The Indians were second in the American League in runs per game this season, and their offense did well against the Red Sox in the ALDS. For the past three weeks though, there's been a lot more silence than noise, and even including the three games against Boston, the Indians are hitting just .217/.285/.373 as a team in the postseason. After scoring 4.83 runs per game during the regular season, they've scored just 3.36 per game in the postseason.
Of the eight players who've appeared in every or all but one game, only Francisco Lindor and Carlos Santana have an on-base percentage of .300, and only Lindor and Jason Kipnis have an OPS better than .720. The Indians led the American League in stolen bases during the season, but only Rajai Davis has stolen more than one in the postseason. Lindor has been thrown out at second twice, and picked off at first once.
It's been feast or famine for the Tribe offense; they scored six runs in Game 1, and seven runs in Game 4, but only seven runs total during the other four games. We should be glad got they stuck at three runs last night, because every time in the last three weeks they've scored more than three, the offense crashed in the next game.
Yes, these samples are minuscule, but some of the team's struggles are a continuation of what was happening late in the regular season:
Tyler Naquin couldn't hit water from a boat right now (or catch it, apparently). After his inside-the-park game-winner on August 19, Naquin hit .241/.359/.276, with strikeouts in 30% of his plate appearances. He's struck out in 14 of his 25 postseason plate appearances, which is an ugly exaggeration of his late-season struggles, but don't some sort of reversal of any sort of success. Mike Napoli hit his 29th home run of the season on August 11, and was on pace to hit 40 of them, but he hit just .184/.309/.297 the rest of the regular season, with a HR-rate not even half what it had been. There was legitimate discussion of whether it would make sense for the Tribe to give him a qualifying offer, but after his tepid final 50 games of the regular season, and a .191/.255/.319 line in the postseason, with just one home run in 47 at bats, that issue has been settled. Rajai Davis hit .175/.212/.222 in September, so his postseason line of .103/.156/.138 isn't even down that far from what he was doing towards the end of the year.Santana, Kipnis, and Jose Ramirez are all under-hitting their regular season numbers too.
Corey Kluber has been great, and if he can get through 5 or 6 scoreless innings this evening, his performance this postseason will belong among the very best ever. It's also true that will be his third start on short rest in the last 15 days, and each of his short-rest starts has included somewhat diminished returns. After pitching 6.1 shutout innings in Game 1 against the Blue Jays, he allowed two runs in five innings against them in Game 4. After pitching six shutout innings in Game 1 against the Cubs, with nine strikeouts, he allowed a couple extra base-runners and a run against them in Game 4, without as much movement on his pitches. That trend playing out in a second consecutive short-rest start could mean his least impressive outing of the postseason.
Chicago's Game 7 starter Kyle Hendricks led MLB with a 2.13 ERA this year though; there haven't been many big games against him all season. Fellow Cy Young candidate Jon Lester (who was second in ERA this season) is likely to follow Hendricks tonight, with Aroldis Chapman ready to close the game out. Scoring runs off the Cubs tonight would be a tall order for a team that'd been hitting well. For a team hitting the way the Indians have been...
We'll see. Someone has to step up, preferably a bunch of someones.
I keep reminding myself that if before this series started, someone had offered me Game 7, with Kluber on the mound, and the Tribe's top relievers all rested, I'd have taken it. This Cubs team is fantastic, and beating them could never have been easy. The Tribe has already accomplished so much more than most expected. Dammit do I ever want this one last victory though.