This one is tough to swallow. As the dust settles on one of the most dramatic games in World Series history, I can’t help but feel overwhelming disappointment.
The Cleveland Indians weren’t supposed to get this far. They weren’t supposed to win the AL Central, or sweep the Boston Red Sox in the ALDS, or shut down the Toronto Blue Jays to win the American League pennant. They certainly weren’t supposed to stand a chance against the Chicago Cubs, the best team of 2016.
Despite all of that, it’s difficult to take the sting out of what happened last night. In a year that truly felt like it was dedicated to the city of Cleveland, the Indians came up just short, losing Game 7 in extras by a score of 8-7.
A lot of things are being discussed as reasons why the Indians lost last night, some of them valid. The late intentional walk of Anthony Rizzo. Mike Napoli‘s defensive gaffe (or his putrid plate performance). The rain delay putting a pause on Cleveland’s newfound momentum.
All of these had a hand in the final result, sure. To me, though, it all goes back to Corey Kluber. Not so much his performance, but the reason he had to pitch last night in general.
As you know, last night was the second time the Tribe’s ace had to pitch on short rest in this series. It was evident from the get-go it was having a negative effect on Kluber, as he wasn’t very sharp. It was a tough spot for both he and the entire team to be put in with the stakes this high, but a position neither would’ve had to be in without the devastating blows taken on by Cleveland’s rotation.
After watching a World Series like that, you really can’t come to a much more accurate conclusion. It took longer than anyone could’ve predicted, but the injuries to some the Indians’ marquee players finally caught up with the team at the worst possible time.
Somehow, by means completely inexplicable, the Indians made it to the last game of the year without three of their best players. Michael Brantley, easily the best hitter in the clubhouse, only made a brief cameo back in May. Danny Salazar, a Cy Young favorite at the All-Star break, dealt with elbow soreness which relegated him to relief duty. A second elite starter, Carlos Carrasco, was lost for the year just weeks before the season ended thanks to a terribly placed line drive breaking his finger.
These are the kind of losses which ruin almost any team’s hopes to make a playoff run. Somehow, they didn’t hurt the Indians whatsoever, at least not to begin with. How they were able to maneuver around these setbacks was unbelievable.
While Brantley’s hitting wasn’t made up for by anyone in particular, the Tribe was able to create just enough offense as it rolled its way to the World Series. In ideal circumstances, Josh Tomlin probably wouldn’t have even made the playoff roster. Yet he gave Cleveland three excellent starts, finally coming back down to earth Tuesday in Game 6. Kluber pitched on short rest when he had to, willing to do whatever he could to add any semblance of depth to a shallow rotation.
After the Indians won Game 4, it sure looked like this impossible dream was going to come true. The team seemed as though it was immune to any and all death-blows, that it didn’t matter what adversity was thrown its way. Somehow it would just keep persevering.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work this way. Sometimes miracle runs are cut short when things start falling back to the way they should be. The Cubs, with 103 regular season wins and a healthy roster, came to life right when Cleveland’s fatigue set in. Chicago’s bats became unstoppable right as the Indians ran out of answers. The better team won because the opponent just didn’t have enough energy to hang in the fight anymore.
And if there’s any solace I can offer after a brutally devastating end to the season, it’s what was said to open this article. As badly as this loss hurts for the Indians and their fans, we can’t ignore the fact they simply weren’t supposed to be here. They weren’t supposed to outlast the injuries, they weren’t supposed to put up a fight against the best team in baseball.
The way the season ended is going to make it difficult to forget that, I know. Personally, it’s not making my day that much brighter. Still, don’t let the result overshadow the journey.
The Indians gave us one hell of a ride, they just ran out of gas at the last mile. It may not make the loss easier to swallow, but it should make you damn proud of how hard this team fought to get this far.