CLEVELAND — The Indians season ended with the diamond in the shadows, the stands nearly empty and big questions hanging over the franchise,.
Not only were they swept out of the best-of-5 American League Division Series, Houston dominated them.
Final Score: Astros 11, Tribe 3.
The Indians had a 2-1 lead in this game after six innings.
Then they gave up nine runs in the next two innings.
That’s right, nine runs against a bevy of beleaguered bullpen pitchers beginning with Trevor Bauer.
Bauer was supposed to save the sagging bullpen. In the seventh inning, he made TWO throwing errors and lost his composure. Bauer allowed four runs in his five innings of relief during this series.
Cody Allen entered the game, and was whacked for a homer and four runs in one-third of an inning.
I feel bad for the shaken Allen, the team’s all-time leader in saves and a terrific guy. He gave up as many runs in this series (6) as the Tribe scored in three games.
And he pitched only one total inning.
Andrew Miller obviously isn’t healthy.
The once great bullpen is a leaky row boat. No matter what the coaching staff did, this group was sinking fast.
THE SAD REALITY
The defending World Series champion Houston Astros, 103-59 in the regular season, were too talented and too focused.
All the games stayed close – for a while. But the Astros were never really threatened in the late innings, which is where these playoff games often are decided.
No matter how the Indians try to explain it, this was a rotten way to end the season. They played some of their sloppiest baseball in the last three innings.
The gap between these two franchises is wider than originally thought.
Something also happened to the Indians from the time they blew a 2-0 lead in the best-of-5 ALDS series against the Yankees last season.
Manager Terry Francona and several players such as Corey Kluber kept saying, “Last year has nothing to do with this year.”
Only the Indians were out-scored 13-5 in the last three games of the Yankee series.
And they were outscored 21-6 in three games against the Astros.
It was like an extension of the 2017 playoffs, only worse.
The Indians have lost their last six playoff games.
And yes, there is a distressing message in that.
THE PLANS FAILED
The Indians sort of shuffled through the regular season, winning a very weak Central Division with a 91-71 record.
Moves were made.
The trade for Josh Donaldson…
Jason Kipnis moved from second base to center field…
Jose Ramirez from third base to second base…
Bauer to the bullpen…
Signing Yonder Alonso to play first base…
In the end, none of it helped the Indians in the playoffs.
“We prepared pretty extensively,” said Francona. “Not a lot of things went the way we hoped they would.”
Donaldson had one hit in three games. Same with Edwin Encarnacion.
Ramirez and Alonso had none.
The spark that was supposed to come from the playoff-tested Donaldson and the ready-to-pitch-everyday Bauer was a fizzle.
The Indians spent much of September like spring training, trying to nurse Miller (shoulder, knee) and Bauer (broken foot) back to health.
They shifted people around infield.
Part of the reason the Tribe made several dramatic moves during the season was to arm the team for playoffs. The front office knew it lacked the talent reach the World Series.
Some fans will want to blame Francona for the team being swept out of the post-season for the first time since 1954.
Francona didn’t have a good series.
But he also had a bullpen that has collapsed. The hitters didn’t hit. The late-season moves didn’t work.
And the season ended quietly in the sad shadows of an early October afternoon.