By Jonathan Peterlin
CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – Before legendary broadcaster Vin Scully signed off for the last time with the regular season closing, he said these words to enter the bottom of the ninth between the Dodgers and the Giants: “Don’t be sad that it’s over, smile because it happened.”
When it was all said and done, I feel like Indians fans got the picture. When the Cubs fans stayed late until the speakers came across Progressive to tell them to go home, the Indians fan base had digested the Game Seven loss the proper way.
The final three games were just too many for this team.
A seven game format can go either way, but the pitching staff that had been decimated by injuries and found a way to make Toronto and Boston seem like lesser teams, had finally had enough.
Trevor Bauer went four innings allowing three earned in Game Five after the team had picked up wins in the first two games he started. Game Six finally cracked Josh Tomlin who had pitched like an ace in his previous three starts. That outing saw him allow six earned while pitching just into the third inning. Then there was Corey Kluber, who is the ace, as he allowed more runs in Game Seven than he had in the entire postseason combined.
Reliever Cody Allen afterwards on the game: “We didn’t beat ourselves, we just got beat by a really good team.”
An optimistic way to look at it for sure. The Indians did see many chances slip out of their fingers though with uncharacteristic play over the final three games as the Cubs did what league champion teams do, and took advantage of them.
There were numerous plays in the closing days that just mounted into too much to overcome. Ones like this that you hadn’t seen this team make previously:
In the top of fourth – Mike Napoli threw a double play ball away from shortstop Francisco Lindor to only get the force at second base. The play left runners on first and third with one out instead of just a runner on third with two outs. An ensuing fly out to Rajai Davis scored Addison Russell and that should’ve been the inning. Instead the Cubs would score twice. It doesn’t show up in the box score, but the mistake was made.
I’m not here to dwell on those though. Ultimately, it came down to the Cubs bats finally going while the Indians struggled finding their own groove at the plate mixed with a tired rotation.
The Indians were outscored twenty to twelve through the final three games to help write the season eulogy.
That doesn’t mean they should hang their heads at any point. The team outperformed everyone’s expectations up until then, they just ran out of gas.
Bryan Shaw after the game: “It was a lot of fun to play. We battled all game. Unfortunately, we didn’t get it. We’ve overcome so much, being able to tie it up, that’s what this team does.”
The Indians postseason marked something different than even the regular season could give. There was every recipe for a great baseball team, and up until the final three games, they had delivered.
Corey Kluber on how the series went: “It was a microcosm of our year. We got punched in the mouth a few times in the game, we never gave up and kept fighting back. That was how the season went for us, there’d be injuries and we never gave up.”
That’s what I hope fans of this team take away the most. This team never seemed to quit, and fielded enough to make a run at a Cubs squad that on paper had them matched, if not beaten, in numerous areas.
Cody Allen on the loss: “It stinks right now, but I couldn’t be prouder of every guy in this room. We just ran into a buzz saw. That’s a really good team, one of the better teams in baseball history.”
There’s a lot to be proud of. The Rajai Davis two run homer in the eighth inning is one of the most memorable moments of my baseball watching life. At the end, it wasn’t enough, but the ride was fun. Losing sucks, but the team outperformed in many areas and isn’t going away anytime soon.
This offseason will bring many uncomfortable questions for the front office in addressing how to keep this team at the top. There’s comfort though in knowing they weren’t as far off as initially projected.
This closes the chapter on an unforgettable season. With that, I leave you with the rest of Vin Scully’s closing speech as it fits just the same: “There will be a new day, and eventually a new year. And when the upcoming winter gives way to spring, rest assured it will be time for baseball again.”