By Adam Schabel
Reality began to set in for Cleveland Indians fans in the eighth inning of Game 3 of the American League Division Series (ALDS) at Progressive Field in Cleveland.
Fans were heading for the exits in droves after Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa launched a three-run home run into the right field seats. That extended Houston’s lead to 10-2 and all but ended the game.
The Indians lost the game 11-3 and were swept by the Astros 3-0 in the series.
That left a lot of Indians fans wondering what could have been.
This was the second year in a row that the Indians were eliminated in the ALDS. Last season, Cleveland was knocked out by the New York Yankees after blowing a 2-0 series lead.
This season, it was the same story —another early exit from the playoffs for the Indians.
“It was very difficult to see our team get exposed like that,” Mark Lombardo, a senior history and social studies double major, said. “Houston was far away and was the better team across the board. It looked like our team was demoralized after the first game.”
In Game 1 of the ALDS, the Indians were shut down by Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander and lost the game 7-2. Cleveland only scored two runs on three hits in the contest. The Indians didn’t get any help from their All-Star starter Corey Kluber, either. He struggled as he only pitched 4.2 innings and gave up four runs on six hits.
Game 2 was a similar story as the offense was nonexistent for a second straight game, however, Cleveland’s pitching was better.
The Indians pitched better in the second game of the series as Indians starter Carlos Carrasco gave up just two runs. However, the Indians only scored one run on three hits and fell into an 0-2 series hole after losing the game 3-1.
In Game 3, poor relief pitching doomed the Indians.
Indians starting pitcher Mike Clevinger pitched a solid five innings. He gave up one run on three hits while striking out nine batters. Pitcher Trevor Bauer came on in relief of Clevinger and the two pitchers combined to give up just one run in 6.1 innings pitched.
It then went downhill fast for the Indians.
Over the last three innings of the game, relief pitchers Andrew Miller, Cody Allen, Brad Hand and Adam Cimber gave up 10 runs.
“Cody Allen had a very disappointing year due to his lack of command,” Lombardo said. “It seemed like he was always trying to find control, and when he did, it was too late. That did not change at all in the postseason.”
The Indians had bullpen issues all season long, and it came to a head during Game 3.
“It was a very good game for six innings,” Lombardo said. “Both teams were looking to make the right adjustments to exploit the other, and Houston ultimately did that in the seventh [inning]. Our bullpen was a letdown yet again this whole postseason.”
To put Cleveland’s offensive woes into perspective, the team managed to score just six runs on 13 hits the entire series. They were also outscored 21-6 and outhit .327 to .144.
“The Indians played terrible as a team during the three games. Our hitters did not make the necessary adjustments during the game to attack the Astros’ pitchers,” Lombardo said.
“It seemed like every guy that stepped up was trying to do way too much instead of being patient and taking what the pitcher [was] giving [them]. The latter is what we have been accustomed to seeing the past few years.”
It also didn’t help the Indians that All-Star third baseman Jose Ramirez didn’t record a hit in the series as he went 0-for-11. Over the last two seasons, he is 2-for-31 with one RBI in the ALDS.
“Jose Ramirez has been a regular season MVP candidate the past two seasons that does a complete 180 in the playoffs,” Lombardo said. “The Astros exploited his inability to adjust to breaking balls. He has been a fastball killer in his career but has had a history of not being able to hit breaking balls that well.”
The Indians have had their fair share of playoff woes over the past three seasons.
Over their last 11 postseason games, the Indians are 2-9. During the 2016 World Series, Cleveland blew a 3-1 series lead to the Chicago Cubs. In the 2017 ALDS, the Indians blew a 2-0 series lead to the New York Yankees and in the 2018 ALDS, Cleveland was swept by Houston.
“This season was a disappointment with the huge pre-season expectations that a vast majority of people had, myself included,” Lombardo said.
“Coming off of a meltdown last postseason against the Yankees, the Tribe was expected to come back with a vengeance but just seemed as if they were on cruise control all regular season and could not flip the switch in time for the postseason.”
Indians fans can only hope the team’s playoff fortunes turn around sooner rather than later.