I have a lot of options when it comes to images to use at the top of a post. There are several of a dejected Francisco Lindor sitting on second base after he was tagged out in tonight’s loss that I could use, but it wouldn’t feel right to do it. That’s not how the Indians finished their streak.
The images of Lindor were just before he got up after being tagged, and they would probably make for a better feature image; a more powerful statement to conclude a heartbreaking loss. But it would feel dishonest to pretend that’s how the game ended.
There was no sitting around and pouting for the Cleveland Indians — there was celebration:
The Cleveland Indians hadn’t lost since August 24 coming into today — an American League-record 22 straight games, including two double-header sweeps, four double-digit blowouts, and six series sweeps. It all ended tonight against the Kansas City Royals and I couldn’t be prouder of this team for everything they’ve done over the last three weeks.
Trevor Bauer pitched 5.1 innings in the loss, allowing four earned runs and striking out six. Not a terrible start by most accounts, but with the sky-high standards set by The Streak, he might as well have allowed 14 runs. His biggest issue, by far, was an inconsistent curveball.
When Bauer is good, his killer 12-6 curve is located well and unhittable. It was good at times tonight, especially late in the outing, but it took too long to get going. The pitch, which is normally Bauer’s go-to, was thrown 42 times and induced just seven swinging strikes, compared to eight balls put into play. The Royals had no issues putting it into play, especially early on. And without the pitch working, Bauer was left to rely more on his fastball and cutter, both of which were hammered for home runs.
Indians batters had the Royals’ Jason Vargas mostly figured out, too. The first time through the order was ugly, including four straight strikeouts at the bottom of the order. But once the second time around came, the Tribe hit Vargas all over the field. They caught on to his — well, let’s just call it less-than-fast — fastball. Enough for Jose Ramirez to homer off it in the third to give the Tribe their second, and final, lead of the game.
The Indians looked mortal for most of last night’s win as well, but late-inning heroics preserved the streak for an extra game. Those heroics just didn’t come tonight. They had chances, including four stranded runners after Lorenzo Cain singled home the go-ahead run in the sixth, but the Indians just couldn’t get them across the plate, something they hadn’t had a whole lot of trouble with during the streak.
One thing I loved about the game was the decision by Terry Francona to pinch-hit Francisco Mejia in the bottom of the ninth with the game on the line. I don’t know if there is some legitimate confidence building being attempted by Tito here (or just going with his best available hitter), but I love the ballsiness of putting in your 21-year-old top prospect who debuted less than a month ago in such a crucial spot. It didn’t work, obviously, but if you’re Francisco Mejia you 1) have incredibly dreamy eyes and 2) must feel like the Indians have a ton of confidence in you. Both of those have to count for something.
What wasn’t good was the multiple failed bunt attempts. Maybe it’s just residue from all the winning, but the Indians seemingly forgot how to bunt. Greg Allen attempted one in the seventh inning, and Yan Gomes following suit in the ninth. Luckily, both bunt attempts failed, so instead of giving up an entire out for no reason, they only made their at-bat a little harder with a free strike. That’s the best you can hope for with a bunt when you’re not tied and in the bottom of extra innings.
There’s a lot to process after this loss. The game itself was pretty straightforward — the Indians struggled with runners in scoring position, and Trevor Bauer made just enough mistakes to lose — but it definitely doesn’t feel like a regular loss. There is so much history behind everything we’ve seen in the last stretch of games and suddenly it’s over. It’s nothing like a postseason loss, because there is still baseball tomorrow, and it will look exactly like the baseball today. For the most part, it will even feel the same.
But it’s almost a relief that it’s over, in a way. I’m looking forward to getting back to that normal baseball until the postseason; part of me wonders if the Indians feel the same way deep down. And besides, writing about a winning streak gets hard after awhile. I’ve run out of ways to describe blowouts and ways to get across just how amazing Jose Ramirez is.
There’s just this weird calm right now, and it feels like it can only lead to more excitement eventually. I can’t wait.