Collapse against Yanks stings Tribe
CLEVELAND — 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’s 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 ever 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 postseason with a 5-2 loss to the New York Yankees on Wednesday night in Game 5 of the American League 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 in the postseason. It’s an unforgiveable sin, and sadly, one Cleveland teams have repeated.
Since 1999, the Indians are 3-17 in seriesclinching games, an unconscionable record in the most consequential month. 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 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 and the expected Cy Young winner, Kluber was ordinary in October.
Kluber didn’t get the past the fourth inning in either start against the Yankees, and after downplaying the idea that the right-hander’s tricky back might be bothering him again, manager Terry Francona said the ace was “fighting a lot” on the mound.
Kluber posted a 12.79 ERA and gave up four homers in 6 innings.
All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor and MVP candidate Jose Ramirez went a combined 4 for 38 in the series. Jason Kipnis didn’t hit, Edwin Encarnacion missed two games with a sprained ankle and no one else stepped up.
While Lindor and Ramirez represent the team’s youthful core, the Indians have major offseason decisions to make with some important veterans like Brantley, Tomlin and first baseman Carlos Santana. Jay Bruce, whose acquisition in an August trade made the club stronger, will hit the free agent market as will dependable relievers Bryan Shaw and Joe Smith.
Edwin Encarnacion reacts after striking out against the Yankees on Wednesday when the Indians managed just five hits in a 5-2 loss.