With no playoff berth on the line, neither the Indians nor the Tampa Bay Rays had anything important at stake on Progressive Field on Sunday afternoon. Tribe manager Terry Francona gave the day off to regulars Michael Brantley, Michael Bourn, Jason Kipnis, and Yan Gomes. But make no mistake, the Indians wanted to win the final game of the season, and they did just that, beating the Rays 7-2.
The Indians offense, which has been too frequently featured on “Have you seen me?” posters stapled to telephone poles in recent weeks, did its job on Sunday. David Murphy and Zach Walters each homered in the second inning. Four Tribesmen, including Walters, banged out doubles. Heck, even Shuck got a hit.
The pitching was solid, too. Starter T.J. House only went five innings and threw only 49 pitches, but he left the game with a 3-1 lead, and House got the win, his fifth of the season. And the only errors committed in the game were made by the Rays. It’s rare to see the Indians combine good hitting, good pitching, and good defense in the same game, but they did it on Sunday.
After having reached the postseason last year, this year’s 85-77 third-place finish in the AL Central has to be considered a disappointment. But after a shaky start, and with the team two games below .500 as late as August 8, the Indians finished strong, winning 28 of their last 46 games. And as future IPL posts will show, with a handful of hits here and there, or a few fewer balls bobbled or thrown wildly, the Indians could easily have won a few more games, and the AL Central picture could look a lot different.
But you are what your record says you are, especially after 162 games. And that record says that the Indians aren’t the AL Central champs, and they’re not even a wild card team. I’ve been saying it almost my entire life, but we’ll get ’em next year. Won’t we?
On a personal note, it’s been fun writing about the team for IPL again this year. For those of you who are new to this blog, be assured that even though the season has ended, we aren’t going anywhere. We will continue to cover the Indians during the off-season on a daily, or at least near-daily, basis. And it’s been fun attending games in person this year, from sitting in the bleachers with friends I’ve known since junior high, to sitting in the Social Suite with IPL colleagues and others, and even to seeing the Indians play the Giants in San Francisco. Thanks to all my friends who made watching the games in person so much fun, and so memorable.