Tribe Drops Fifth Straight to End Season with Thud; Nationals 8, Indians 2
Bob Toth | On 29, Sep 2019
The Cleveland Indians’ late season collapse concluded with an 8-2 loss to the Washington Nationals, sending the team into the offseason on a five-game losing skid.
Looking for a moral victory in a game that had no playoff implications for either team, the Indians sent out the scorching hot Mike Clevinger to the mound for his final start of the season, but he was tagged for six runs while the offense slumped again to close out regular season action. The loss left the Indians with a 93-69 record for the season, the third-best record during Terry Francona’s tenure with the club and tied for the sixth-best mark for the Tribe in a 162-game schedule.
The Nationals, the top Wild Card team in the National League, finished the regular season with an identical record as the Tribe and on an eight-game winning streak, but unlike Cleveland, they will be playing October baseball this weekend.
The Nationals rested a chunk of the regulars, but were still able to strike through against Clevinger and the Tribe bullpen. Washington’s Joe Ross worked out of a jam in the first after Francisco Lindor doubled and moved to third on a one-out groundout by Carlos Santana, but Franmil Reyes struck out swinging to leave the potential first run at third.
The Indians left a pair in the second after a one-out walk by Yu Chang and a single by Jake Bauers put two on, but a foul out by Kevin Plawecki and a strikeout by Clevinger ended that threat against Ross.
Clevinger got a big double play in the home half of the second before the Tribe evened the score. On the second pitch of the third, Lindor homered for the 32nd time this season, tying the game at one.
That score was short-lived as the Nationals jumped back in front with a two-run response of their own in the bottom of the third. Adam Eaton drew a two-out walk and picked off second on the first pitch to Kurt Suzuki. The next pitch became a souvenir as the Nats’ backstop homered to left to make it a 3-1 game.
Both teams went down in order in the fourth and Ross set the Indians down again in the fifth. Turner singled with two outs in the fifth but could not score, while Mike Freeman did the same in the top of the sixth against Ross before being forced out at second.
The Nationals knocked out Clevinger with another big inning in the weekend series as the team made wholesale changes to the defense. Michael Taylor singled with one out and moved to second on the third stolen base of the game. Matt Adams flied to left for the second out before Victor Robles walked. A double steal moved both runners into scoring position and Brian Dozier put the payoff pitch from Clevinger into right field for a two-run single to make it a 5-1 game. Francona went to the bullpen for Adam Cimber, but he was unable to slow down the Nationals as Wilmer Difo singled to right-center to put runners on the corners and pinch-hitter Gerardo Parra doubled home two more runs in his big weekend to make it 7-1.
The Indians got a gift run in the seventh against Aaron Barrett after back-to-back singles by Bauers and Plawecki to start the seventh. Bauers moved to third on a flyout by Eric Haase for the first out. Lindor fouled to third for the second out, but with Bradley Zimmer at the plate, Barrett uncorked a wild pitch to allow Bauers to score the second run of the game. Zimmer walked, but with two on, Greg Allen flied to center.
Nick Wittgren left a pair on in the bottom of the seventh to keep it a five-run game, but the Nationals added one more against Carlos Carrasco in the bottom of the eighth. Three straight singles by Dozier, Difo, and Parra plated the eighth run of the game to make it 8-2.
Ross went six frames in his final start of the season. He allowed a run on four hits with a pair of walks and eight strikeouts while needing just 78 pitches to clear 18 outs. He ended the year with a 4-4 record and a 5.48 ERA.
Clevinger dropped to 13-4 with a loss in his final start of 2019. He allowed six runs on seven hits with two walks and four strikeouts in five and two-thirds innings. Cimber allowed a run in one-third of an inning. Wittgren was the only Tribe pitcher to throw a scoreless inning, putting 13 of 15 pitches over the plate for strikes. Carrasco allowed another run on three hits while striking out two in the final inning of work by the Indians this season.
Parra’s push to make the Nationals’ postseason roster got a big boost by Tribe pitching. He drove in four runs in each of the first two games before knocking in three more on Sunday to give him 11 RBI for the series on 7-of-9 hitting.
Washington will resume play on Tuesday night from Nationals Park while hosting the National League Wild Card play-in game against the Milwaukee Brewers. Cleveland will observe the playoffs from the outside for the first time since 2015.
Photo: Greg Fiume/Getty Images