You may have come across the phrase memento mori at one time or another in your reading. The phrase is in Latin, and roughly translated it means “remember that you have to die.” Although the basis for this symbolic phrase originally came from Greek and Roman philosophers, it was most prominent in the minds of people in the Medieval and Renaissance periods for various reasons. This mindset shows up in many pieces of art, from church crypts to the use of the human skull in paintings (and famously used in productions of Shakespeare’s Hamlet). Memento mori and its related symbolism represents the transient nature of life and material goods, both of which could go away in the blink of an eye.
Baseball is not real life, and there is one team every year that escapes mortality, but the symbolism is appropriate here nonetheless. As with life itself, success can be fleeting. The events of the last three games were stark reminders that even a team that won 22 games in a row can be beaten in a 5-game series. 102 wins are not guarantees of ultimate immortality. Baseball’s playoff structure isn’t designed to mirror the regular season; there aren’t enough games in it to allow the law of averages to work. And unfortunately tonight we witnessed an example of what can happen in a 5-game series.
A lot of time and energy was spent discussing Terry Francona’s decision to send Corey Kluber to mound in Game 2. The main reasoning was to have him available on normal rest if the series went 5 games. And that’s what happened. The Indians were able to send to the mound tonight exactly who they wanted to pitch in that situation, but Kluber wasn’t the dominant pitcher he was from June to September. His breaking pitches and his cutter were accurate, but he was having difficulties placing his fastball where he wanted it. And when he missed on the inner half of the plate to Didi Gregorius with a fastball, the Yankees shortstop didn’t miss it. Just three batters into the game, New York led 1-0, quieting the sellout crowd.
Meanwhile CC Sabathia, who 10 years ago was at his playoff worst against the Red Sox in the ALCS, was at his playoff best early on. He retired the first 9 batters he faced, baffling the Tribe hitters the first time through the order. He was helped greatly by a generous strike zone, getting pitches usually high and outside the strike zone called strikes by home plate umpire Jeff Nelson. But give Sabathia credit; he was able to hit those spots to take advantage of the wide zone.
Kluber would give up 2 more runs in the third, coming off the bat of Didi Gregorius yet again. This time Kluber hung a curve, and that would hasten his end. Terry Francona would pull him before he got out of the fourth inning, and I agreed with the call. Kluber looked slightly better than in his Game 2 start, but with a 3-0 deficit in an elimination game, the Indians seemingly didn’t have any more margin for error.
And so Game 5 became essentially a bullpen game. Andrew Miller came in first, and was excellent. He got through two innings, and handed the ball off to Bryan Shaw. Shaw, in what was perhaps his final game as an Indian, threw two scoreless innings, keeping his team well within striking distance.
By this time the Indians had finally solved Sabathia. They got four consecutive hits against him in the fifth, the final two by players you wouldn’t expect to come through; Roberto Perez and Giovanny Urshela. Yankees manager pulled Sabathia in favor of David Robertson, who faced off against Francisco Lindor with two runners on and one out. In retrospect that at-bat was the closest the Indians came to winning, and it was marred from the beginning. The first pitch from Robertson was six inches off the plate, but was called a strike. The second pitch jammed Lindor, and was turned into an inning-ending double play.
The Indians would not score after that, although for much of the rest of the game they were one swing of the bat from tying the game. In the ninth the Yankees would get two back-breaking insurance runs when Brett Gardner capped a 12-pitch at-bat off Cody Allen with a liner into right field. One run was going to score anyway, but Jay Bruce’s throw got away from Francisco Lindor, and so a second run would come in. The defense, which was a hallmark during the regular season, once again cost the team dearly in the ALDS. And of course the two errors made in that ninth inning came from the “regular” outfielders (Bruce and Austin Jackson).
Jose Ramirez, who had an awful ALDS, did work a leadoff walk off Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman, but the Indians wouldn’t be able to even bring the tying run to the plate. The final out of the game came on a called strike three that seemed up out of the strike zone, an appropriate end to the game.
And so, just like that, the season’s over. The Indians blew a 2-0 lead to lose to the Yankees, with two of those three losses started by Carlos Carrasco and Corey Kluber on normal rest. There were some costly errors in this series, but ultimately the reason the Indians lost is because several players who got them to this point weren’t very good in this series. There will be plenty of time to go into those gory details later on, though, when we’ve calmed down somewhat.
I do want to end this recap on a better note, and what better way to do so by thanking each and every one of you on this site for a great ride. We’ve had our arguments, but we’ve also had many great times as well. And thank you Matt Lyons for all you do.