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So Very, Very Cleveland

Cleveland, I’ve got nothing for you. This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you and I know it hurts you a lot. Up 2-0 in the series and you find a way to come from ahead and lose to a team that wasn’t just on the ropes, they were on the verge of firing their manager just a day or two ago. And yet the team that won 22 straight couldn’t win one of three. That is just brutal, even for you, Cleveland.

I don’t need to run down the stats, I know you have them memorized. Lost six straight games when you’ve had the chance to clinch. The second time in less than a year that Cleveland’s been eliminated at home. Instead of choking out the Yankees, they choked out themselves.

This wasn’t supposed to happen because this team was supposed to be different and because this was all setting up so well. Corey Kluber on the bump for Game 5. Edwin Encarnacion back in the lineup. You’re at home. And then Didi Gregorius, who’d done very little at the plate in the series, did this in the first.

That’s not good. But it’s not terrible. It’s just one run. You’ll get it back in the bottom of the first. No you won’t. Because you’ll go 1-2-3 with two strikeouts. And then in the bottom of the second, you’ll go 1-2-3 with two strikeouts. And then in the top of the third, Didi will do it again.

3-0 Yankeees. Again, not the end of the world. Surely Cleveland’s bats will wake up now, though, right? Wrong. Bottom of the third: 1-2-3 with two strikeouts. Bottom of the fourth, a single! And then three straight outs, including two strikeouts.

Cleveland finally chased CC Sabathia in the fifth when they scored twice and had two men on and one out for Francisco Lindor… with a chance to break it open. Except, Joe Girardi, who may have even saved his job, did the very obvious thing: the easy thing: he handed the ball to a very filthy David Robertson to get the out. That was a dagger straight through Cleveland’s heart. And Robertson kept on dealing. Dude was flat out nasty. 2 2/3 innings of no-hit ball and then turned that 3-2 lead over to Aroldis Chapman in the 8th. But Cleveland had another trick up their sleeve. Not to make the game close, mind you, but to make the pain even worse.

Starlin Castro struck out to lead off the ninth, but Aaron Hicks singled to left. Chase Headley popped out. Todd Frazier worked a nine-pitch walk. And then came Brett Gardner and one of the all-time great postseason at-bats.

I’ve never seen anything like that. He was just grinding through everything. That was insane an at-bat as you’ll ever see. Just fouling off everything. That was 12 pitches, but it felt like 40. Fouled off 5 straight pitches and then laced a ball into right field. Driving in two runs on the hit and the ensuing error. And you can’t say that Gardener didn’t earn every bit of those runs.

But at the same time, what the hell, Cleveland? When the wheels came off the victory wagon, they didn’t just fall off, they shattered into a thousand pieces and the wagon exploded.

One of the best fielding teams in the regular season committed seven errors in the final two games leading to seven unearned runs. You think that’s going to leave a mark? Any chance that haunts these guys all winter? And if you don’t call that a choke, what would you call it?

And it wasn’t just the fielders. Cleveland batters were waving at everything and missing everything. A team that barely struck out during the regular season couldn’t stop striking out in the postseason.

And if their hitters weren’t hitting, then their pitchers really weren’t pitching. Corey Kluber wasn’t the Klubot at all, giving up three runs and failing to get out of the fourth inning at home in a clinching game. That is terrible. Somehow a guy who went 11-1 with a 1.79 ERA after the All-Star break had a 12.79 ERA in this series and gave up four homers in less than seven innings.

In other words, when it mattered most, this team played its worst ball of the year. It was hard to watch and it’s even harder to say, but that was so very Cleveland. So very, very Cleveland. Believe me, I don’t want to say it. And I don’t want to pile on. Especially, after I promised you you’d be fine last night: that this team and this time, it really would be different. Except it wasn’t. Same as it ever was. Only worse. Much worse.

And I really didn’t even think that was possible. I’d love to have your back here, C-Town, but there’s no defending what I just saw. I’ll tip my hat to the Yankees… but only after calling out the Indians, because up 2-0, they did as much to lose it as the Yanks did to win it.

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