CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – For one night, all of the negative storylines that had plagued the Cleveland Indians earlier in the year came true. That was all the New York Yankees needed.
The starting pitching, and most of the relief pitching as well, was stellar. That positive story did not change.
Early in the season, the concern was with the defending American League Champions’ lack of hitting in high leverage situations. Late in the season, the concern was with the health of Andrew Miller and Michael Brantley, as well as how Jason Kipnis would readjust to playing the outfield after hamstring injuries.
The Indians did not hit well in clutch situations on Sunday, or any other situations for that matter, as they were blanked by the rocking chair of Masahiro Tanaka’s diving split-finger and Aroldis Chapman’s record-breaking fastball.
Kipnis’s misread of a tricky Texas Leaguer did not come around to hurt his team. The same cannot be said for Brantley’s apparent inability to drive the ball or Miller’s struggles to locate as effectively as he did last season.
Miller got plenty enough work in after coming off of the disabled list on September 14th, going 8 innings over 9 appearances.
The big lefty still has not been himself in the postseason, struggling with location in the beginning of the series. He and his bullpen mates were able to work around two walks in Game 1, but a well-hit fastball proved the only run in the Game 3 loss.
“I wanted it to be more away. At the same time, it was 1-1, who I am as a pitcher is I attack, I try to throw strikes, be aggressive,” Miller said. “My game isn’t trying to be too fine. I felt like the ball came out of my hand good, it had good velocity. It could have certainly been a better pitch, but I think what I was trying to do was just wrong in that situation and I paid dearly for it.”
Brantley fell to 0-for-7 in the postseason thus far going hitless in three plate appearances on Sunday.
The All-Star has continued to put up good at-bats, with his impressive eye at the plate and ability to foul off bad strikes. His walk in the 8th inning could have proven pivotal in the one-run game, but the ability to put good swings on the ball has seemed lacking.
With the absence of Edwin Encarnacion in the lineup, Brantley seems more like a hope than a plan, which was made evident by his dropping in the order to 7th for Game 3.
For all of those things to come to light in one game, especially paired with Aaron Judge’s robbery of a Francisco Lindor home run, could just be the perfect storm. They could also prove to be multiple holes in the armor of the AL’s best team.
There was plenty the Indians simply did not do right at the plate on Sunday night, which is the ultimate reason they were unsuccessful at a series sweep.
Tanaka called his split-finger, which garnered seven swinging strikes on 12 uses, one of the best iterations of the pitch that he has had. The Indians did not help, abandoning their noteworthy patience from the past while hacking wildly at their opponent’s best pitch.
If there continues to be issues with things other than the bats, the ALDS could turn on its head in no time.