Many fans were ready to read the Yankees their last rites after losing Game 2 in Cleveland and falling behind 2-0 in the ALDS.
It’s not that the Yankees can’t win three in a row. Of course they can. But could the Indians, who won 35 of 39, lose three in a row? The Yankees took Game 3 1-0 to keep the season alive. The door is open just a crack, and sometimes that’s all a team needs.
Before Game 3, Joe Girardi said the mindset of his team was just to win that night. The response from Indians manager Terry Francona? “He stole that from me.”
If any manager in the game knows that you have to finish a team when you can, it’s Francona. Nobody has his 2004 Red Sox winning the ALCS after falling behind the Yankees 3-0, and the Bronx Bombers won 19-8 at Fenway Park in Game 3. Then Boston won four straight, and then swept the Cardinals in the World Series.
In 2007, Francona’s Red Sox fell behind the Indians 3-1 in the 2007 ALCS but Boston rallied to win three straight and then swept the Rockies in the World Series. The following year, the Red Sox fell behind Tampa Bay 3-1 and trailed 7-0 in Game 5. Boston rallied to win Game 5 and then tied the series with a Game 6 win before losing in Game 7.
He’s been on the other side too. Last year the Indians held a 3-1 lead over the Cubs in the World Series. Then Chicago took Game 5 at Wrigley Field, and the final two games in Cleveland.
The Indians didn’t get emotionally in the dumps after losing one of the best World Series games ever. They bounced back and finished with the best record in the American League.
Francona has been a forward thinker in ways, most notably his use of Andrew Miller in the 2016 playoffs. But he’s also a funny man, and popular with his players. “He doesn’t change too much behind the scenes that he does in front of you guys,” said Cleveland second baseman Jason Kipnis. “It’s pretty much what you see is what you get with him.
He’s consistent in the fact that he likes to be loose. He likes to keep it — the environment kind of free and where guys can be themselves.
You’re not really going out there playing with a mirror on your shoulder wondering what the manager’s thinking. He’ll tell you and he doesn’t want you to be afraid of making a mistake.You earn his trust. And once you have that, you can go out and play freely. He’s just one of those guys that you always hear about players loving to play for, and there’s a reason why.”
Indians catcher Roberto Perez also used the word “loose” when describing the team and clubhouse under Francona. “Tito’s been in the game a long time. He knows what he’s doing,” Perez said. “All our guys, our clubhouse is loose. So he just lets us play. There’s a reason behind it, it’s like go out and play the game the right way and play hard and don’t back out or no backing off from anybody and that’s what we do.”
Francona keeps it loose but he also knows the sooner his team finishes off the Yankees, the better.