Cleve­land’s sea­son comes to stun­ning halt

The News (New Glasgow) - - SPORTS -

The end came quickly, painfully and with lit­tle warn­ing.

When the fi­nal out was made, and Cleve­land’s sea­son crashed way be­fore it ever imag­ined with a 5-2 loss to the New York Yan­kees, the In­di­ans re­treated to their club­house to try to fig­ure out what went wrong.

The list was long.

Ace right-han­der Corey Klu­ber pitched poorly. all-stars Fran­cisco Lin­dor and Jose Ramirez didn’t hit, and the In­di­ans com­mit­ted seven er­rors in the fi­nal two games when they didn’t look any­thing like a team that won 102 games or was favoured to take home the cham­pi­onship com­ing into Oc­to­ber.

“It ac­tu­ally stinks,” closer Cody Allen said in a sub­dued club­house. “They just flat-out played bet­ter than us the last three days.”

Un­able to fin­ish off a young Yan­kees team fight­ing for its man­ager, the In­di­ans be­came the first team in his­tory to blow a two-game se­ries lead in con­sec­u­tive post­sea­sons.

It wasn’t sup­posed to be like this. Af­ter get­ting to Game 7 of the World Se­ries a year ago, the In­di­ans set out to win it all in 2017. This was sup­posed to be their year.

In­stead, it’s just an­other heart­breaker for a Cleve­land team that ap­peared un­stop­pable and had Klu­ber on the mound at home for the big­gest game this sea­son.

“It’s dis­ap­point­ing,” man­ager Terry Fran­cona said. “We felt good about our­selves. We came down the stretch play­ing very good baseball, and we did some things in this se­ries that I don’t think were char­ac­ter­is­tic of our team. We made some er­rors, kicked the ball around a lit­tle bit.

“Some­times you don’t swing the bat. That’s part of it. But we made it harder to win in some cases, es­pe­cially the last two games.”

But the pre­sump­tive Cy Young Award win­ner wasn’t him­self in two starts, post­ing a 12.79 earned-run av­er­age and look­ing or­di­nary. Fol­low­ing Game 5, Fran­cona hinted that Klu­ber may have been both­ered by a back in­jury — and other health is­sues — that put him on the dis­abled list ear­lier this sea­son.

“I don’t think we need to get into de­tails of that,” Klu­ber said when asked about the in­jury. “I was healthy enough to go out there and try to pitch. I don’t think any­body is 100 per cent at this point of the year, but good enough to go out there and try to com­pete.”

Yan­kees short­stop Didi Gre­go­rius home­red twice off Klu­ber in the first three in­nings, stak­ing the Yan­kees to a 3-0 lead.

“I made two mis­takes to Didi,” Klu­ber said. “He’s a good hitter and he hit two home runs. I felt like I threw the ball bet­ter than I did the other day, but ul­ti­mately it wasn’t good enough.”

When they left for New York on Fri­day with a 2-0 lead, the In­di­ans seemed to be in the driver’s seat.

But a team that won 22 straight games — the long­est streak in AL his­tory — couldn’t pre­vent its first three-game los­ing streak since July 30 to Aug. 1.

Out­fielder Jay Bruce, who was so clutch af­ter com­ing over in an Au­gust trade from the New York Mets, was stunned by the In­di­ans’ un­ex­pected slide.

“It’s a missed op­por­tu­nity for us,” said Bruce, el­i­gi­ble for free agency this win­ter. “I’m still very proud of the way we played this year, but ob­vi­ously it doesn’t mean much when you get to the post-sea­son and can’t do the job.

“I don’t have any ex­pla­na­tion for it. I don’t know if there’s an ex­act sci­ence for clos­ing out a se­ries. We couldn’t get it done. We got beat. They played bet­ter. That’s the bot­tom line.”

Ja­son Kip­nis, who moved from sec­ond base to cen­tre field late in the sea­son, was hav­ing trou­ble ac­cept­ing Cleve­land’s fate.

“They de­served to win, but I’m not go­ing to tell you the bet­ter team is go­ing on,” he said.

AP PHOTO

Cleve­land In­di­ans play­ers watch dur­ing the ninth in­ning of Wed­nes­day’s 5-2 loss to the New York Yan­kees.

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