CLEVELAND -- Following a lackadaisical start, the usual -- for them -- midseason bout with injuries, a late-July reboot and a rousing, historic finish, here they are.
The defending American League champion Cleveland Indians are back. They have enjoyed the ride, but this year they hope for a happier ending.
One year after they came as close as any team can come to winning the World Series without winning it, the Cleveland Indians are back for another try.
"From the start of the season," shortstop Francisco Lindor said, "our goal has been to get back to the postseason, and then go as far we can once we get there."
After losing Game 7 of last year's World Series to the Chicago Cubs, at home, by one run, in 10 innings -- can there be a more excruciating loss? -- the Indians are back for another try. They last won the World Series when Harry Truman was in the White House, in 1948.
Cleveland will host Game 1 of the American League Division Series on Thursday against the AL wild-card winner, and this year the Indians hope to be the last team standing.
They just might.
They are better, they are healthier, and they are certainly hungrier than they were last year. And they were really hungry last year.
Right fielder Jay Bruce, acquired by the Indians at midseason this year, sensed that immediately.
"I think the expectations for this year were set from last year's experience and accomplishments, and the failure to win Game 7 of the World Series, although that wasn't a failure by any means," Bruce said. "But every guy in our clubhouse feels like they should have won it last year. I felt that as soon as I got here."
There is precedent for losing the World Series one year, then returning the following year to win it all. The Indians need only to look at AL Central rival Kansas City. The Royals lost the 2014 World Series in seven games to the San Francisco Giants, then came back in 2015 and beat the Mets in five games to win it all.
The Indians won 102 games this year, but it didn't come easy. On June 14, they were in second place in their division, and just a .500 ballclub at 31-31.
"I don't know that it was a (World Series) hangover," manager Terry Francona said. "We just weren't playing very good."
Then the Indians played worse.
They lost five of their first six games coming out of the All-Star break, and on July 19 they were 48-45.
"That's when we went into a second gear and said, 'All right, boys, we've got to step it up,'" Lindor said.
The rest is history. From July 19 through the end of the regular season, they went 54-15 (.783). That, of course, included their monumental 22-game winning streak, an American League record and the longest streak in the majors in more than 100 years.
"For whatever reason, it took us awhile to get our rhythm, our footing," Francona said. "But once we did, we never took our foot off the gas."
Most of the games weren't even close. During the streak, the Indians outscored their opponents 142-37. At one point in the streak, they swept two doubleheaders in three days. The utter domination left opponents shaking their heads.
"Winning that many in a row is hard to fathom," Baltimore Orioles pitcher Jeremy Hellickson said. "But when you've got that rotation, that bullpen, and that offense, it's a pretty complete team, and you can see how they've done it."
Hellickson said that after the Indians had won 18 in a row.
Then Cleveland won four more in a row.
Most of the streak came without three key players, reliever Andrew Miller (knee), left fielder Michael Brantley (ankle) and second baseman/outfielder Jason Kipnis (hamstring). But they just kept winning, carrying the hot streak right through the end of the regular season, finishing on a 33-4 run.
As the postseason beckons, the Indians, with the best record in the American League, are the favorites to win their second straight pennant and return to the World Series.
They have the best pitching staff in franchise history. They set a major league record with 1,614 strikeouts.
The rotation, which was in shambles during the postseason last year due to injuries, is healthy and scary, featuring a top three of Corey Kluber (18-4), Carlos Carrasco (18-6) and Trevor Bauer (17-9).
The bullpen is deep and stingy. The offense includes two MVP candidates, Lindor and second baseman Jose Ramirez, and the defense is arguably the best in the league.
It is a team with no weakness, soaring expectations and a thirst to return to the World Series -- for a happier ending.