Going into the playoffs, we felt it would be very difficult for the Cleveland Indians to succeed because of the loss of Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar.
However, Terry Francona did a masterful job of post-season managing, relying heavily on his excellent bullpen headed by Andrew Miller and Cody Allen, and ably backed up by Bryan Shaw.
That trio, along with ace starter Corey Kluber soaked up the majority of the innings in the playoffs, and they performed magnificently…until last night.
They will deny it, but it appears those four arms simply ran out of gas, and the Chicago Cubs big hitters got hot in the last two games, while the Indians’ big bats could never get it going.
We should never forget the performance of Kluber, Miller, and Allen in particular during this run. Miller, in particular, showed every baseball fan that he might just be the best reliever in the game, and that Allen is damn good.
Dexter Fowler, Kyle Schwarber, Kris Bryant, and Anthony Rizzo wore Cleveland pitchers out in games six and seven, while Francisco Lindor and Mike Napoli hit some balls hard, but with no result.
As a result, the longest championship drought in major league baseball is over, and it has been replaced by the Tribe, who will enter next year having it be 69 years since the last time the franchise has won the World Series.
It didn’t help that the weather kind of conspired against the Indians too. The unseasonably warm evening caused the jet stream going out to centerfield and right center which aided balls hit by the Cubs.
The Indians didn’t hit any fly balls in that direction.
To our eye, the home runs hit by Fowler (to lead off the game) and David Ross didn’t appear to be dingers off the bat, and Wilson Contreras’ double off the wall fooled Rajai Davis as well.
And the fly ball Davis caught in the tenth off the bat of Bryant looked like a routine fly ball at the time and that ball carried to the wall.
Perhaps, the result would have been different if the temperature was 20 degrees cooler.
The Tribe had a chance to win the game in the bottom of the ninth against an obviously tired Aroldis Chapman, but they couldn’t even get a man on base.
That doesn’t temper the tremendous comeback to tie the game after trailing 5-1 in the fifth. Two runs scoring on a wild pitch by Jon Lester.
And then the epic 8th inning, with a big double by Brandon Guyer, and the tremendous two run homer by Rajai Davis, which rocked Progressive Field to its core.
While the Indians are a young team, and should be contenders for the next few years, you can’t count on a repeat berth in the World Series next year because of the three tiered playoff system.
There’s no guarantee they will be back, and all the organization can do is put the Tribe in a position to win the AL Central again in 2017. That gets you back in the post-season tournament.
We will analyze what the Indians should do with the roster going forward at another time, when yesterday’s loss doesn’t sting so much. We will say that post-season performance shouldn’t figure into those decisions.
There was no goat for the Cleveland Indians in this series. The pitchers that they leaned on so much in October simply ran out of gas. The injuries finally took their toll.