No Series seriously ‘stinks’ for Tribe
Cleveland’s title drought continues after early exit
The stinging loss still too fresh to process, outfielder Michael Brantley worked his way around the solemn, shocked clubhouse and hugged some new Indians teammates and ones he has played with for years.
The emotion was raw, not like in 2016, when broken hearts were filled with pride following an extra-inning loss in Game 7 of the World Series.
It hurt more this time. Josh Tomlin’s eyes welled with tears as he searched for words to explain what had happened. None came.
October, the month when championships are seized or squandered, was callous to Cleveland once more.
“I’m not really sure how you get over something like this,” Tomlin said after the Indians were pitched from the post-season with a 5-2 loss to the New York Yankees Wednesday in Game 5 of their AL Division Series. “I’m not really sure I’m over last year, either. The only way to get over something like this is to go out there and win and that’s not what happened.”
What happened was the Indians didn’t hit, didn’t pitch and, like last year, didn’t deliver a knockout punch while giving up a two-game lead. It’s an unforgivable sin and one Cleveland teams have repeated.
Since 1999, the Indians are 3-17 in series-clinching games, an unconscionable record in the most consequential month.
In the past two years, Cleveland has lost six consecutive games — three last year with a chance to win their first Series since 1948 and now three to the Yankees — with a chance to close out a series and is 2-8 in those games under manager Terry Francona.
It’s somewhat unfair to label a team this successful as chokers, but they’ve done nothing to dispel that tag.
“It’s baseball,” said Brantley, whose personal comeback season was disrupted by another injury.
“Nothing matters after the regular season is over. The goal is to win three games. We came up short. They’re a great team over there. We’ve got to give credit where credit’s due. They beat us. We just need to make sure we come back stronger mentally, physically and just prepare to get back in this situation again.”
Nothing is guaranteed. Nothing is promised.
The Indians won 102 games in the regular season, strung together the AL’s longest winning streak in 116 years and entered the postseason as the league’s top seed in a four-week tournament where the madness can match anything that happens in March. The postseason will go on without them.
“It absolutely stinks,” said closer Cody Allen. “It’s like you’re a kid and you go to the amusement park and you stay for 10 minutes and you have to leave.”
The sudden exit was quickly followed by questions about Corey Kluber’s health. An 18-game winner, the expected Cy Young winner and the AL’s best pitcher from April through September, Kluber was ordinary in October. Actually, he wasn’t that good. The Indians also have major off-season decisions to make with some important veterans like Brantley, Tomlin and first baseman Carlos Santana.