Nothing went right for the Cleveland Indians in their short three game playoff appearance in 2018.
Cleveland’s ace Corey Kluber got roughed up in Game 1. Their AL MVP candidate, Jose Ramirez, was basically nonexistent at the plate. The middle of the lineup did not produce at all. The bullpen struggled as it did all season.
There were really only two positive performances in the ALDS.
One was All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor. He was the only one doing anything on offense, as he went 4-11 with two homeruns a three runs scored- one in each game.
The other was the Game 3 starter, Mike Clevinger. Clevinger was making his first postseason start in his young career (he has made six relief postseason appearances over the past two years).
And it was a good one.
He went five innings, striking out nine, allowing three hits, and giving up one run.
Clevinger did what he was supposed to do for Terry Francona and the Indians. He kept the Tribe in the ball game and gave the offense a chance to score some runs and extend the series to, at least, a fourth game.
Had Cleveland pulled off the win, he would have been in line for a victory (if he came back out in the sixth inning). But that was ultimately not the case as the offense was unable to do anything after Lindor’s homerun in the fifth and as the bullpen unraveled in a big way. Houston won Game 3, 11-3, and swept Cleveland out of the playoffs.
Back to Clevinger- this performance had to feel good for the third-year right hander.
He was a workhorse for Cleveland in the regular season and really came into his own in a big way.
The Citadel and Seminole Community College product racked up 200 innings of work and struck out 207 batters, 70 more than his total in 2017, and had an ERA of 3.02, the lowest of his career. He posted a 13-8 record.
This performance in the playoffs has to feel good for Clevinger and for Cleveland as a team. Knowing what Clevinger did in the regular season and to see that success and work translate into positives in the postseason should give Clevinger plenty of confidence heading into the 2019 campaign.
His breakthrough has really given Cleveland one of the best starting rotations in the game. When next summer rolls around, Trevor Bauer should be fully recovered from an ankle injury that he suffered from a Jose Abreu comebacker in August.
Clevinger made big improvements from 2017 to 2018. He and Bauer became close friends and really started to push each other to be better on the mound. They would make bets and help one another develop pitches that needed some work. Bauer would take from Clevinger, and vice versa.
Seeing what steps he makes this offense will be fun to keep track of and will be fun to watch next season.