Drama short-lived as Tribe's season ends in G3


CLEVELAND — As the baseball caromed off the clock beyond Progressive Field’s intimidating left-field wall, and as Francisco Lindor jumped in the air, pumped his fist and then tossed his bat away, it felt like the Indians just might be able to complete Step 1 in their improbable comeback bid.

For that moment in the fifth inning on Monday afternoon, while the Cleveland crowd shook the stadium, the past seven decades of baseball in this city were an afterthought. Then the Astros quickly reminded everyone that they are the reigning World Series champions, storming back to deal the Tribe an 11-3 defeat that sealed a three-game sweep of the American League Division Series.


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CLEVELAND — As the baseball caromed off the clock beyond Progressive Field’s intimidating left-field wall, and as Francisco Lindor jumped in the air, pumped his fist and then tossed his bat away, it felt like the Indians just might be able to complete Step 1 in their improbable comeback bid.

For that moment in the fifth inning on Monday afternoon, while the Cleveland crowd shook the stadium, the past seven decades of baseball in this city were an afterthought. Then the Astros quickly reminded everyone that they are the reigning World Series champions, storming back to deal the Tribe an 11-3 defeat that sealed a three-game sweep of the American League Division Series.


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All that energy that was unleashed from the stands — fueled further by Lindor’s celebratory sprint around the bases after a go-ahead home run — will now give way to the frustration of another early-arriving offseason. A 10-run collapse by Cleveland’s bullpen across the seventh, eighth and ninth innings paved the way for the final loss of the 2018 campaign.

:: ALDS schedule and results ::

With no World Series title since 1948, the Indians have the longest drought in the Majors.

The relief corps was an issue for most of this season, so the Indians devised a different strategy for October. Starter Trevor Bauer would be utilized as a multi-inning leverage weapon to aid the shaky staff. In the finale of this best-of-five series, a pair of throwing errors by Bauer gave Houston the opening it needed to soak another clubhouse with champagne.

Following a drama-free sixth, and with the Indians clinging to a 2-1 lead, Bauer remained on the hill for the seventh. The righty promptly allowed a single to the fleet-footed Tony Kemp and then misfired on a pickoff attempt to allow the runner to reach second. Next up was George Springer, who sent a dribbler up the third-base line for an unlikely single.

With runners on the corners, Bauer induced a grounder off the bat of Jose Altuve, but Cleveland was only able to convert the out at second. Kemp scored with ease on the play to pull the game into a 2-2 deadlock. That set things up for Alex Bregman, who chopped a pitch back to the mound, where Bauer gloved the ball.

In an attempt to start an inning-ending double play, Bauer fired the ball wildly to Lindor, pulling the shortstop off the base for the pitcher’s second error of the inning. Bauer then walked Yuli Gurriel to load the bases for Marwin Gonzalez, who connected on a 95-mph fastball elevated and out of the zone, sending it into left for a two-run double.

Video: HOU@CLE Gm3: Gonzalez’s double off 4.22-ft high pitch

The three-run outburst by the 103-win Astros put the Indians in a 4-2 hole that the club was unable to overcome.

That rendered an outstanding effort by Tribe starter Mike Clevinger moot. Over five innings, Clevinger piled up nine strikeouts and allowed only a solo home run to Springer in the fifth. The right-hander generated 18 swinging strikes against Houston, which had 16 swinging strikes combined in Games 1 and 2 against starters Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco.

Video: HOU@CLE Gm3: Clevinger strands the bases loaded

Springer, who holds the Astros’ club record for playoff home runs with 10 in his career, also launched a solo shot in a six-run eighth that transformed the game into a blowout.

After being overpowered by Houston righties Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole in the first two games, Cleveland had to contend with the left-handed Dallas Keuchel, who takes the sting out of bats more than he blows batters away. For much of his five frames, Keuchel succeeded in that regard, limiting the Tribe to a sacrifice fly until Lindor’s game-changing shot.

With two outs in the fifth, Lindor crushed a first-pitch fastball over the middle to left field, where it rocketed out at 109.6 mph, per Statcastâ„¢. The 446-foot shot was Lindor’s longest of the season and the farthest home run of his career from the right side of the plate. The shortstop jumped out of the batter’s box, pumped his fist around second, howled to the heavens and clapped his hands hard upon reaching the dugout.

Lindor did not want the Tribe’s 2018 journey to end. Neither did his audience. Now, Cleveland’s long wait for a World Series triumph continues.

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.



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