CLEVELAND: The Indians’ two biggest free agent acquisitions were two of the biggest disappointments in Wednesday’s 4-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League wild card game.
Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher, who made a combined $18 million this season to revive a sinking franchise, went a combined 0 for 8 Wednesday with four strikeouts. Every time the bottom of the order reached base, Bourn and Swisher – the top two hitters in the order – killed the rallies.
The Indians had two runners on with no one out in the fifth, but Bourn struck out and Swisher grounded out. The Indians failed to score when No. 3 hitter Jason Kipnis nubbed one back to Rays starter Alex Cobb to end the inning.
It was the second consecutive inning when the Indians blew a great chance to score against Cobb. They loaded the bases in the fourth with one out, but Asdrubal Cabrera grounded into an inning-ending double play. Cabrera declined multiple requests to speak after the game.
The Indians again had two runners on in the seventh with one out when Bourn flew out to center and Swisher struck out to end the inning.
“It was deflating, I’m not going to lie to you,” Bourn said. “I put the blame on myself when I had no outs (in the fifth). I’m usually able to do something in that situation, but I didn’t. No way around it. He gave me a couple pitches to hit and I missed them. Ain’t nothing you can do about that but take it on your shoulder and remember that situation.”
The Indians went 2 for 9 with runners in scoring position and left nine men on base, including five runners in scoring position.
“Just a tough game,” Swisher said when asked about the struggles from the top of the order. When pressed on it, he simply repeated himself. “Just a tough game.”
Swisher might be sensitive given his history of postseason struggles. He was pounded in New York for failing to deliver for the Yankees in the playoffs and now has a career postseason average of .165, lowest in baseball history (minimum 150 at-bats) according to ESPN Stats.
“Guys were just struggling at the top of the order,” said Kipnis, who went 0 for 4 to make the top three hitters in the Indians’ lineup 0 for 12. “With me, Bourn and Swisher, I think we wanted to be the guys so much to drive in the runs that maybe we forced the issue a little bit. Sometimes you have to tip your cap. Cobb pitched an outstanding game and made some great pitches when he had to to get out of some jams. He was fantastic tonight.”
The only two hitters to consistently reach base against Cobb were Yan Gomes and Lonnie Chisenhall, the Nos. 8 and 9 batters. Gomes and Chisenhall went a combined 5 for 8. The rest of the lineup was 4 for 27.
“With a team like Tampa and a pitcher like Cobb, they’re not going to give you many opportunities,” Kipnis said. “You have to capitalize when they do and we didn’t do that tonight.”
Added Swisher: “We just kind of ran into a buzz saw. It wasn’t our day. In a way, you feel like you let the city down a little bit. I think just for us, just to get to this point it was nice to get a little taste. Now we go home and work hard, get your work in and get back ready for spring training.”