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Terry Francona Knows Playoff Comebacks



Terry Francona (Photo by Mike Janes) Terry Francona (Photo by Mike Janes) CHICAGO—When it comes to the precariousness of a postseason advantage, few can match the experience of Indians manager Terry Francona.

Francona became somewhat of a savant managing in Boston when it came to overcoming steep playoff odds, famously guiding the Red Sox back from a 3-0 hole in the 2004 AL Championship Series and a 3-1 deficit in the 2007 ALCS against the Indians. For good measure, he also oversaw the Red Sox’s rally from a 3-1 hole in the 2008 ALCS to force a Game Seven.

So, with his current Indians team now ahead three games to one in the World Series against the Cubs, Francona is preaching calm and serenity to avoid the type of playoff collapse he’s taken advantage of before."We treat it like it’s just a normal day,” Francona said in his pregame press conference prior to Game Five. "That's our biggest challenge, I think, as you get into postseason, is fighting to have a sense of normalcy. Because in our game you can't give them the Knute Rockne speech every day. It's not like you can hit longer because you're going to be better. We're 200 games into the season counting Spring Training. Some sense of normalcy, that's what you really want.”

Francona’s track record isn’t just successful managing from behind. His teams are 9-3 in games they have a chance to clinch a playoff series, including 2-1 this postseason.

"His message has been the same all postseason,” Indians reliever Bryan Shaw said. "To go out there, do our game, play our game, play it the right way, the way we've preached it from starting in Spring Training all the way until now. We don't need to change anything. We don't need to do anything differently. There's a reason and a way that we got here. So just continue on doing that, and obviously hopefully everything will work out.”

BULLPEN REINVENTION?

The dominance and flexibility of the Indians bullpen in the postseason has made for frequent conversation among fans and media about whether their model should be replicated across the game, with relievers brought in earlier and in spots defined more by leverage than by inning.

Shaw and Dan Otero, two key parts of that Indians bullpen, opined strongly prior to Game Five that the method works in the playoffs, but would not be sustainable in the regular season.

"It takes a special group down there,” Otero said. "Not everybody's going to have an Andrew Miller type of pitcher or Cody Allen type of pitcher that can come in in the sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth and finish the games. They're a special breed, and not every team has the luxury of having those guys. And the guy to my left (Shaw) who has had 70 games five straight years, nobody's done that, I think, the last five years. So it does take a special group down there. But with the built-in off-days, you're able to do that in the postseason. But the regular season our arms would fall off by mid-April, not even the end of April.”

Shaw, known for his stamina and the flexibility even in the regular season, concurred.

"I think that what we've done in the postseason especially, I don't think you can do that for a full 162 games,” Shaw said. "I think a lot of the guys, Miller throwing however many innings he's thrown for us, and Cody throwing multiples every time, you can't do that for 162 games or you're going to be burnt out by July.” LINEUP CHANGES

The Indians made a number of lineup changes to get their righthanded hitters in to face Cubs lefthander Jon Lester, reinserting Mike Napoli into the starting lineup at first base and starting Rajai Davis and Brandon Guyer in center field and right field, respectively, in place of the lefthanded hitters Tyler Naquin and Lonnie Chisenhall.

While Chisenhall was already not in the starting lineup by virtue of the matchup, The Associated Press reported shortly before first pitch that he fell ill and was sent back the team hotel.

Terry-Francona-Game-7

Terry Francona Nearly Put Indians On Top

Terry Francona guided the Indians into the Fall Classic and nearly into the winner’s circle.

The only lineup change for the Cubs was David Ross being inserted at catcher in place of Willson Contreras. Ross is Lester’s personal catcher.

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