An aura of bad karma had enveloped the Indians in a stranglehold.
Cy Young candidate Corey Kluber was clearly not himself, throwing 38 pitches in the first inning Friday night.
In the bottom of the first, $60 million designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion suffered a gruesome ankle injury when he jammed his foot into the second-base bag while being doubled off and it bent awkwardly.
The sky was as menacing as the New York Yankees' bats, but it wasn't rookie sensation Aaron Judge providing the punch, but catcher Gary Sanchez, center fielder Aaron Hicks and first baseman Greg Bird doing the Bronx bombing.
Rubbing it in was the presence of former Indians ace left-hander CC Sabathia, now 37 years old, on the mound for the Yankees.
He was a fitting tormentor on a night that began with angst, holding the Indians to three hits and two earned runs in 5 1/3 innings. The 20th overall pick of the Indians in 1998, Sabathia looked to be headed for his 247th career victory, including playoffs.
Then the Indians remembered how, what and why they do what they do.
They proved in last year's postseason they are a resilient bunch, willing themselves to the World Series with a three-man rotation and a lights-out bullpen. They showed it again Friday, when Francisco Lindor brought the ballpark back to life with a sixth-inning grand slam off the right-field foul pole that cut the Yankees' lead to one run.
Silenced by Bird's two-run homer in the fifth that put the Yankees ahead by five, the fans in Progressive Field again found their voice as the Indians again found themselves.
Then in the eighth inning, right fielder Jay Bruce drew applause even from across the plaza, sending a David Robertson pitch into the bleachers in left center field to tie the game. When the replay was shown on the Humongotron during a timeout at the Cavs-Pacers preseason game at Quicken Loans Arena, the Cavs clapped in approval.
The third extra-inning game in postseason history between the Indians and Yankees ended in the 13th inning when catcher Yan Gomes singled down the third-base line to score Austin Jackson from second base. The result was an Indians' 9-8 walk-off victory in Game 2 of the American League Division Series that sent them to Sunday's Game 3 in Yankee Stadium looking to close out the series.
Lindor gave Gomes a Gatorade bath as Gomes waited for a postgame television interview with the sellout crowd roaring.
In 2016, the Indians were strengthened by adversity. The World Series against the Chicago Cubs was bad karma incarnate, with the two teams with the longest championship droughts in major league history facing off. The Cubs won for the first time in 108 seasons, the Indians' string stood at 68, the last title coming in 1948.
Even as ESPN's Buster Olney tweeted that Encarnacion left the clubhouse on crutches and in a walking boot, taking a suitcase and a backpack with him, the Indians must force themselves to look at his injury as another wound on a postseason road always pitted with thorns.
They still have the stars to carry them. They still have the rotation. They still have the defense. They still have the bullpen. They still have the passionate, full-throated backing of Northeast Ohio and beyond.
Perhaps their scars can carry them as well.
Kluber's worst start of the season will need examination, although might be written off as excusable. Klubot cannot be Klubot every time out. But while he was pitching on six days of rest, the performance was still somewhat alarming. In September, he gave up four earned runs in 43 innings of five starts. On Friday, he surrendered six earned runs in 2 2/3 innings and gave up home runs to Sanchez and Hicks.
But even when the Yankees seemed in control, the Indians resigned to defeat, they found a spark. The words of Jason Kipnis after his stunning diving catch in center field Thursday night were eventually born out.
"We definitely have confidence. There's no 'Happy to be there' that there was last year," Kipnis said Thursday. "We know we have the health and the team and the lineup to get everything we want to get done. We're not underestimating teams, we're not taking games for granted, we're not thinking Corey's going to throw a shutout and we've just got to score one run. This is the playoffs and anything can happen and we know that. We learned that last year on the good side. This team definitely is focused and approaching every game with the intention to win it."
On a night that felt like bad karma would rule, it did not prevail.
ABOUT THE WRITER Marla Ridenour is a columnist for the Akron Beacon Journal.