The Indians, the defending American League champions, won 102 games in the regular season but will not advance any further in the playoffs. They suffered a 5-2 loss to the Yankees on Wednesday night in Game 5 of the ALDS.
There’s plenty for the Indians to be proud about, but their early exit from the playoffs can’t be categorized as anything but a disappointment. Their failure has a lot to do with their regular season stars not showing up when it mattered most.
Ace Corey Kluber, who is in line for the AL Cy Young Award, couldn’t finish the third inning in his Game 2 start against the Yankees. He yielded six runs on seven hits and a walk with four strikeouts in 2 2/3 innings. In Wednesday’s start, he went just 3 2/3 innings, surrendering three runs on three hits and two walks with six strikeouts. For those keeping score at home, that’s a 12.80 ERA.
Infielder Jose Ramirez, who will get some AL MVP votes, went 2-for-20 with two singles and two walks in the ALDS. He had a .957 OPS and mashed 91 extra-base hits during the regular season.
Shortstop Francisco Lindor, arguably the face of the franchise, was 2-for-18. Of course, one of his hits was that huge grand slam that spurred the Indians’ Game 2 comeback. But his team needed him to do something in the other four games.
The three stars weren’t alone. Outfielder Michael Brantley was 1-for-11. Austin Jackson went 3-for-14. Edwin Encarnacion, though battling an ankle injury suffered during Game 2, was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts in Game 5. Jason Kipnis went 0-for-4 in Game 5 and 4-for-22 in total in the series.
Obviously, the Yankees’ pitching deserves a ton of credit for holding that kind of talent at bay. But anyone on the Indians will tell you that they didn’t get the job done, and that’s why their season ended earlier than they anticipated.
We welcomed “Mason Saunders” into our lives on Sunday, thanks to The Athletic’s Andrew Baggarly and Zach Buchanan. Mason Saunders is the alias of Diamondbacks starter Madison Bumgarner when he competes in rodeos, something he’s done as recently as December (when he was still a free agent).
Given that one of Bumgarner’s other extracurricular activities, riding dirt bikes, resulted in a serious injury, many have been wondering how the Diamondbacks would react to the news that the lefty they inked to a five-year contract two months ago is roping steers in his spare time. It seems like the Diamondbacks just accept that that’s who Bumgarner is.
On Tuesday, Baggarly and Buchanan answered some frequently asked questions about the whole Bumgarner-rodeo thing. They mentioned that former Giants manager Bruce Bochy, in a radio interview on KNBR, slipped in that Bumgarner also hunts bears in his off-time. Bochy said, “You think, ‘Madison, you’re looking at signing your biggest contract ever to set yourself up for life and you’re going to risk it on the rodeo?’ But he’s got confidence. I mean there’s some stories I do know that he probably wouldn’t want me to share, with him bear hunting, and the tight situations he’s gotten himself into.”
As Baggarly and Buchanan explained, when Bumgarner — I mean, Saunders — is roping steers, he’s not taking much of a risk. They wrote, “The header and heeler don’t chase the steer around the ring. Each trial is more or less a one-shot deal and it’s over in less than 10 seconds. If the header or heeler misses on the first attempt, then no time is recorded.” Bumgarner has also said he ropes with his non-pitching hand. Hunting bears is an entirely different level of risk, one would imagine. That being said, no one seemed to be surprised that Bumgarner moonlights as a serious rodeo competitor. That’s likely also the case that he, as Bochy puts it, goes “mano a mano” against bears.