CLEVELAND, Ohio -The Indians even lost the plane ride home.
The Houston Astros’ charter flight landed at Hopkins International Airport on Saturday night. They collected their bags, boarded their buses and headed for the team hotel without a hitch.
The Indians’ charter flight packed with owners, players, coaches, wives and families landed a bit later. When they got off the plane and were waiting for their bags at plane side, a rain storm hit, drenching a band of weary travelers and ballplayers.
One more win in Game 3 on Monday afternoon at Progressive Field and the Indians’ 2018 season is over. For good and forever.
Mike Clevinger will start for the Indians at 1:30 p.m. at Progressive Field. Houston will counter with left-hander Dallas Keuchel.
The situation is so dire that Clevinger, not prone to cliches, had to go with a “our backs are against the wall’ comment during his meeting with the media on Sunday afternoon. The way the Astros have handled the Indians the first two games, they’ve driven their backs halfway through the way, not against it.
“The biggest vibe from this team is that we can leave it on the field,” said Clevinger, “because we know this could be our last game if we don’t show up. If anything, everyone is going to leave what they have out there, and that’s going to be good to see at home.”
Forget leaving it on the field. How about just having two or three batters string together consecutive hits? How about a sign of life from Jose Ramirez or anyone else? Ramirez is 0-for-7, but the only batter with more than one hit is Francisco Lindor. There are a lot of holes that need to be filled in the lineup if the Indians are going to play past Monday.
Yonder Alonso is 0-for-6, Michael Brantley is 1-for-7, Melky Cabrera is 1-for-6, Josh Donaldson is 0-for-8, Edwin Encarnacion is 1-for-7, Yan Gomes is 1-for-5. They’ve struck out 24 times and scored three runs.
“Speaking for myself, they’ve made some pretty good pitches, no question about that,” said Alonso, who will not start against Keuchel on Monday. “When they’ve made some mistakes, we haven’t been able to capitalize on them. Come playoff time, in these situations, you have to realize that when they make a mistake, you have to make them pay.”
As for what Tribe’s options are in Game 3, Alonso gave the answer anyone would give.
“We’ve got to win,” he said. “We’ve got to win. We’ve got to put pressure on them. We have our fans behind us and we’re ready to get them excited.”
When the Indians lost Game 1 on Friday, 7-2, they were already in serious trouble. Since the LDS went a 2-2-1 formula, the team that wins the first game has gone on to win the series, 75 percent of the time.
The odds are even worse now, just don’t tell manager Terry Francona.
“It seems silly to waste time trying to do addition or multiplication or whatever it is that I probably can’t do,” he said. “It doesn’t matter. The first team to win three gets to move on. It’s a little easier to do if you don’t put yourself in a hole, but I’ve been on both sides of it. I’ve come back from being down. Been up two and lost. You’ve got to get to three.”
It’s not only the players who feel the heat when their postseason is threatened with an earlier than anticipated end. In Saturday’s Game 3 loss, Francona’s moves in the sixth inning did not work out. He replaced Carlos Carrasco, who had one out, two on and a 1-0 lead, with lefty Andrew Miller to face Marwin Gonzalez. Carrasco had thrown only 77 pitches, but Gonzalez already had two hits against him.
Gonzalez was 1-for-8 with six strikeouts against Miller, but he lined his second pitch to the wall in right field as Houston took a 2-1 lead it never gave up. Should Francona have stayed with Carrasco, should he have brought in Trevor Bauer instead of Miller?
Francona said no. He wanted Miller to face Gonzalez. Said Miller, “I blew the game for us.”
Encarnacion walked with two out in the ninth. Some felt Francona should have pinch-ran for him. If Encarnacion was the tying run, no question Francona would have used Rajai Davis or Greg Allen to pinch run. But the Indians were down, 3-1, so he was not the tying run.
Before the start of the ALDS started, Francona explained his in-game decision making process.
“You do what you think is right,” he said. “You answer the questions, be confident enough in what you’re doing and move on. Because if you win, that’s what you showed up to do.
“If you don’t, be confident enough in what you’re doing, explain it, then move on.”
One way or the other, after Monday’s game, Francona and the Indians will have some explaining to do.