CLEVELAND — Perhaps it’s fitting that right-hander Mike Clevinger will be on the mound for the Indians today as they fight for their postseason lives.
Thus far in the Division Series against the defending World Series champion Houston Astros, there’s been no sunshine for Cleveland.
Clevinger, aka “Sunshine,” is scheduled to square off against 2015 Cy Young award winner Dallas Keuchel in his first career postseason start with the Indians facing elimination — down 2-0 to an Astros team that has outplayed them in every facet.
“I mean, we’re definitely ... our backs are against the wall,” Clevinger said. “But I think the biggest vibe (with our team) is we can leave it on the field because, I mean, we know that this could be our last game if we don’t show up. If anything, everyone is going to leave what they have out there, and that’s going to be good to see at home.”
The Indians are facing elimination because a lineup laden with former All-Stars at every position has all but been shut down by a Houston pitching staff that has limited them to three runs and six hits — three in each of the first two games at Minute Maid Park.
Cleveland’s batting .100 (6-for-60) as a team, with its big guns — Francisco Lindor (2-for-8), Jose Ramirez (0-for-7), Michael Brantley (1-for-7), Edwin Encarnacion (1-for-7) and Josh Donaldson (0-for-8) — doing next to nothing.
Lindor has at least shown a little life, collecting one of the Indians’ hits in a 7-2 Game 1 loss, and accounting for the only run in a 3-1 Game 2 defeat with a solo home run in the third inning.
Outside of Game 2 starter Carlos Carrasco, briefly, Cleveland’s pitching hasn’t been that much better.
Ace and two-time Cy Young award winner Corey Kluber was rocked in the series opener, allowing three runs on three homers, while failing to last five innings, while Andrew Miller melted down in a horrendous outing Saturday in the second game.
Cody Allen allowed a solo homer in the Game 1 loss, and though he got them out of a jam Saturday, the Indians’ so-called weapon out of the bullpen, Trevor Bauer, has surrendered runs in each of his appearances.
And now, Cleveland is turning to Clevinger, who had a breakout performance this season as a sequel to an impressive rookie year, reaching 200 innings and joining Kluber, Bauer and Carrasco to give Cleveland the first MLB foursome with 200-plus strikeouts.
But his six career postseason appearances have all come in a relief role.
“I think whatever you throw at Clev, he’ll be OK,” Francona said. “I think when you know what’s in front of you, you can certainly prepare.”
A lack of hitting and pitching is a sure way to end any postseason run. So something has to change for the Indians or it’s going to be an early October exit for the second straight year.
“I’d rather be up 2-0 than down 2-0, but it’s still the first one to get to three,” Francona said. “I’d rather have a chance than no chance. I understand that the odds start to go not in your favor. But (I’ve) been on both sides of this and come back and had people come back on us.
“So rather than spend a ton of time thinking about all that, we need to figure out a way to beat them, because the first two games, they’ve really kind of had their way with us. We need to change that.”
In some twisted way, the Indians can use themselves as a reference to rally. They led the Yankees 2-0 in last year’s Division Series before dropping the next three games.
“I think that’s kind of been the trend of our team, too,” Clevinger said. “We might have had some little, cold stretches where we weren’t putting pieces together, but the second we got that good team win and that good roll, it seemed like no matter who came around us, we were going to beat them.
“So I think just getting that good team win at home could steamroll this into something special.”
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @CAwesomeheimer.
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