End of season doesn’t mean inspiring Indians are finished

CLEVELAND — Well, we could always just sit around and be depressed for a while. Maybe for a day or two. Maybe that’s what this situation calls for.

Maybe this is just Cleveland, and this is the way things almost always go, and maybe now world order has been restored.

Final score: Tampa Bay Rays 4, Indians 0 in the American League Wild Card game Wednesday at Progressive Field.

And that was that. Season over. See you next year. Again.

Not that anyone was expecting this Indians team to go all the way. And not that losing to the Rays is such a crime. Clearly, they’re a darn good team.

But man, it still stinks.

The Indians had won 10 straight to get to this game. They secured home-field advantage. Their fans showed up rockin’ Wahoo red, waving their rally towels and drowning out the stadium’s blaring sound system with sheer passion and cheers.

Then everything just sort of stopped. Just like that, the Indians were done.

“It hurts,” said manager Terry Francona. “We didn’t want to go home yet.”

Perhaps making things worse was the fact the top of the batting order kept stepping to the plate with runners in scoring position.

Normally, that would be ideal. Not on this night. On this night, bottom-of-the-order guys Yan Gomes (2-for-4, double) and Lonnie Chisenhall (3-for-4) did more than expected.

Everyone else, everyone the Indians normally rely on, did … nothing. Or at least not enough.

Leadoff man Michael Bourn?

Four at-bats, zero hits.

Nick Swisher?

Same.

Jason Kipnis?

Ditto.

Designated hitter Carlos Santana went 2-for-4 with a double, but never when it really mattered.  

Basically, when the Indians’ best-of-the-best needed to do something special, they simply killed the buzz.

“We couldn’t come through when we needed to,” Bourn said.

It actually makes little sense — especially when you consider the Indians were a very respectable .252 with runners in scoring position with two outs for the year. On Wednesday, it was 0-for-4.

Memorable run

So that’s the sad news. The Indians’ magical September ended on the second day of October.

But there’s so much to like about this season, so much to appreciate about this team. It may not feel like it now, and it may be tough to remember, but the Indians gave their fans an unexpected and enjoyable ride.

And many of their key faces (Francona, Swisher, etc.) were representing them for the first time.

Heck, the Indians started rookie Danny Salazar in the biggest game of the year. Earlier this summer, he was pitching for Double-A Akron.

At worst, he was solid on Wednesday.

“When he worked ahead in the count, he was tremendous,” Francona said.

All of this should tell you something about the Indians’ future, about the intriguing possibilities. It should tell you something about how captivating this season really was.

Once the hurt goes away, that’s what we should remember most. It’s what Francona wants the Indians to do.

“It was an honor to go through the season with them,” Francona said. “That’s what I’ll remember most.”

This game, of course, was a sellout. It had been a while since Cleveland saw the playoffs in anything, and as is always the case, the fans cherished the experience.

In a nutshell, they rocked the joint.

It didn’t go unnoticed.

“I wish we could have given them a better game,” Francona said. “The support was fantastic.”

So here we are again. Another winter looming, another year of something that seems reliable in which to place our faith.

“We have some work to do in the offseason, take maybe an hour or two to rest, and then we’ll get back to work,” Francona said.

After a season like this, that’s all you can really do.

Twitter: @SamAmicoFSO