Maybe the Cleveland Indians just wanted to get one last clunker out of the way before the postseason.
That’s an admittedly subpar attempt to find the bright side from Cleveland’s 8-0 route at the hands of the Pittsburgh Pirates Saturday night. At the same time, silver linings weren’t exactly easy to find in this one.
It certainly wasn’t as dramatic as the contests we’ve seen from the Tribe all week. Pittsburgh grabbed the lead in a hurry, scoring in each of the first four frames. Before you could blink, the Pirates had an eight-run advantage.
Cleveland starter Aaron Civale was tattooed during his final game of the season, only lasting four innings after allowing every run in this contest. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh’s Joe Musgrove kept the Indians’ bats quiet all night long, allowing just three hits in seven innings.
The Tribe did get solid bullpen appearances from Triston McKenzie and Logan Allen, as each starter-turned-reliever kept the Pirates off the board during their respective outings.
As far as the Indians' offense goes, it was almost entirely absent. In fact, only one Cleveland runner advanced beyond second base all night.
It wasn’t pretty, to say the least. With that said, let’s start sifting through the observations.
To put it lightly, Civale’s first full regular season in Cleveland ended on a sour note.
Cleveland’s starter attacked Pittsburgh with his usual six-pitch arsenal Saturday, yet struggled to find any effective offerings. In his four innings pitched, Civale allowed 10 hits and eight earned, striking out four while giving up three home runs.
All in all, he just wasn’t fooling Pirate hitters. Pittsburgh swung at 38 of his pitches, whiffing on five and putting 18 balls in play. Only once did Civale escape an inning throwing less than 21 pitches.
His trouble began almost as soon as the game did. After getting a flyout from the first batter he faced, Civale allowed three straight hits, including Colin Moran’s RBI single. That said, he at least gave the impression he was settling in after escaping an early jam.
He was not.
Civale allowed a solo home run from Jose Osuna in the second. The third inning featured a Josh Bell RBI single and a no-doubt two-run bomb from Bryan Reynolds. A three-run homer from Moran ensured the fourth inning was the final frame Civale would see on the night.
As far as postseason roles go, Civale will be pitching from the pen during next week’s wild card round. Just how frequently he’s utilized will depend, in part, on how much of Saturday’s outing Cleveland views as flukey as opposed to a potential sign of things to come.
Sticking Up for His Fellow Starter
Speaking of bullpen roles, Triston McKenzie continues to prove he’ll be able to handle one come playoff time.
The man they call “Sticks” entered the game in mop-up duty after Civale’s exit, giving Cleveland two strong innings of relief. McKenzie struck out three on 22 pitches, departing without allowing a single base runner.
More importantly, he left yet another game without displaying any drops in fastball velocity.
After seeing his average four-seamer velocity drop to a new low last Saturday in Detroit (90.7 mph), McKenzie had it back up to 93.0 mph against the Pirates. Though he was unable to generate any whiffs with this pitch, Pittsburgh only put one in play for a softly hit flyout.
This game marked McKenzie’s second bullpen outing this week. In 4.0 innings of relief, he’s only given up one hit while striking out six and walking none.
It’s exactly what the Indians needed to see from someone who’s due to record the first postseason playing time of his career next week.
Where’d the Offense Go?
If you banked on the Indians continuing their late-inning magic with an eight-run rally, you left this game severely disappointed. To be frank, rarely did the team even look like it was capable of cooking up one run Saturday.
Cleveland’s offense was punchless across the board. The Indians only mustered five hits, and just two of which went for extra bases.
Outside of that, the Tribe spent the bulk of the night looking completely befuddled by Musgrove.
Pittsburgh’s starter went 7.0 innings, allowing only four well hit balls and striking out 10. Francisco Lindor, Jordan Luplow and Tyler Naquin each struck out twice. Only two of Cleveland’s 20 batted balls on the night had a hit expectancy above 50%.
Like I said, it was bad.
Admittedly, it’s tough for Tribe fans to gripe too much about this dud. Yes, the game was brutal, but considering Cleveland won six straight heading into it, there’s no sense in getting too caught up in the blowout.
As mentioned, though, the hope is Indians were just getting one last ugly night out of the way before playoff time.
Cleveland wraps up its series with Pittsburgh -- and the regular season -- Sunday afternoon, taking on JT Brubaker. The Tribe will start Cal Quantrill, finishing the year with a bullpen game.
To keep up with all of Cleveland Baseball Insiders’ coverage, click the "follow" button at the top right-hand corner of this page.Follow CBI on Twitter @IndiansonSI and follow Casey Drottar on Twitter @CDrottar19