Trading for Seunghwan Oh offered a quick fix to a thin bullpen, but a sputtering offense without improvement on the horizon has a hard time deliver Oh or Brad Hand a late-inning lead.
The return of Jose Ramirez in late July offers a boost and helps the Indians climb above the flagging White Sox. But, as the calendar flips to September, the Tribe sits just four games over .500, at 70-66, with a worse record than any other division leader and both wild card teams. As rosters expand, Terry Francona gives Triston McKenzie and Bobby Bradley a chance, but their roles get expanded as not one, but two regulars suffer injuries. First, Jake Bauers collides with Leonys Martin in the outfield and suffers a concussion, forcing Bradley to take over more time at DH as Santana goes to full-time first base duty. Then, in the last week of the season, Shane Bieber feels his calf tighten prior to a start in Chicago, slotting McKenzie into his rotation spot.
Though the injuries are not killers for the postseason, their effect on morale is. The Indians get a rematch in the ALDS, going to Houston, where in games one and two the offense musters only a pair of hits in each game. Game three in Cleveland is much better, with Bradley and Santana each going deep in a 4-2 win, with Oh pitching a perfect eighth in relief. But game four sees the Astros through to the ALCS on George Springer’s 4-5, 4-RBI day, ending the Indians season in disappointing fashion once again.