When the news broke late Sunday night that Jason Kipnis had sprained his ankle when he stepped on Francisco Lindor's foot celebrating the Indians first World Series berth since 1997, it came with a certain understanding. Of course the star second baseman for a team that generally treats its time on the diamond like a sequel to "The Sandlot" hurt himself going all House Of Pain in an expression of his joy. Of course.
Kipnis is purported to be fine, which makes it easier to laugh at the type of thing the young infield duo have been doing all year. What started in spring training, when manager Terry Francona had to tell Lindor to stop jumping on Kipnis's back in fear of injury, has been the religion the Indians have adhered to throughout a season that doesn't quite feel real yet.
It begins with Lindor, who smiles more during a game than most humans smile in a week. Lindor plays baseball as if he wakes up each morning with a pancake breakfast balancing gently against his chest, waiting to be consumed. Lindor's constant enthusiasm has had a trickle down effect in his first full season in the Bigs, and it's led to a California chill-like vibe amongst the starting nine that rears it head in the most pressurized of moments.
In Game 3 of the ALCS against the Toronto Blue Jays, inside of a raucous Rogers Centre, with their starting pitcher Trevor Bauer lasting exactly two-thirds of an inning before his pinky finger exploded into a volcano of blood, Kipnis and Lindor did something that made everything seem like it was going to be alright.
On a lazy pop-up to the left of second base to close out the third inning, a ball that usually belongs to Kipnis, Lindor drifted over and in front of Kipnis to catch it himself. As the two jogged off the field, Kipnis broke into a sprint after Lindor as Lindor turned and smiled at him. In the middle of what was at that point the biggest game their careers, Lindor and Kipnis were just screwing around like a couple of frat brothers. It was, for lack of a better word, adorable.
This sort of obliviousness to pressure popped up during Game 3 of the ALDS, too, when the Indians completed a sweet of a vaunted Red Sox offense that never materialized. Up just two in the bottom of the seventh, with much of Fenway Park's capacity crowd ignoring their seats, third basement Jose Ramirez asked teammate Carlos Carrasco if he could spruce up his air. TBS's cameras caught the moment, a striking juxtaposition of a key player denying the enormity of the moment.
Even Trevor Bauer, he who sliced his finger like an onion before the most important start of his career by cleaning the one thing he probably has too much fun with, his drone, found humor in the moment he walked off the mound to a chorus of cheers from the Blue Jay faithful. He waved to them just before he stepped into the dugout, as if he was at Progressive Field and had just thrown a no-hitter, then, when the game was safely in hand, made sure they knew exactly where the series stood.
The Indians general ignorance of high-leverage situations is both enabled and encouraged by Francona, who zooms around Cleveland on a scooter while wearing a collection of V-neck sweaters like the cool dad he is.
There's a lot of reasons the Indians have a chance to win their first World Series since 1948, many of them related to Andrew Miller. But the sense of calm that hovers above this team, and their defiance of emotions that have overwhelmed more accomplished players, has had a major part to play.