Yan­kees oust In­di­ans, ad­vance to ALCS

NY win Cleve­land sets up duel with Astros Cubs, Na­tion­als comes down to de­cider

Jerusalem Post - - SPORTS -

This is how it ends, the New York Yan­kees danc­ing around the pitcher’s mound at Pro­gres­sive Field.

Fi­nal score: New York Yan­kees 5, Cleve­land In­di­ans 2.

The In­di­ans had three chances to win one game, three op­por­tu­ni­ties to keep what was once such a won­der­ful sea­son alive.

The last chance was at home with ace Corey Klu­ber on the mound. And they failed ... again. For the Tribe and their fans, this is so painful.

The In­di­ans were this easy-to-love, record-set­ting base­ball team that played the game with joy and con­fi­dence.

They were the team with the 22-game win­ning streak, the team that won an Amer­i­can League best 102 games.

It’s a team that made Cleve­land feel like a base­ball town, an In­di­ans team that drew 2 mil­lion fans for the first time in 10 years. Then came Oc­to­ber. The play­offs. And there was more win­ning ... the first two games of the Amer­i­can League Di­vi­sion Se­ries.

The In­di­ans had won 35-of-39 games head­ing in the third game of this best-of­five se­ries with the Yan­kees. Talk about Tribe Time Now. One more win, the Yan­kees were gone. His­tory. World Se­ries dreams still alive.

Then it stopped. The team that couldn’t lose sud­denly for­got how to win.

For the In­di­ans, three games in four days ended seven sen­sa­tional months of base­ball.

“No­body wanted the sea­son to be over,” said Tribe man­ager Terry Fran­cona. “It doesn’t wind down. It comes to a crash­ing halt.”

Then comes a win­ter of won­der­ing, an off-sea­son of re­gret. It’s one thing to be up­set by the Yan­kees ... and this was an up­set. It’s an­other to score only five runs in the last three games. And to strike out 40 times in their last 27 in­nings. And to make seven er­rors in the last two games.

This from a team that made the fewest er­rors in the Amer­i­can League this sea­son.

“Some­times you don’t swing the bat,” said Fran­cona. “That’s part of it. But 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.”

The truth is the Tribe ... this ter­rific reg­u­lar sea­son team ... un­rav­eled un­der the bright lights of the play­offs when it meant the most.

There are sev­eral rea­sons for the Tribe’s play­off col­lapse, los­ing three con­sec­u­tive close­out games.

But the main cul­prit was this: The bats went silent.

Fran­cisco Lin­dor? The All-Star short­stop was 2-for-18 ... six strike­outs. Jason Kip­nis? He was 4-for-22 ... eight strike­outs. Jose Ramirez? He was 2-for-20 ... seven strike­outs. Ed­win En­car­na­cion? He was 0-for-7 ... and missed three games with an an­kle in­jury. Michael Brant­ley? Com­ing back from an an­kle in­jury, he was 1-for-11.

Tribe des­ig­nated hit­ters were des­ig­nated outs ... a com­bined 1-for-18, Brant­ley’s sin­gle was the only hit.

The weight of great ex­pec­ta­tions com­bined with a fear of a post­sea­son flop seemed to in­fect nearly ever Cleve­land player swing­ing a bat.

The In­di­ans bat­ted .171 for the five games. Were they press­ing? Kip­nis would not quite agree to that. But he added: “When it means so much to you, when you want to get it done ... you just want it so bad.”

And that seemed to make ev­ery­thing worse for the Tribe.

From the mo­ment the Tribe an­nounced Corey Klu­ber as the Game 2 starter, I won­dered if the Tribe ace had phys­i­cal prob­lems.

He did have a back in­jury early in the sea­son. But af­ter June 1, he was 16-2 with a 1.64 ERA.

Con­sider that Klu­ber didn’t al­low more than two runs in a game for his last nine starts of the reg­u­lar sea­son.

Let’s re­peat that: From Au­gust 13 to the end of the reg­u­lar sea­son, Klu­ber held ev­ery op­po­nent to two or fewer runs. NINE starts like that.

Then came the play­offs. There was his dis­mal start in Game 2 (six earned runs, 22/3 in­nings). In this game, he gave up three runs in 3 2/3 in­nings. Didi Gre­go­rius ac­counted for them all, blast­ing homers to right field in his first two at bats. Now think about this: 1. Gre­go­ri­ous came into the game bat­ting 2-for-15 (.133) against Klu­ber.

2. This sea­son, it was 0-for-9 against the Tribe.

3. In their first play­off matchup where Klu­ber had so many prob­lems with the Yan­kees, Gre­go­rius struck out and grounded out in his two at bats vs. Klu­ber.

4. Klu­ber had al­lowed only two homers on his curve­ball all sea­son. The sec­ond homer by Gre­go­rius was on a low, in­side curve­ball.

5. It was as if the rock­ets launched by Gre­go­rius came out of nowhere. The Yan­kee short­stop is an All-Star and hit 25 homers this sea­son. But un­til this night, he had never done a thing against Klu­ber.

Af­ter the game, Fran­cona didn’t want to go into de­tail about Klu­ber’s con­di­tion, but there was some­thing wrong with the 31-year-old right-han­der.

“He’s fight­ing a lot,” said Fran­cona. “You have to re­spect the fact that the guy wants to go out there ... he’s our horse.”

Klu­ber had a 12.79 ERA in two play­off starts, al­low­ing 10 hits, 9 runs, 4 homers in 6 1/3 in­nings.

“I don’t want to get into de­tails right now,” Klu­ber said. “I was healthy enough to go out and pitch.”

He pitched, but that was not the real Corey Klu­ber.

There are sev­eral stats about teams win­ning at least 100 reg­u­lar sea­son games, but not win­ning the World Se­ries. Some were knocked out in the first round of the play­offs.

That in­cludes the 2001 Oak­land A’s. The In­di­ans broke their reg­u­lar sea­son win­ning streak of 20 in a row.

How about this? Those A’s fin­ished 10260 (same as the Tribe). They had a 2-0 lead on the Yan­kees in the play­offs, then lost the next three games (same as the Tribe).

They lost Game 3 (1-0) and scored only five to­tal runs in the last three games (same as the Tribe).

Tribe re­liever An­drew Miller was deal­ing with ques­tions about win­ning more than 100 games, but los­ing in the play­offs.

“What are you sup­posed to do, stop at 99?” he asked.He sadly shook his head.

“You work so hard to put your­self in this po­si­tion,” he said. “It’s such a grind to get here ... Look, they out­played us.”

The Yan­kees had a 91-71 reg­u­lar sea­son record. They won a wild card game for the right to face the In­di­ans.

“I’m not say­ing they are the bet­ter team,” said Kip­nis. “But they played bet­ter than us. They de­served to go on.”

Yes, they did.


THE NEW YORK YAN­KEES cel­e­brate af­ter de­feat­ing the Cleve­land In­di­ans in game five of the 2017 ALDS play­off base­ball se­ries at Pro­gres­sive Field on Wed­nes­day. The Na­tion­als de­feated the Cubs 5-0 in Game 4 of the NLDS, leav­ing the se­ries tied 2-2.

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