The Indians technically didn’t need to win this game to get into the postseason, and they played like it. Runs trickled in slowly through the first couple innings, then dingers burst through the dam and put the game out of reach by the fourth. Ultimately, the Indians fell 8-0 to the worst team in baseball.
This was the Pirates’ largest margin of victory this season, and their second shutout of the year.
Look on the bright side: the Indians are in the postseason. These final two games are nothing more than seeding. Unless something crazy happens, it looks like the Twins are going to beat the Reds and lock up the AL Central, while the White Sox roared back and are about to beat Chicago’s favorite team. The Indians do control the tiebreaker over the White Sox, so if the Sox lose and the Indians win tomorrow, they still have shot at a home series in the three-game Wild Card round. Otherwise, they’ll be on the road against the Twins or the A’s.
But first thing’s first — tonight’s disaster.
Aaron Civale’s personal nightmare lasted all of 4.0 innings and consisted of just four strikeouts, no walks, three home runs, and a crushing eight earned runs. It was the worst outing of his career by far, and the only the second time in his career he has allowed more than four earned runs in a start — the last came on Aug. 30 when the Cardinals tagged him for exactly five.
Civale cycled through all of his pitches — throwing his curveball, cutter, sinker, slider, and changeup all at least 10 times — but nothing worked. Only the curveball induced more than a single whiff, and everything was teed off on. All three Pirates homers came off different pitches, and none were more terrifying to witness than Colin Moran’s skyscraper that ultimately put the Pirates up by eight and ended Civale’s night. Or, it should have anyway, but he stayed in to retire another batter before exiting the game prior to the fifth inning.
Sure, Civale was squeezed by the home plate umpire, but when you’re throwing pitches like this repeatedly it doesn’t matter much.
If there is a silver lining to this game, it’s that Triston McKenzie looks like a natural coming out of the bullpen. His future should still be as a starter, but don’t be surprised to see him pitch a clutch inning or two out of the ‘pen in this year’s playoffs. Tonight, like his last relief appearance, was a mix of well-located 93+ mph fastballs, a couple that caught too much of the plate but he got away with, and a biting curveball.
Logan Allen didn’t look too bad out of the ‘pen either, other running into the unstoppable buzzsaw that is Ke’Bryan Hayes and a hanging slider that Jose Osuna turned into a double.
The lifeless offense didn’t do much to help Civale, even early on before the game became a blowout. The only real notable offensive positive tonight is that Jordan Luplow doubled off right-handed reliever Nick Tropeano. The Indians have given the former Pirate ample opportunity to prove he can hit righties and earn full-time duties in the outfield, but entering play tonight he’s gone 4-for-43 with a home run and 10 strikeouts against right-handers. Prior to tonight’s double, he struck out twice against starting pitcher Joe Musgrove, so I would not get your hopes up quite yet.
He probably would not have made a dent in the 8-0 deficit by himself, but it would have been nice to see trade deadline prize Josh Naylor start instead of coming in as a late-game replacement for Carlos Santana. Sandy Alomar’s reluctance to use him, even with his recent streak of hard-hitting at-bats, is weird, but not worst the thing in the world I guess. It’s hard to feel too passionate about lineup choices in a blowout, but it’s something to note.
And finally: Francisco Lindor. Hopefully he has some October heroics, because it’s starting to look like his final few games in Cleveland are not going to be worth remembering. He started tonight by swinging at a pitch that hit him in the thigh, resulting in a strikeout instead of a free base. Two innings later, he tried to extend a double into a triple and failed spectacularly. Outside of that, he struck out twice and weakly grounded out in the eighth. Frankie has just looked off all season, and tonight might have been his worst game yet.
The regular season ends tomorrow. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s been an honor.