Once the champagne and beer have dried and the celebration of win a division few thought they could win subsided, the Guardians returned to Cleveland and were greeted at the airport by a crowd of fans.
The division was won. The first achievement completed. But the Guardians rode such a torrid run through September, winning 18 in 21 games that left the Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins in the rounds, that all nine home games to close the season n makes more sense.
The Guardians now have nine games with nothing left to play, nothing at stake. Along the way, a roster of youngsters will slowly get their first glimpse of a national media scene as the playoffs approach. The Guardians can spend the next nine games resting players and lining up their pitch for Games 1, 2 and 3 of the Wild Card Series, which is slated to begin Oct. 7. The Guardians will likely face the Mariners in Seattle or Tampa. Bay rays.
With a young roster about to embark on a new journey to the games biggest stage, manager Terry Francona held a team meeting to make sure everyone is on the same page.
“It was more of a housekeeping thing,” Francona said. “I just want to make sure there are things we talked about that maybe they weren’t expecting. … I’m going to catch the guys more one-on-one.”
One idea is to stay grounded.
“That’s what we met a bit today, just to remind them who we are and because there will be more media than we’ve had in the past, maybe national media” , Francona said. “Well, they deserve it. I don’t want them to forget who we are and how we do things. That’s what we are here. If they’ve gone through 153 games, I think they’re going to be OKAY.”
The Guardians will be able to balance some rest for some regulars, as they did with All-Star second baseman Andres Gimenez on Tuesday night against the Tampa Bay Rays. But for those playing, Francona’s message is that the roster must play as they have so far – without letting off the gas until Game 1.
“I just thought it would be good for [Gimenez] knock in the cage. … We have the luxury of doing that,” Francona said. “But saying that, it doesn’t matter who plays, we’re going to play the way we play. It’s not like 70 percent. We’re going to make sure we line up our enclosure as best we can. But when you play, you play.”
Ryan Lewis can be contacted at [email protected] Learn more about the Guardians at www.beaconjournal.com/sports/cleveland-guardians. Follow him on Twitter at @ByRyanLewis.