Catching up with former Cleveland Indians in October

(Photo by David Maxwell/Getty Images)
(Photo by David Maxwell/Getty Images) /

There are several former Cleveland Indians in the 2019 playoffs. How have they performed with only one series remaining in doubt before the Fall Classic?

The 2019 Cleveland Indians are not participating in the 2019 postseason, but there sure are (or were) a ton of players from past iterations in the final rounds of baseball’s seven-month fight.

One of them–catcher Yan Gomes–just helped the Washington Nationals punch their ticket to the World Series for the first time in franchise history. Several more are battling it out in the ALCS, with varying levels of involvement and success: Michael Brantley, Joe Smith, CC Sabathia, Edwin Encarnacion, and Gio Urshela.

Painful though it may be to see players who last wore the Tribe uniform as recently as 2018 in the playoffs with new teams, only a handful of the ex-Indians in this year’s October field have actually performed well. Let’s assess the performances to date of each.

Josh Donaldson, ATL – .158/.273/.368, 1 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI

Josh Donaldson’s tenure at third base for the Indians lasted all of about eight minutes, and was about as memorable as anything Kurt Sutter has produced since the series finale of Sons of Anarchy. If Atlanta doesn’t re-sign him this winter, Braves fans won’t remember his playoff performance any more fondly than Tribe fans do.

The Braves fell to the Cardinals in five NLDS games, in large part because Donaldson and Freddie Freeman never quite turned on the October jets. He’ll be paid a handsome sum of money this winter anyway on account of returning to his power-hitting form in the regular season.

Josh Tomlin, ATL – 3 2/3 IP, 0.00 ERA

Lost amid all the higher-profile former Tribe players vying for a World Series is Josh Tomlin, who performed respectably in an unpredictable NLDS against St. Louis. Tomlin logged 3 2/3 innings in two games, giving up two hits and no runs.

Regardless of how forgettable (or perhaps unforgettable, in the worst way) his final days in Cleveland were, Tomlin is among the most likable guys to have worn the Tribe uniform. His Braves got knocked out, but it was nice to see him on the mound in a playoff game again.

Yan Gomes, WSH – .308/.400/.385, 3 RBI, 1 R

Yan Gomes and Kurt Suzuki have split time behind the plate for the Nats, but Gomes has been the more productive of the two when standing beside it. He has four hits in 13 at-bats, including a two-run single in the first inning of NLCS Game 4 that all but iced the Cardinals.

Gomes was a spectator for Cleveland’s run in 2016, so it is great to see him get the chance to leave his mark on a World Series.

Andrew Miller, STL – 5 IP, 0.00 ERA

Andrew Miller did his best impersonation of, well, himself in October, and was one of the few bright spots in a postseason that ended rather unceremoniously for St. Louis. The Cardinals got excellent starting pitching for most of their nine playoff games, but their bullpen largely dropped the ball.

Miller made six appearances for the Redbirds, logging five total innings, allowing one hit and zero runs. St. Louis never held a lead in the NLCS, otherwise Miller’s effectiveness out of the bullpen might not have flown under the radar.

Michael Brantley, HOU – .250/.294/.344, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 4 R

Michael Brantley had an uncharacteristically bad ALDS against Tampa Bay, recording more strikeouts than hits. He’s back in business against the Yankees, however, having gone 4-for-13 in the first three games of the ALCS.

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Brantley is decidedly the odds-on favorite to be the ex-Indians player most likely to end this season with a World Series ring on his finger. In what would be something of a melancholy, storybook scenario, he and Gomes–the two players who had to sit out in 2016 due to injury–could wind up as adversaries in the Fall Classic.

Joe Smith, HOU – 2 IP, 4.50 ERA

In a bullpen that doesn’t routinely have to worry about early-inning emergencies thanks to Houston’s starting pitching, Joe Smith isn’t likely to be heavily utilized in the playoffs. And he hasn’t been so far, logging just two innings in eight games.

Smith surrendered in inconsequential home run to Gleyber Torres in Game 3 of the ALCS. As one of the forgotten good guys of Indians bullpens past, Smith is an easy player to be happy for if his season ends in glory–even if he isn’t asked to play a vital role in the outcome.

Edwin Encarnacion, NYY – .200/.286/.320, 3 2B, 2 RBI, 2 R

Whatever dark magic the Indians performed on the Blue Jays lineup in October 2016 seems to have carried over into future postseasons. Renowned slugger Edwin Encarnacion was a non-factor in each of his two October appearances with Cleveland, and he hasn’t made much of an impact for the Yankees in 2019.

Encarnacion has one hit in 12 ALCS at-bats, and he has struck out six times. He has no home runs in six games. He and his pinstriped teammates are now fighting a considerably uphill battle against Houston, and he is among the many hitters in their lineup who must turn things around.

Gio Urshela, NYY – .217/.250/.391, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 R

To his credit, Gio Urshela is one of the few hitters in New York’s lineup that hasn’t been a strikeout machine this October. He has struck out just three total times, and only once against the likes of Houston’s fearsome rotation in the ALCS.

Unfortunately for Urshela and his teammates, that plate approach hasn’t amounted to much, particularly in the pennant round. He has just two hits in 11 at-bats, and one of them was a solo home run in the ninth inning of an all-but-over Game 1.

CC Sabathia, NYY – 1/3 IP

Interstingly enough, CC Sabathia’s lone contribution to the Yankees in October was inducing a ground-out off the bat of Michael Brantley in Game 2 of the ALCS. He’ll likely continue to be used sparingly in left-on-left matchups out of the bullpen, as Aaron Boone appears poised to lean on Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, and Luis Severino as starters before quickly turning the mound over to his relief corps.

Yandy Diaz, TB – .231/.231/.692, 2 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI

Yandy Diaz blasted two opposite-field home runs in the AL Wild Card game, driving a knife through the hearts of the home crowd in Oakland and indirectly stirring up some unrest among Tribe fans who capitalized on the opportunity to blast Cleveland’s front office for trading him last winter.

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Mercifully enough, the torches and pitchforks were put away with haste, as Diaz literally did nothing in the ALDS against Houston. He went 0-for-9 with four strikeouts in the first three games before missing the final two due to injury.