Here we are again friends. To steal a cute little thing from the local St Louis sports people, the panic bus is gassed up and accepting new passengers. Today is Monday, October 8th. My Indians play game three of their series with the Houston Astros today in Cleveland…and if they don’t find a way to win, their 2018 postseason will amount to the same amount of postseason wins as the Baltimore Orioles.
If we could rewind to last year in game three of the Indians first round series (versus the New York Yankees) in New York for a moment please. The scene: My Indians were trailing 1-0 in the sixth inning when Francisco Lindor hit a sure-fire two-run homerun to right center field. There was just one problem. A six foot seven inch problem with a long arm and the ability to jump a little. Of course I’m speaking of Aaron Judge of the Yankees. His defensive thievery cost the Indians two runs and potentially the game and after that who knows.
Waving away that painful memory brings us to the here and now. Encompassing the whole of that game three and the two very sad games that followed in that series plus the first two games of this year’s Houston Series, the Cleveland Indians have been very hard to watch as a fan. Granted it is the postseason and the pressure and competition level is off the charts but still if you want to be the best you have to suck it up and find a way. The great teams will do just that.
Since the last time the Indians put up a winning postseason effort (in Game Two of the Division Series from last year), the Indians have not generated more than five hits in any of those five games. Looking at the last three games against the Yankees, the Indians scored a total of five runs but committed more errors (7). The Indians were outscored in those final three games, 13-5 while collecting 14 hits with 7 walks. They were only able to generate three extra base hits (one triple and two home runs). Super spark-plug Jose Ramirez went 2 for 20 in that series with two walks and zero extra base hits. For the Yankees in those final three games, they produced 21 hits to go with 13 walks plus the added bonus of the seven errors that gave them extra base runners and opportunities. For the record, in those three games the Yankees played error-less baseball in the field.
So far in the Houston series the Indians have tried to get by with three hits and two walks in each game, but the results have not been good. In the two games completed already, the Astros have out-hit the Indians 21 to 6. Extra base hits favor the Astros as well, Houston has three doubles and FIVE home runs against Cleveland’s single extra base hit – a home run by Francisco Lindor. MVP candidate Jose Ramirez, who faded badly in the last month of the season is hit-less in seven official at-bats but he has managed to walk one time! It’s unfair to point all the fingers of blame at Ramirez but as he goes, mostly so does the team. For the series so far, there are only two Indians players hitting .200 or above, Lindor and Gomes; I had to lower the bar to .200 to get a second player to put on the list (Gomes). This just in from the All-Or-Nothing department: Kipnis-Alonso-Donaldson are a combined 0 for 20 with zero walks and twelve strikeouts. For those sabermetric people wondering what the OPS for them is, I will keep it simple: .000 or nada, zip, negative ghost rider, etc.
Things definitively look bleak to say the least. In the last two years the Indians goal was getting to their bullpen. Manage the game (with a lead) until you could unleash the bullpen and you were fairly confident on having a positive outcome. Now it is exactly the opposite. Miller and Allen are ticking time-bombs that tend to give up bombs! Most managers are hawk-eyeing their starting pitchers to detect even the first hint of a performance blink. Terry Francona, on the other hand, is hoping beyond hope that his starter somehow channels his inner David Wells from May 17th 1998.
With the Wildcard entry derby for both leagues and Milwaukee’s complete domination of the Colorado Rockies, at the very least the Indians can take the tiniest bit of solace that they were not the first team bounced from the playoffs (if that should come to pass). But, given the widely accepted perception that this team has a rapidly closing window of opportunity to compete for a World Series title, they better wake up and try something different starting today. The dictionary definition of insanity is:
The state of being seriously mentally ill; madness. Extreme foolishness or irrationality.
Ha. You guys thought I was going to trot out that old quote attributed to Albert Einstein! No, but you get where I’m going with this. If they want my advice, I say: do the un-expected. Just like those fake baseball movies involving the Cleveland Indians, mix it up, maybe get a live chicken. For the eternal love of Pete, tweak your approach because the one you’ve been using for the last five postseason games in clearly not working.
With my frantic rant now done, I want to wish my Indians good fortune for the rest of the playoffs. Hopefully today begets us win number one (of eleven) this October / November. Go Tribe!