The 2018 edition of the Cleveland Indians is no more.
The defending champs, the Houston Astros, put the final nail in their coffin this afternoon, taking a 4-2 lead in the seventh inning that they would never relinquish.
For the second consecutive season, the Indians watched as another team celebrated on their home turf after booking a trip to the AL Championship Series.
Baseball’s longest World Series drought continues.
Mike Clevinger, in his first career postseason start, did all he could (and then some) to keep the Astros off balance for five innings. His nine strikeouts on the afternoon are the most in Indians history for a pitcher making his first career postseason start.
He nearly came unraveled in the third inning. He walked Tony Kemp to lead off the inning before striking out George Springer, but allowed Kemp to advance to second after an errant pickoff throw. Jose Altuve singled to left field to put runners at the corners, setting the stage for Clevinger to load the bases by hitting Alex Bregman with a pitch to the hip. But he was able to strike out Yuli Gurriel and get Marwin Gonzalez to fly out to left to keep the Astros off the board.
Clevinger managed to weave his way through the Astros’ lineup twice unscathed, limiting them to two hits, one walk, and seven strikeouts over that span. But then Springer kicked off the third time through with a solo shot on the first pitch to tie the game at 1-1.
Trevor Bauer, pitching in his third consecutive game this postseason, took over in the sixth inning.
He proceeded to surrender the lead in a disastrous seventh inning.
Following the pattern set forth by Clevinger, Bauer allowed a leadoff single to Kemp and then gave him a free pass to second with an errant pickoff throw. Springer reached on a swinging bunt that couldn’t have gone more than ten feet down the third base line, putting runners at the corners with no outs. Altuve grounded into a fielder’s choice, scoring Kemp to tie the game. Bregman then bounced a ball to Bauer, whose throw to Lindor at second to get the lead runner was wide of the bag, before Gurriel walked to load the bases.
It was Marwin Gonzalez who delivered the fatal blow. With the bases loaded, he socked a pitch almost a foot above the strike zone into left field, good for a two-run double to take the lead.
the hits that very well might've ended the Indians' season pic.twitter.com/Tfsr9LK52u— Jeff Sullivan (@based_ball) October 8, 2018
The Astros added on a bunch more runs from there, but who cares.
The Indians opened things up in the third inning with back-to-back singles from Yan Gomes and Jason Kipnis with no outs. Then, for reasons I can’t comprehend, Francisco Lindor bunted down the third baseline to advance the runners. Who am I kidding, it makes total sense to have your best hitter give away an out in the pursuit of a single run. The logic is undeniable. It obviously worked out perfectly, thanks to a sac fly by Michael Brantley to put the Tribe ahead 1-0.
With the game tied and two outs in the fifth inning, Lindor opted not to bunt and and instead homered to left off Dallas Keuchel, returning the lead to the Tribe, 2-1.
But it wasn’t enough. Not even close.
The Josh Donaldson experiment was a failure, at least from the standpoint of the postseason, which is all that really matters. He finished 1-for-11 in the three-game series.
The Indians will also have to reckon with another October disappearing act by former MVP candidate Jose Ramirez. Dating back to last year, Ramirez is 2-for-31 in the postseason.
Now, the long offseason begins.