Falling once more
Tribe has autumn disappointment down pat
Posted: Tuesday October 12, 1999 02:28 AM
Cleveland's Sandy Alomar sits silently in the team clubhouse after losing the deciding game of the AL Division Series. AP
CLEVELAND (AP) -- The Cleveland Indians of the 1990s: five straight division titles, two AL pennants and yet another big collapse.
As it has every year since 1948, Cleveland's season ended in failure -- this time with the Indians losing the deciding game of the AL division series 12-8 to the Boston Red Sox.
Monday night's loss completed a downfall that began when starter Dave Burba left Game 3 with a strained forearm and the Indians leading 1-0 in the game and 2-0 in the series. It ended 44 Boston runs later.
"After the first two games we were high as a kite, and playing well," Indians starter Charles Nagy said in a voice barely above a whisper. "Then we went to Boston, they got hot and we couldn't get them out after that."
Well, it's always something with the Indians, isn't it?
In 1995, it was David Justice, then of the Atlanta Braves, homering off Jim Poole in Game 6 of the World Series. In '96, it was Roberto Alomar, then with Baltimore, hitting a 12th-inning homer off Jose Mesa.
The next year, Cleveland was two outs away from beating Florida in the World Series when Mesa collapsed again. Last season, Cleveland was the victim of the overpowering New York Yankees, like everybody else.
"The toughest was in '97. That was much tougher than this," said Jim Thome as he sat in Cleveland's hushed locker room. "We were within two outs of winning it all. Even if we won tonight, we still would have had a long, long way to go."
Thome's probably right. Cleveland heard all year it didn't have the pitching staff to carry it through the postseason, and in the end it turned out to be true.
Neither Nagy nor Bartolo Colon, the loser in Sunday's 23-7 humiliation in Game 4, was effective pitching on three days' rest.
Nagy gave up eight runs in just three innings, enough to waste an offensive output, including two Thome home runs, that should have won most games.
"It was nice for me to do but individual things don't matter. The bottom line is getting that ring," Thome said. 'We have nothing to be ashamed of, but now we have to go home and think about what will make us better."
A more effective bullpen could help. In a pen riddled with injuries, only rookie reliever Sean DePaula was able to shut down the Red Sox as he pitched three no-hit innings.
"I'm not disappointed in the effort," Cleveland manager Mike Hargrove said. "I'm obviously disappointed in the execution."
That's something Hargrove could say for each of the last five seasons.
The Indians have won 471 regular-season games since they began their run of AL Central titles in 1995. They've also sold a lot of tickets in the process, with 373 sellouts.
But for the Indians and their fans, only one statistic really counts. The team still hasn't won a World Series in more than half a century.
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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