Division Playoffs
Weekly lineup

 Monday, October 11
Stunned Indians can't believe loss
Associated Press

 CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Indians of the 1990s: five straight division titles, two AL pennants and one big collapse.

As it has every year since 1948, Cleveland's season ended without a World Series title -- this time with the Indians losing the deciding game of the AL Division Series 12-8 to the Boston Red Sox.

"The toughest was in '97. That was much tougher than this. 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.
Jim Thome

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 for a 1-0 victory. In '96, it was Roberto Alomar, then with Baltimore, hitting a 12th-inning homer off Jose Mesa.

Sandy Alomar
Sandy Alomar sits silently in the Indians clubhouse after the Game 5 loss.

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."

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.


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