A tale of two streaks in a dis­ap­pointed Cleve­land

The Globe and Mail (Ottawa/Quebec Edition) - - GLOBE SPORTS - DAVID WALDSTEIN

When this lat­est sad vol­ume of Cleve­land In­di­ans his­tory is writ­ten, bound and placed on a shelf along­side all the oth­ers, the 2017 team will be re­mem­bered for two no­table streaks: the record 22 con­sec­u­tive games it won in Au­gust and Septem­ber, and the three in a row it lost in Oc­to­ber.

Thanks in part to the win­ning streak, the In­di­ans fin­ished with 102 vic­to­ries in the reg­u­lar sea­son, then en­tered the play­offs with jus­ti­fi­ably high ex­pec­ta­tions. In­di­ans fans, who suf­fered through Cleve­land’s ag­o­niz­ing loss to the Chicago Cubs in Game 7 of the 2016 World Se­ries, felt this had to be the year. Their team was fi­nally go­ing to win its first World Se­ries since 1948.

But the In­di­ans’ loss to the New York Yan­kees in Game 5 of their Amer­i­can League di­vi­sion se­ries Wed­nes­day night left the 2017 ver­sion of the team just as frus­trated as last year’s.

“It ab­so­lutely stinks,” said Cody Allen, Cleve­land’s closer, who gave up the fi­nal two runs in the Yan­kees’ se­ries-win­ning 5-2 vic­tory. “It’s like be­ing a kid go­ing to an amuse­ment park, and af­ter 10 min­utes you have to leave.”

The In­di­ans were forced to exit this post­sea­son be­cause of un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally poor play in the ALDS’s fi­nal three games, in which they com­mit­ted more er­rors (seven) than they scored runs (five). Three of those er­rors came in Game 5, and one of them, by out­fielder Jay Bruce in the ninth in­ning, al­lowed the Yan­kees’ fi­nal run to score.

“A lot of peo­ple ex­pected bet­ter from us,” said catcher Roberto Perez, who was charged with an­other of the Game 5 er­rors, for catcher’s in­ter­fer­ence. “But the last three games, we didn’t play well.”

They had played ex­ceed­ingly well be­fore the post­sea­son, run­ning off a 22-game win­ning streak that did not end un­til the mid­dle of Septem­ber. It was the long­est streak of its kind in Amer­i­can League his­tory, and even af­ter the In­di­ans lost, they turned right around to go 11-4 to close out the reg­u­lar sea­son and roll into the play­offs.

They shut out the Yan­kees in Game 1 of the di­vi­sion se­ries, and ral­lied from five runs down to win Game 2. But some­how, that was it for the In­di­ans, and they never looked im­pos­ing in the three games that fol­lowed.

So what hap­pened? Was it just the Yan­kees grab­bing the se­ries away from them? Or did the In­di­ans peak too soon? Did the win­ning streak add to the pres­sure they felt to break the long cham­pi­onship drought? Maybe that pres­sure ex­plained some of the sloppy play and tight at-bats that scut­tled their sea­son so abruptly.

Per­haps, af­ter seven decades of fu­til­ity, the In­di­ans are just des­tined to fall short. The Cubs, the Chicago White Sox and the Bos­ton Red Sox all had to live with that kind of rep­u­ta­tion be­fore end­ing long cham­pi­onship droughts. The Red Sox did it in 2004 (af­ter not win­ning since 1918), the White Sox in 2005 (1917) and the Cubs last year (1908).

Now it is Cleve­land’s turn to be the team that has gone the long­est with­out a ti­tle and to deal with all the an­guish that comes with watch­ing each suc­ces­sive fail­ure heaped on the pre­vi­ous one.

“We love our team,” re­lief pitcher Andrew Miller said af­ter Game 5, “and the fact that the guys in this club­house were able to win 22 in a row and win 102 in the reg­u­lar sea­son – it says a lot about the abil­ity of this team to win the World Se­ries. But there are no guar­an­tees.”

Still, Cleve­land’s re­cent fail­ures are start­ing to take on a life of their own. The In­di­ans held a three-games-to-one lead in the best-of-seven Amer­i­can League Cham­pi­onship Se­ries against the Red Sox in 2007 and lost the fi­nal three games. They held a 3-1 ad­van­tage over the Cubs in last year’s World Se­ries and lost three in a row again. And now, against the Yan­kees, three more losses in a row.

“I don’t know if there is an ex­act sci­ence to clos­ing out se­ries,” Bruce said. “But we just couldn’t get it done.”

Miller, who sur­ren­dered the home run to Greg Bird that de­cided Game 3, said the play­ers know all too well how much Cleve­land fans ache for a cham­pi­onship, for a cel­e­bra­tion in the down­town streets that were so quiet and empty late Wed­nes­day night.

“We’re bust­ing our tails try­ing to find a way to get that pa­rade,” he said. “It’s just not go­ing to hap­pen this year. But you’ve got to like our chances next year.”

Of course, that’s what the In­di­ans said last year, too.

DAVID RICHARD/USA TO­DAY SPORTS

Cleve­land play­ers look glum af­ter the Yan­kees score a pair of ninth-in­ning runs in Game 5 on Wed­nes­day night. A three-game los­ing streak ended a sea­son that saw a stretch of 22 straight wins.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.