October 2, 2013
So just like that, the journey ends. If it feels so sudden, well, it is. The Indians won 92 games this year, but because they didn't win their 93rd, they now join 21 other MLB teams in preparing for next season.
Let's get some housecleaning out of the way. The jackwagon who threw the cup of unidentified liquid at David DeJesus hopefully was identified and banned for life from the ballpark. That kind of behavior has no place at any park.
The rest of the crowd, which stuck around all night despite a rather depressing game, was excellent, and shows the potential that is there in the fanbase. The people there were into the game from the beginning, and didn't need prompts to get onto their feet and make noise. It's just too bad that the results on the field didn't live up to their energy.
Danny Salazar was named the starter several days ago after Ubaldo Jimenez needed to start on Sunday. Salazar had only made 10 major-league starts, but didn't seem fazed in the slightest. He retired the first six Rays in order, and looked pretty good while doing it, missing bats and inducing weak contact. But then Delmon Young led off the third inning with a solo homer, and that presaged the end of his effectiveness. The Rays seemed to pick up on his pitches, or at least they were able to make contact. This being a one-and-done game, Terry Francona took Salazar out of the game early, using the bullpen to good effect, but by that time the score was already 3-0, which would be an insurmountable deficit.
Alex Cobb made the start for the Rays, and although he pitched very well, the Indians hitters did not take advantage of several very lucrative opportunities. In the fourth inning, Carlos Santana led off with a double, and went to third on a Michael Brantley infield single. Then Ryan Raburn walked, loading the bases for Asdrubal Cabrera. This at-bat was really the turning point in the game. Even if the Indians score just a run, that may have shortened Cobb's evening and ultimately the bullpen progression for Tampa Bay. But Cabrera grounded into a double play, and what looked so promising quickly turned into a gigantic disappointment.
The three "veterans" of the lineup - Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher, and Asdrubal Cabrera - went 0-for-12 on the evening. And although they were not the only ones to struggle (Jason Kipnis also went 0-for-4), their inability to even drive home a run on a sacrifice fly, capsized whatever chances the Indians had of winning the game. And for the talk about playoff experience, it was two first-timers that had great games. Yan Gomes, who has been a revelation this season, ended his 2013 campaign going 2-for-4 with a double. Lonnie Chisenhall, who has an up-and-down season, ended on a good note, as he went 3-for-4. So it was possible to have good at-bats against Cobb. But Michael Bourn couldn't lay off Cobb's curve, Asdrubal Cabrera rolled over on everything, and Nick Swisher almost swung out of his cleats a couple times.
The bullpen did their best to keep the Indians in it. Scrabble, Bryan Shaw, and Justin Masterson got the game into the ninth inning with the score still 3-0, but two costly errors allowed the Rays to add on an insurance run in their last at-bat. Well, as it turned out, that run didn't matter.
It was a game that the Indians could have gotten back into with just one big hit. But that hit never came, and so despite finishing the regular season with ten straight victories, the Indians' season is now over. The ending was very painful and frustrating, but that should not take away from the season as a whole. This was a fun season, a season that saw a turnaround of historic proportions. And along with that came some signs that the organization may be able to sustain competitiveness for a couple years. Whether that happens will depend on future moves, but even in defeat tonight you saw the future of this team, whether it be Salazar or Gomes or even Chisenhall. I know it's easy to let a bad ending ruin an otherwise good story, but in this case there were so many good chapters that you can't not help walking away from even tonight's game with a bit of fondness for this club.
And so ends another season of Indians baseball. Thank you for following along with me this season. Thank you for your support, your suggestions, your corrections, and your patience. It's been quite a year for the site, but none of that would have been possible if not for you, who visit and comment and argue and commiserate here in our virtual community of Tribe fans.
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