Michael Brantley got his moment on Tuesday night. He stepped to the plate in the 10th inning with Francisco Lindor on first base in a tie game and delivered — a walk-off double that gave the Cleveland Indians a 2-1 win. On the day the Indians received their AL championship rings, no less.
Brantley could have felt like the odd man out on this pennant-winning team. He was their best offensive player coming into 2016, but then missed all but 11 games because of injury. The fact that the Indians played well enough to make it to the World Series without him is still somewhat hard to believe.
But this season, Brantley is back in the lineup. And as he proved in Tuesday’s win, he could be a fantastic spark for the Indians. Let’s see what he does on Wednesday against the Chicago White Sox, which is our Free MLB Game of the Day here on Yahoo Sports. You can stream the game — for free — on the Yahoo Sports MLB page, on our Free Game of the Day tab or within this very post once first pitch comes around at 6:10 p.m. ET.
Brantley will be playing left field and batting third for the Indians, sandwiched between the smooth-swinging Lindor in the No. 2 spot and the powerful Edwin Encarnacion in the cleanup spot. The White Sox send Derek Holland (0-1, 3.00 ERA) to the mound against Cleveland’s Danny Salazar (0-0, 6.35).
After his walk-off winner, Brantley got to bask in the moment a bit. It was his first big achievement this season, on a night that might have otherwise felt a bit hollow because of what he missed last year. He told reporters, including Jordan Bastian of MLB.com:
“I don’t know if you can write it up any better,” Brantley said. “I guess if you hit a home run, but we got a win. That’s all that matters. A lot of hard work went into this offseason. A lot of time away from my kids and my family.”
Brantley’s season has been off to a good start so far. He’s hitting .250 six games in and has RBIs in four of those games. He has a ways to go to match his 2015 production, in which he slashed .310/.379/.480 with 15 homers and 84 RBIs. But even getting near those levels would be a huge plus for the Indians, who are expected to be a force in the AL again. He said after the game:
“They worked so hard for it last year,” Brantley said. “We accomplished so much. Just to take a second and enjoy it and understand how hard they worked, we worked, to get there, I think is what’s most important. Now, it’s kind of past us now. It’s time to look forward to this season.”
And this time, Brantley can be a bigger part of Cleveland’s success.
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