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Indians Clinch AL Central: Highlights, Twitter Reaction to Celebration

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistSeptember 27, 2016

Sep 17, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians third baseman Jose Ramirez (11) celebrates with teammates after hitting a game-winning single during the tenth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Progressive Field. The Indians won 1-0. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time since 2007, the Cleveland Indians are the champions of the American League Central thanks to their 7-4 win over the Detroit Tigers on Monday.

The victory immediately led to plenty of celebration in the locker room, as Matt Loede of NEO Sports Insiders and Dave Chudowsky of WKYC shared:

Matt Loede @MattLoede

The #Indians celebration https://t.co/i89JsVvobd

Matt Loede @MattLoede

More of the clubhouse party #Indians https://t.co/w2GUHbnFO5

Dave Chudowsky @DaveChudowsky

Here it is! Celebration @wkyc @WKYCSports #Indians https://t.co/8LEnKumuCG

First baseman Mike Napoli provided his thoughts while celebrating, per Dennis Manoloff of Cleveland.com:

Dennis Manoloff @dmansworld474

Love these Napoli quotes. #Indians @DreKnott #divisionchamps https://t.co/tGUIgyeTgP

As the team's Twitter account noted, the magic number was officially zero:

Cleveland Indians @Indians

๐Ÿ“‚ Cleveland Indians โ””๐Ÿ“ 2016 season โ””๐Ÿ“ AL Central โ””๐Ÿ“ Magic number โ””โš ๏ธ This folder is empty

Following the Cleveland Cavaliers' triumph in the NBA Finals, the city has apparently turned around its sports fortunes in the past year, as Rep. Marcia L. Fudge noted:

Rep. Marcia L. Fudge @RepMarciaFudge

Congratulations, @Indians! #Cleveland - the land of champions! https://t.co/nXFiR03WEH

Tom Withers of the Associated Press broke down the season as a whole:

Tom Withers @twithersAP

#Indians overcame injuries, PED suspensions, the Tigers, WS champion Royals. Great mix of youth, vets and the best manager in the game.

The Indians have been on the cusp of a breakout since 2013, when they made the playoffs but were shut out by Alex Cobb and the Tampa Bay Rays in a 4-0 Wild Card Game defeat.

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Horrible starts out of the gate in each of the following two years left Cleveland with huge holes to dig out of, though the Indians finished over .500 in both 2014 and 2015.

The Indians appeared to be facing an uphill climb in 2016 after learning All-Star outfielder Michael Brantley would miss the beginning of the season after undergoing surgery to repair his ailing right shoulder in November.

The front office made some moves during the offseasonโ€”signing Napoli and Rajai Davis, most notablyโ€”hoping to bolster the lineup until Brantley's return.

Brantley briefly returned for 11 games before his shoulder flared up again in May, eventually requiring season-ending surgery, but the Indians were in a better place offensively with an All-Star performance from shortstop Francisco Lindor, a breakout season from Jose Ramirez, a return to form for Napoli, continued excellence from second baseman Jason Kipnis and a career year from Carlos Santana.

Ramirez, in particular, drew praise for filling the void Branley's injury left in the lineup, per T.J. Zuppe of 92.3 The Fan:

T.J. Zuppe @TJZuppe

When people talk about Jose Ramirez basically being Michael Brantley in 2016, they aren't kidding. https://t.co/8OCuZOr6h4

One of the season's best stories took place from June 17 through July 1, when the Indians reeled off a franchise-best 14-game winning streak that they capped off with a 19-inning marathon win against the Toronto Blue Jays:

Seeing the year was going in its favor, Cleveland's front office became major players at the trade deadline by acquiring Andrew Miller from the New York Yankees to bolster its relief corps.

Adversity hit the Indians starting rotation down the stretch, when Danny Salazar, who earned a spot in the All-Star Game after posting a 2.75 ERA in the first half of the season, battled injuries in August and September that limited him to just eight starts.

Carlos Carrasco's season ended prematurely when a line drive off Ian Kinsler's bat hit his pitching hand on the second pitch of a Sept. 17 game against the Detroit Tigers.

After that game, which the Indians won 1-0 on the strength of nine relief pitchers, manager Terry Francona told reporters what he said after Carrasco exited the contest.

"I called [bullpen coach Jason Bere] down there and said, 'Tell them to put their seat belts on, because they're all going to pitch, and we're going to win,'" Francona said, per MLB.com's Jordan Bastian and Jason Beck.

That's a fitting quote for this year's Cleveland team, which has been forced to use a next-man-up mentality since spring trainingโ€”and has used it to great success.

One reason the Indians have continued to play at a high level is the bullpen, which has become one of baseball's best since Miller's arrival, as MLB showed:

MLB @MLB

Since acquiring @a_miller48, the @Indians bullpen has been #lightsout. https://t.co/InvyelbZND @Benjamin_Moore Game Changers https://t.co/YiyzTvqhbs

Given the increased importance of relievers in October, as the Kansas City Royals' run to the World Series last year demonstrated, the Indians have the right formula to continue the AL Central's postseason dominance.

It also helps to have a Cy Young candidate such as Corey Kluber leading the rotation and a lineup that has exceeded expectations all year.

The city's 52-year championship drought ended in June, when the Cavaliers captured their first NBA title.

The Indians will enter MLB's postseason with a chance to end their 68-year World Series drought and solidify Cleveland's place as the city of champions in 2016.

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