CLEVELAND — The hopes of a dominant run through the postseason. The potential, glorious return to the World Series. The climb up the proverbial mountain that just barely eluded them a year ago. All of those dreams severed, much sooner than many hoped or even expected, at the hands of the Evil Empire.
The Indians had their dream scenario set up for a win-or-go-home Game 5 situation. They had ace Corey Kluber on the mound. They were at home. The bullpen was rested.
Didi Gregorius, CC Sabathia and the New York Yankees laid waste to that plan, as the Indians fell 5-2 in Game 5 of the American League Division Series on Wednesday night at Progressive Field.
It ends the Indians' postseason run. The Yankees will advance to the American League Championship Series to face the Houston Astros. The Indians will pack up their bags and head home for the winter, falling well short of many fans' hopes and expectations for a return to the World Series, as this time they entered October as the favorites.
After holding a 2-0 series lead, the Indians failed to close out the Yankees three times.
Kluber will likely win the American League Cy Young Award as the most dominant pitcher in the AL this season, and particularly since June 1. His ALDS, though, was anything but stellar. After struggling in Game 1, Kluber was hit hard again Wednesday night.
As the energy at Progressive Field built prior to first pitch, Gregorius quieted it, belting a solo home run in the first inning to quickly put the Indians down 1-0. Two innings later, Gregorius did it again, driving a two-run home run to right field to extend the Yankees' lead to 3-0, the Yankees' dugout erupting amid a silenced sellout crowd.
Kluber's night was ended in the fourth inning. In his two starts in the ALDS combined, he threw 6 1/3 innings and gave up nine earned runs on 10 hits.
As Gregorius tormented Kluber, Sabathia cruised through the first four innings, only allowing one hit. The Indians finally broke through in the fifth with the bottom of the lineup.
Austin Jackson and Jay Bruce both singled to put two runners on. Roberto Perez followed with a bloop single to right field to score Jackson. Giovanny Urshela, the No. 9 hitter, then shot a single to right field to cut the Yankees' lead to 3-2.
After the 8-9 hitters came through with one out, Francisco Lindor couldn't follow suit, grounding into a 6-3 double play to end the inning.
The Yankees survived that threat with their lead intact and then delivered the haymaker in the top of the ninth. Facing Cody Allen, Aaron Hicks singled and Todd Frazier walked to put two runners on. With two outs, and Allen one pitch away from sending it to the bottom of the ninth still a one-run game, Brett Gardner sent the 12th pitch of the at-bat in a classic duel into right field, scoring Hicks. Bruce's routine throw into the infield got away from Lindor, which also allowed Frazier to score.
That was effectively it for the 2017 Indians, a frustrating, somewhat sudden end to a 102-win season that came to a close well short of the expectations in the clubhouse and the hopes of the fan base.