By Larry Fine
CLEVELAND (Reuters) - Grey skies shrouded Cleveland the morning after another bitter disappointment on the baseball diamond but the Indians' stirring resilience, competitiveness and young talent should fuel hope for brighter days.
A sporting hangover ached the city after the Indians fell one run short of ending their 68-year wait for a World Series triumph to the even longer-suffering Chicago Cubs.
The Indians squandered a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series and had to watch the Cubs celebrate on their home field after the fabled "Loveable Losers" snapped a 108-year dry spell and passed the mantle of longest losers down to Cleveland.
With the city and Indians faithful poised for a night of Game Seven revelry, the party at Progressive Field was crashed by thousands of Cubs fans who splurged for tickets on the resale market and seemingly took over the Cleveland ballpark.
Despite all that, the Indians can still hold their heads up after showing they are very much partners in the city's recent sports renaissance that started earlier this year when LeBron James and the NBA's Cavaliers won Cleveland's first pro sports title in 52 years.
With their never-say-die comeback from a 5-1 deficit in Game Seven, the Indians made the 10-inning, 8-7 verdict a thrilling finale, playing their part in making the 2016 World Series an unforgettable baseball classic.
The Clevelanders overcame adversity to make their unexpected run to the World Series, shuffling their rotation after injuries to young starting pitchers Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar, and doing without injured, hard-hitting outfielder Michael Brantley for nearly the whole season.
With their key starting pitchers under club control though 2019, the Indians may well find themselves playing the young, well-stocked Cubs again for the title.
“They have less resources (funds) than the Cubs have moving forward, but certainly the Indians’ chances to continue contending look to be very, very good," former Mets general manager Steve Phillips told Reuters before Game Seven.
Phillips praised Cleveland's young pitching and was especially impressed with 22-year-old shortstop Francisco Lindor.
"You can make an argument that he is the best player on the field in the World Series," Phillips said. "He’s that kind of talent, a two-way player. He’s a passion player, that smile and energy that he has. He is exciting on both sides of the ball. I love watching him play. He’s a leader."
Former major league closer Dan Plesac, now an analyst for MLB TV, said pitching will keep Cleveland in the playoff picture.
“The Indians' rotation is as good as anyone in the league,” Plesac told Reuters during warm-ups for Game Seven. “They’re not done being in the postseason.”
Comforting words for the Indians' outlook for continued success, but the dream of hoisting the World Series trophy to crown a magnificent 2016 has been laid to rest, perhaps in the old Erie Street Cemetery across from Progressive Field.
(Editing by Frank Pingue)