Flag raised as part of Tribe's clinch celebration

Flag raised as part of Tribe's clinch celebration

CLEVELAND -- The Indians didn't get to officially clinch their second straight American League Central title after their win on Saturday, so instead, the celebration -- made possible by the Twins' loss later Saturday night -- began in front of a raucous sellout crowd before Sunday's 3-2, series-finale win over the Royals at Progressive Field.

Shortly before first pitch, the Indians hoisted a freshly minted red flag just behind center field to commemorate their 2017 division title -- right next to their American flag and their '16 division-title banner.

Indians manager Terry Francona made a few pregame remarks to the crowd, thanking the fans. Certainly beloved by Cleveland and used to talking to the media, Francona said before the game that he wasn't necessarily used to addressing a full crowd.

Get official Indians AL Central champions gear

"I gave it some thought, because that's not really something you're really comfortable doing," Francona said. "Guys play, I manage, you don't really get nervous because of the size of the crowd, but you put a microphone in front of you, and some parts of your body slam shut. I gave it some thought, believe me."

Indians on clinching AL Central

Being able to celebrate clinching the division title at home was especially sweet, considering that every milestone in the 2016 season -- winning the division, clinching home-field advantage in the first round and winning the first two rounds of the postseason -- happened on the road.

"It's an honor, and it's something we're thrilled about," Francona said of sharing the celebration with the fans. "They have been incredible, especially this past homestand. It's what you would hope. They're loud; they're passionate.

"I think it's an easy team to like. I think some teams are probably more likeable than others. It's probably just human nature. This is an easy team to like and get behind. But our fans have really come through. I'm glad we're able to share that today. It'll be very memorable for everybody."

The Indians are planning to have a customary champagne celebration after Sunday's game, win or lose. It's not necessarily the celebration the team imagined earlier this season, but a division title is a division title.

"It's been great, man," right fielder Jay Bruce said. "To have the division wrapped up last night is an accomplishment for sure. Obviously, in a perfect world, you win a game that has you clinch and then the celebration happens. But, we'll take it any way we can get it. We're excited about it."

Ben Weinrib is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cleveland who covered the Indians on Sunday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.