Tuesday, October 9, 2018
October 9th: The 2018 Cleveland Indians. Sigh.
The 2018 Cleveland Indians put the nails in their own coffin for the 2018 Postseason. They built the casket and dug the grave, too.
It was...a remarkable sight to see.
As if it wasn't bad enough that Major League Baseball and/or the networks relegated the Indians/Astros ALDS to the worst possible time slots for at least two of the three games. A Friday 2pm Game 1 and a Monday 1:30pm Game 3? MLB, why do you hate us so? I had to re-arrange my work schedule to watch these dumpster fire games. There were plenty of other fans who had to miss most of the action because they don't have work schedules that are as flexible as mine.
Maybe those fans are the better for it. Maybe Major League Baseball did us a favor sticking us in god awful time slots so most of the country would forget the games even existed.
Game 1 was a trainwreck.
Game 2 was within reach and we lost it.
Game Three was emblematic of our entire wearied season.
Let's get into it.
We played in Cleveland on what Indians radio announcer Tom Hamilton called a very summer-like day: hot, sunny, perfect baseball conditions. On the mound we had Mike Clevinger who'd had his best regular season to date this year and who has become a very respectable starter. I felt confident with him on the hill as he made the first postseason start of his career. And for the five innings he pitched, I really thought we were going to win it. The Indians were clinging to a 2-1 lead when the ball was handed over to Trevor Bauer in the 6th inning. As a fan, I thought we had this in the bag for sure. Trev would probably finish the game and we'd live to play another day.
Then the 7th inning happened.
It was nightmarish from start to finish. Bauer was back out there after breezing through the 6th but he immediately gave up a single to Tony Kemp who seemed like he was on base each of the nine innings. OK, not ideal to get the leadoff man aboard, but Trevor Bauer is a professional pitcher so I thought it wouldn't be a problem.
It was a problem.
In a play that mirrored the start of a nearly-catastrophic third inning, Bauer got distracted by Kemp and made a bad pickoff throw that allowed the baserunner to advance to second.
Now, when this happened in the third inning, Clevinger ended up striking out George Springer before giving up a single to Jose Altuve and hitting Alex Bregman with a pitch to load the bases with only one out. It was critical that Clev pitch his way outta this somehow. It was still a scoreless game at this point, but it was inches away from getting out of hand early.
What Michael Anthony "Sunshine" Clevinger did, though, was strike out Yuli Gurriel and get the biggest Indians killer of the series Marwin Gonzalez to fly out to end the inning.
The score remained 0-0 until the bottom of the same inning when the Indians played some small ball to manufacture run and a 1-0 lead. The score tied in the 5th with a George Springer home run but swung right back in the Indians' favor with a mammoth Francisco Lindor homer in the bottom of the same inning.
That brings us back to Trevor Bauer and the Disastrous 7th. New band name? Ugh.
So there we were: Kemp had advanced to second base on a throwing error by the pitcher. OK, deep breaths, we've been here before in this very game -- we can work out of it. Except... How many times can you tempt fate against a rabid team like the 2018 Houston Astros? George Springer didn't strike out this time -- he hit a soft single that landed him on first base and Kemp on third, still no outs. Jose Altuve then grounded out but it was enough to send the tying run across the plate, now with Springer on and one out.
The critical play of the game was the next one: Alex Bregman hit what should have been a double play ball to end the inning but Bauer didn't throw it cleanly to Frankie Lindor covering 2nd base and the relay throw to Eddie Encarnacion at 1st was not in time.
It was Bauer's second throwing error of the game and it flushed our season down the toilet.
Yuli Gurriel then drew a walk to load the bases and Marwin Gonzalez did what he does and doubled to score two more.
Eventually, Andrew Miller was summoned from the bullpen...and then also Cody Allen....before we could close the book on that catastrophic top of the 7th. The score was 4-2. It shouldn't have felt as insurmountable as it did. But when our bottom of the 7th went: Yandy Diaz strikeout, Melky Cabrera ground out, Yan Gomes strike out... It wasn't looking good.
And it only got worse from there.
In the 8th, George Springer hit his second home run of the game, this time off Cody Allen.
Astros up 5-2.
Cody strikes out Kemp (thank god) before giving up a single to Altuve and walking both Bregman and Guriel, which loads the bases. Enter Brad Hand to face Marwin Gonzalez who, of course, doesn't miss a beat, singles to score Altuve.
Astros up 6-2.
But we're not done yet, folks. Pinch hitter Evan Gattis struck out but then Hand uncorked a wild pitch to Carlos Correa that scored Gurriel from third.
Astros up 7-2.
Oh, and then Brad Hand gave up a three-run homer to Correa.
Astros up 10-2.
Mercifully, Martin Maldonado struck out to end the bleeding.
OK, welp, that's not great. A SIX RUN top of the 8th for the Astros -- off our our closers. Cool cool. But maybe the Indians can respond.
Most of the fans in the ballpark didn't think so. Progressive Field emptied faster than the sinking Titanic. That broke my heart to see. True fans don't leave. But, well, I guess it had all unraveled too quickly for the hometown fans yesterday afternoon.
But, here we go, let's see if we can get anything going. Top of the 8th starts with a Jason Kipnis fly out (at least it wasn't a strike out?) before back to back singles from Lindor and Michael Brantley. Okayyyy, no we're talkin'! Up next was the slumping Jose Ramirez and I could hear in Hammy's voice how much he wanted this to be the moment Josey broke out of it and at least had a good at bat.
Two pitches later, Jose Ramirez killed the rally by hitting into an inning ending double play.
Here comes the 9th inning and we couldn't even just end it quickly from there. Oh no. Adam Cimber came on in relief and promptly walks Tony Kemp.
A balk gets Kemp to second base.
Cimber then managed to retire Altuve and Springer before giving up a single to Bregman to score Kemp.
Astros up 11-2.
Gurriel followed that up with a single before Cimber finally collected the last out in a Marwin Gonzelz fly ball.
Moses smell the roses.
With about a hundred fans still watching, the Indians limped into the bottom of the 9th and weakly displayed signs of life. Eddie drew a leadoff walk and then Josh Donaldson singled. Pinch hitter Greg Allen grounded into a double play that got Eddie to third base where he eventually scored on a wild pitch that he didn't even initially run home on. The officials declared the ball out of play and coaxed Eddie down the line like a kid who wasn't sure what home plate was or what this baseball game was all about.
Astros up 11-3, thank you very much.
And the Indians season ended with a Melky Cabrera ground out.
Game 3 was emblematic of our entire 2018 campaign: solid starting pitching, tepid hitting, untimely bad defense, and a dumpster fire bullpen.
I'll have more to say about all of this as distance grows between a sad -- if not predictable -- end to a lackluster season. I don't think the 2018 Cleveland Indians wanted it as much as they needed to get past the reigning World Series champs. We got beat. Fair and square.
So pardon me while I gather up my belongings and hop on the Milwaukee Brewers bandwagon for the remainder of October.
If there's one consolation about yesterday's embarrassing loss it's that ours was not the worst loss of the day: that honor goes to the New York Yankees who got destroyed 16-1 by the Red Sox in Game 3 of their ALDS. Oh, and that happened in the Bronx.
Yeah, their stadium emptied, too.
Rough day for the home team.
Onto the next, Cleveland Indians. My love for you is true and will remain even if there is still only one thing left to do.
Title by me