Look at this way: at least the Indians can’t blow a big series lead this time.
With tonight’s 7-2 loss to the Houston Astros, the Tribe are staring at an uphill battle to reach their second American League Championship in three years. It’s certainly not an unclimbable hill — more like a Tall’s Hill sized hill — and it might not exist at all if some things went differently tonight.
Well, to clarify, if everything went differently tonight.
It’s not often you get a game that was so clearly bungled in so many ways from the get-go like this one. Let’s start with the bad pitching.
The first three and a half innings went about as you would expect a Corey Kluber-Justin Verlander showdown to go ,with a pair of dueling no-hitters. But not everything was as it seemed in the box score. Verlander would carry his deep into the sixth inning, while Kluber... didn’t.
Despite keeping hits from tallying up early on, this wasn’t Kluber’s night. He cruised through the first three innings on 33 pitches, but something felt off. He only had one strikeout (Carlos Correa in the second) and he hit two batters — something he only did three times total in 2018, and something he hasn’t done twice in the same game since September 2016. Through those first three innings, Kluber induced just one swinging strike and balls were consistently hit hard — they just didn’t fall where batters wanted them to.
Then, in the fourth, they started falling.
Kluber’s early-inning luck ran out fast, and despite his curveball looking sharp the few times he used it, his other pitches were hammered, starting with a 107.1 mile-per-hour home run off the bat of Alex Bregman and a pair of 100+ mph hits that scored Tyler White later in the inning. At this point, in most postseason games, I would think a call to the bullpen would be warranted. Kluber didn’t have it, and that’s okay. It doesn’t mean he’s a terrible postseason pitcher, it just wasn’t his game.
Take him out, he’s gassed, there’s no sense in leaving him in.
Terry Francona opted to leave him anyway which allowed George Springer and Jose Altuve to crush back-to-back home runs off him and put the game seemingly out of reach for the Indians who at that point didn’t have a hit. That segues nicely into — and mostly concludes — the managerial blame portion of this recap.
Francona’s indecision cost the Indians big time tonight. Looking at the final box score might not show it, but had he taken out Kluber at a more natural time, and not when he was nearing 100 pitches and well past effective, the game would have been tied at one point. Who knows how things changed from there for the Indians, who had to claw back with the bases loaded and narrowly plate two runs.
And while I guess I understand the decision to bring in Trevor Bauer for some postseason work in a near blowout (while also taking him out quick enough to preserve his arm for another go tomorrow or the next day), I would have rather saved him entirely for a longer stint in a more crucial moment.
Offensively, the Indians came to live in one inning and one inning only, when they knocked Justin Verlander out of the game in the sixth and score a couple runs off a nervous Ryan Pressley. Yan Gomes gets most of the credit for that with his incredibly lengthy at-bats against Verlander, but seeing Jose Ramirez come up to bat with two runners on and a chance to tie the game with a home run, only to have him hit a weak ground ball, was a familiar sad sight over the last few weeks.
Yonder Alonso was an absolute dud this game, going 0-for-3 with three strikeouts — one of eight Indians to account for 10 strikeouts on the day. The only Tribe batter to not strikeout was Michael Brantley, who also had one of the team’s three lowly hits.
And finally, the least important, but also most bizarre, miss of the entire game: The Indians Twitter account.
They’ve definitely lacked a certain something this year (unless you enjoy 69 jokes and pop culture references), but they completely disappeared over the course of the only important game in months. From their first tweet prior to the game — which ironically stated “We’re starting something RIGHT NOW!” — to their drowsy post-game tweet, they had a total of one original Tweet and a series of retweets that highlighted the games, um, let’s call them midlights.
Nothing against those three, but come on, @Indians. Do something at least. And definitely not this:
Nothing gets the blood pumping like a good exciting tweet https://t.co/wcfhrVTng3— Let's Go Tribe (@LetsGoTribe) October 5, 2018
The good news of it all is, this is a five-game series, the Indians send another ace to the mound tomorrow, and we all live to fight another day. Hopefully everyone wakes the hell up by then.