Cleveland Indians: Sun setting on 2021 Tribe after Astros debacle

Cleveland Indians (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Cleveland Indians (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

You could just feel the Cleveland Indians were going to be doomed in a four-game series with the Houston Astros.

Throw out all the boos you want for the Astros being cheaters. Houston still has really, really good players who happily accepted the challenge of facing some young, inexperienced starting pitching.

When the Tribe pitched well enough to win, their offense couldn’t deliver. On Saturday, Terry Francona had no bench, with Jose Ramirez, Franmil Reyes and Roberto Perez inactive, but not seriously ready to play.

You’ll particularly remember this problem slapping the Tribe in the face during the seventh inning when an overmatched Ernie Clement and then, Austin Hedges, went to the dish with a runner in scoring position. You’d think the Tribe could’ve sent down one of their 87 pitchers for a night to bring up a bat. Nope.

In the series finale, Tito inexplicably asked Perez to bunt, a move that predictably backfired when the catcher’s attempt sailed right back to the pitcher, setting up a game-killing double play. It was flabbergasting to see Perez attempt the sacrifice.

Say it worked. Who was up next? Oscar Mercado. I’ve got a better chance of getting a hit than he does right now. Ernie Clement would’ve batted, too. It’s not a slam dunk that these batters were going to be able to bring this run home. Perez, at least, can run into a fastball. We never got the chance to find out.

The Indians now find themselves 6.0 games behind the White Sox. Chicago’s lineup has been decimated by injures, but the team still has the pitchers to keep it out in front.

As for Tito? He’s old Mother Hubbard and he’s got Logan Allen and his 8.38 ERA in the cupboard for the series opener against the Rays Monday night.

Rotation wise, Zach Plesac is getting closer to a return, but returning one starter isn’t enough to get the Indians through this stretch.

And unfortunately, Cleveland missed its chance to pounce. I wrote on June 11, when the Tribe was 4.5 back, that “Now was the time” to make up ground on the ChiSox, as the Indians played the more favorable part of their schedule. Seattle, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Minnesota–it was their for the taking.

It started off swell, with the Indians jumping out to a 6-1 record to begin the stretch. That said, the Tribe finished the easy part of the calendar by going 10-8. Most notably, the double-header they dropped against the Tigers earlier in the week

Losing that double header to the Tigers really cost the Tribe. They win that and they’re 12-6 during this past stretch and takes some of the sting out of the Houston sweep.

Things aren’t getting easier, either. Except four a four-game stint with KC, contending teams such as Tampa, Oakland and Houston are all on the schedule for the remainder of July.

Next. 3 Tribe players who should've been All-Stars. dark

If there’s going to be a postseason in 2021, they’ve got to play beyond expectations. Unfortunately, it looks like it’s going to take a miracle.