The Cleveland Indians played their first game since officially being eliminated from the playoff hunt late last night, and while the team may not have let their disappointment keep them from competing, tonight’s 2-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays showcased many of the ups and downs the Tribe has had all season long.
In terms of positives, Carlos Carrasco continued his streak of phenomenal pitching that has gone on since his return to the rotation. Carrasco pitched seven and two-thirds innings, giving up two runs (one earned) while giving up four hits, three walks, and striking out ten. Carrasco has been absolutely pounding the strike zone, a trait the coaching staff pushed him towards during his time in the bullpen. This new approach has helped Carrasco reach the potential someone with his phenomenal stuff has, and he will likely be the Indian’s number two starter next season.
The negatives were also apparent in the team’s fielding and hitting. The Indians only had five hits and one walk tonight, showcasing an offense that just doesn’t have the consistency a true contender needs. The lone offensive highlight was Michael Brantley collecting his 200th hit of the season, making him the first Indian with 200 hits since Kenny Lofton in 1996.
The Indians’ defense played a big part in giving the Rays the lead. David DeJesus reached base on an infield single to bring up Evan Longoria. Longoria grounded to Lonnie Chisenhall who then threw the ball over the head of second baseman Mike Aviles to allow DeJesus to advance to third. Wil Myers then singled home DeJesus for the unearned run and the 1-0 lead. The Rays tacked on a run in the eighth inning when James Loney singled off Marc Rzepczynski to score Ben Zobrist for a 2-0 lead, which the Rays held onto for the final score.
Despite the disappointment of not making the playoffs, there are a lot of things for the Cleveland Indians to be encouraged by. Corey Kluber was arguably the best pitcher in the American League and is signed with the club through 2018. A rotation of Kluber, Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Danny Salazar, and T.J. House could anchor the team for years to come. Young position players such as Yan Gomes, Jason Kipnis, Carlos Santana and Michael Brantley are signed for years to come, and Brantley had the best offensive season for an Indian in years. Finally, the coaching staff, particularly Terry Francona and pitching coach Mickey Callaway, have continued to get solid baseball from a team that has been hit with injuries and ineffectiveness all season long. While missing the playoffs is tough, this team has built a solid core that should help keep it in playoff contention for years to come.