For the second time in as many years, the AL Central champion Cleveland Indians were eliminated in the ALDS.
In 2017, it was a blown 2-0 lead to the New York Yankees.
This season, it was a quick three-game sweep against the defending World Champions, Houston Astros.
Cleveland was out pitched and out hit. Its Game 1 starter and Cy Young Award candidate Corey Kluber struggled. Andrew Miller was not himself. The Josh Donaldson trade did not pay dividends. Offensively, the Tribe only had 13 hits in three games.
Houston had 13 hits alone in Game 3.
It is yet another early start to the offseason for Terry Francona’s ball club. Earlier than anyone affiliated with the team would have liked.
What went wrong in this shorter than expected series against Houston?
COREY KLUBER’S PLAYOFF STRUGGLES CONTINUE
In 2016, Kluber was the Indians true ace. A true-No. 1 starter. He was called upon to pitch, and pitch well, on short rest multiple times in the postseason, especially becasue Trevor Bauer missed some time and Carlos Carrasco did not see any action because of injuries.
Kluber started six games in the 2016 postseason, including getting the ball three times in the World Series. In those six starts total, he went 34.1 innings, allowed seven runs, struck out 35, and only walked eight. Kluber had a 1.83 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP (allowing just over one baserunner per inning pitched).
He went seven shutout innings in the first game in the ALDS against Boston and went six shutout innings in the first game of the World Series.
Next season’s playoffs were a different story. In two games, he went 6.1 innings (not getting through four full innings), giving up 10 hits and nine runs with four home runs (two in each start). This came out to a 12.79 ERA.
Cleveland won his first start in 13 innings and lost his next start in Game 5 to be eliminated.
The two-time Cy Young winner only got one start against Houston. He was in a groove until the fourth inning when he allowed two runs. Up until then, the only Astros that got on were via a single and two hit batsmen. George Springer and Jose Altuve hit back-to-back home runs in the fifth to chase Kluber.
This was not the start that Kluber or Cleveland had in mind for Game 1. He was dominant all season in which he went over 200 innings and struck out more than 200 hitters.
People will talk about the accomplishments and stats that Kluber has racked up in the regular season, but he may be remembered by his performances in the 2017 and 2018 playoffs.
ANDREW MILLER’S NIGHTMARE SEASON CONTINUED
Miller, much like Kluber, was a dominant piece in the run to the World Series. And, similarly, he ran out of gas in Game 7.
This year, Miller was never himself and was rarely healthy. There were two extended stints on the DL with different injuries. He showed flashes of his old self but never returned to true form.
Cleveland tried to get him game action before the regular season ended and tried to get him as close to 100 percent in time for the playoffs as they could, but that never really happened. There was always something off with the former New York Yankee this season.
That was more than evident in his two outings in the ALDS. He faced five batters and only recorded one out. One. That was the last thing Cleveland could afford from one of its best relievers. Although no runs were credited to Miller himself, he did allow 2 inherited runners to cross the plate in Game 2. Those would go on to be the tying and winning runs of that game.
Miller is a free agent when the season is all said and done. Will the Indians take a chance in resigning him or let him walk? Either way, the market and asking price for him may have slimmed down after this season.
THE JOSH DONALDSON TRADE WAS A FLOP
Formerly the AL MVP, Donaldson came to Cleveland at the eleventh-hour, right before the non-waiver trade deadline passed.
The ex-Toronto Blue Jay only played in 52 this season after dealing with calf and shoulder problems. He was traded for in hopes that he could get back to his old self, or at least a shell of his old self.
It seemed that he was getting there during the 16 games he play for the Indians after the trade. Donaldson made a handful of nice defensive plays at third and hit three home runs (including a grand slam).
This trade shifted the whole infield around and was thought to give the lineup a much needed boost come playoff time.
That was not the case by any means and Donaldson struggled big time during the three game ALDS. In 11 at bats, he only managed one hit and one walk, while striking out four times.
Just as every other batter in a Cleveland jersey looked, Donaldson looked lost facing a talented Astros starting rotation. He was not himself, not even close to himself. He was not able to produce on the stage that the Indians traded for him.
Donaldson’s stint with the Indians ended even before it got started.
MIDDLE OF THE LINEUP WOES
Francisco Lindor, the leadoff hitter, was essentially the only bright spot on offense for the Indians. He went 4-11 with two home runs and a run scored in all three games.
After him, the 2-6 hitters did nothing.
Michael Brantley went 2-10 in what could be his last playoff stint in Cleveland.
Jose Ramirez, and AL MVP candidate, went 0-11 with an RBI ground out in Game 1. In the playoffs the last two seasons, he has gone a combined 2-31.
Edwin Encarnacion went 1-10.
Donaldson was 1-11.
Yonder Alonso, the team’s big free agent signing, went 0-6 and did not play in Game 3.
This is the bulk of the Indians line up. The main pieces that contributed on offense throughout the course of the 162 game regular season.
In the ALDS, that group of hitters went 4-48.
Cleveland could have been playing the worst team in baseball and that would have probably not been enough to beat them. But playing one of the best teams in the league? That is certainly not going to get the job done.
This underwhelming ALDS could be pointed to many separate things, but the fact is this Indians team did not have enough or do enough to advance to the ALCS.
And the championship window is closing faster and faster.