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Can Cleveland Close?

An historic regular season does not for championship glory make.

Unfortunately, the longest winning streak in regular season history does not immune a club from playoff heartbreak, either.

After spending the latter part of the summer racking up more consecutive wins than any other team ever (22), the Cleveland Indians became the seventh team in MLB’s Wild Card era to be eliminated from a five-game series after leading that series 2-0.

What a difference a week makes. It was but seven days ago the Tribe turned a four-run, sixth inning deficit on its head and won 8-7 in extra innings to take what at the time was indeed a commanding 2-0 series lead.

It was all Yankees after that, though. And we all know how it ended.

After taking a 3-1 World Series lead last year against a professional baseball team that plays its home games on Chicago’s north side, the Indians have lost six consecutive closeout-elimination games.

Overall, next year’s Opening Day roster could look considerably different than did the playoff roster. Still, the club’s core remains. Corey Kluber, Edwin Encarnacion, Jason Kipnis, Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, Francisco Lindor and Andrew Miller will all, barring a trade, be on the team next season.

The resolve of this club is sure to be tested as it heads through the offseason and into next spring. It’s a good bet the grit and perseverance personified by 22 straight wins means that this team — this era —  of Indians baseball will not be defined by consecutive playoff collapses.

They have the manager for it, too. Look up “Smart Baseball Guy” in any baseball dictionary and there’s a picture of Terry Francona. A tactician, “player’s manager” and master at getting the absolute most out of his players.

He also knows a little about playoff collapses, too, after managing the 2004 Boston Red Sox to a comeback from a 3-0 series deficit against the Yankees in the ALCS. Boston went on to win its first World Series in over 80 years that year.

So there’s that, too. Francona is no stranger to guiding a championship-starved franchise to where postseason success.

The prospects for the 2018 Indians are bright.

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