying their best to keep to their routines. We were sticking to our guns — the usual games of cribbage, the Jobu shrine, all of that was still happening, undisturbed. The old  cliché “One day at a time” was repeated more than anyone could count, just trying to convince ourselves it was true.

Here’s the best part, though: While no one ever imagined that we would win that many games in a row, no one was surprised by it.

And since then I’ve been thinking a little bit about why that was. I think it comes down to composure, confidence and the desire we all have to get better as a group every day.

We know what we have here, and that we are a good team from top to bottom. Even when we started out slow this year, no one was too fazed by that. We kept our cool. Everybody knew this team wasn’t playing up to its potential. If we prepared the way our coaching staff expected and took care of business it would come around.

We knew we had another gear.

We also knew that timing was everything — you want to be playing your best at the end of the year and we realized that as long as we did that we’d be in good shape. The long baseball season turned out to be a good thing for us.

It all came together at the right time and the streak was the highlight.

Now, heading into these games we’re about to play, that mentality is everything. During the streak, the city was electric — it was as close to a playoff atmosphere as you can get, without it being the actual postseason.

And seeing that environment up-close, night in and night out, was important to this upcoming playoff run.

The streak was amazing, no doubt. But looking back on it now, I hope it will be remembered as a dry run.

An unforgettable, record-setting 22-game dry run for what’s about to happen now.

The streak was amazing, no doubt. But looking back on it now, I hope it will be remembered as a dry run.

There are plenty of reasons why I’m excited to be back in the postseason. One of the biggest ones is that I didn’t do what I needed to do at the end of last season.

Game 7,  to this day … it’s a hard one to get past.

I didn’t pitch like I wanted to. I made some mistakes and paid for them.

After I was taken out of the game, I went into the clubhouse to change out of my cleats.

I was done.

As I made my way to the clubhouse, it hit me all at once — the exhaustion, the emotions, the mental toll of it all.

I sat down next to Kluber, who seemed to be hit with the same emotions. We gave everything we could and now could only cheer the team on.

The next thing I really remember vividly is Rajai’s homer — we had fallen behind early, only to rally back. His shot tied it up, and we went into extras. Anything could happen at that point — in a matter of moments, we could be champions.

Then the rain delay happened and I ran up to the locker room.

The first thing I saw was a bunch of MLB gofers and clubbies scurrying around, trying to hide what they were doing — as much as they could, at least.

But I saw what they were setting up.

It was the Visqueen — those big clear plastic tarps that protect everything from an ocean of champagne.

It was being spread out for the celebration.

They were decorating that room for the World Series champions.

I really wish I hadn’t seen that!

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

In the end, it just didn’t go our way.

I wouldn’t say it hurt to see the Cubs celebrate on our field — it was more than that. In that moment, I knew that it could have been us.

When we got back to the clubhouse after the game ended, the Visqueen had vanished.

The clubhouse was quiet. We were all disappointed but I noticed a certain vibe that was really cool to experience. It wasn’t defeat or sadness.

It was desire.

We had gotten so close, but we all knew that we had what it took to make it back again. No one was taking it for granted, and we knew it wouldn’t be easy … but we also knew we had it in us. And since then we’ve only gotten better. We got Edwin. We got Boone Logan. The front office does a great job of finding people who not only produce, but who also fit into our style and attitude perfectly. Players who respond to pressure. Guys like Joe Smith and Jay Bruce, who haven’t wasted any time contributing down the stretch.

Everyone wants the same thing — just like they have since I was lucky enough to hitch a ride with this team last season — and that’s to finish the job.

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Nearly all of last year’s playoffs was a blast. We were all in it together, and for a while it was as good as it gets. It was like a dream, the city embraced us and we fed off the energy. When LeBron and the Cavs showed up for the games it was icing on the cake. While the dream came crashing down at the last moment, it was a great ride and we are better for it. Now it’s a new postseason, and this team believes more than ever in what we can do.

We’re better prepared and we’ve been tested. We’ve proven to ourselves that we’re a special group that is going to take everything we’ve been through together — last year’s World Series, this year’s winning streak — and put all of those lessons to use.

We believe that we can write a better ending this time around.

We know it.

We’ve already seen one miracle this year.

And that was us just getting started. Believe me.

The winning streak was only a dry run.

You ready for the real thing?

Andrew Miller
Cleveland Indians