Cleve­land has fin­ish­ing is­sues

Fran­cona 2-8 with a chance to close out a play­off se­ries.

The Palm Beach Post - - BASEBALL - By Tom Withers

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.

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,” pitcher Josh Tom­lin said af­ter the In­di­ans were ousted from the post­sea­son with a 5-2 loss to the New York Yan­kees on Wed­nes­day night in Game 5 of the 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.”

Since 1999, the In­di­ans are 3-17 in se­ries-clinch­ing games. In the past two years, Cleve­land has lost six con­sec­u­tive games — three 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.

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.

“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.

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, Fran­cona said the ace was “fight­ing a lot” on the mound.

Klu­ber posted a 12.79 ERA and gave up four homers in 6⅓ 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 such as Brant­ley, Tom­lin and first base­man Car­los San­tana. Jay Bruce, whose ac­qui­si­tion in an Au­gust trade made the club stronger, will hit the freeagent mar­ket as will de­pend­able re­liev­ers Bryan Shaw and Joe Smith.

“I started a quest back in 2009,” Brant­ley said. “I want to fin­ish it the right way. I don’t want to go out like this if it’s my choice. It’s not.”

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