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Sports


Indians lose to Rays, ending further playoff hopes
Unexpectedly successful season ends as it has each year since 1948
by WKSU's KEVIN NIEDERMIER


Reporter
Kevin Niedermier
 
A sell out crowd watched the Indians get shut out by the Rays in Cleveland's first playoff appearance in 6 years.
Courtesy of Kevin Niedermier
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For now, 1948 still stands as the last year the Cleveland Indians won a World Series. The Indians lost Wednesday’s wild card game to the Tampa Bay Rays 4-0. That sends the Rays to Boston for the American League Division Series against the Red Sox. For the Indians, it’s another wait until next year scenario. WKSU’s Kevin Niedermier reports on the anticipation and the familiar reality of this season’s final game.

Listen: Indians lose, hopeful for next year

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A sea of red cheering on a rookie
The confident, sellout crowd, dressed mostly in red, was excited to see the first pitch thrown by 23-year-old rookie Danny Salazar. Salazar had started the season in the minors but helped fuel the Tribe's end-of-season winning streak. By the fourth inning, with the Rays leading three to nothing, Salazar was pulled from the game. 

Things didn't get better. The Indians never scored against the Tampa Bay’s dominant pitching and the Rays added one more run.                                                     

While the Rays were spraying champagne and beer in their locker room, Indians players were quietly packing up and thinking about next year.

Missed opportunities
The Indians had chances to score, for instance, loading the bases in the fourth inning with one out, but hitting into a double play to end the threat. Second baseman Jason Kipnis says the team brushed off that inning because of their ability to win games at the end. 

“It stings for a second but isn’t deflating," Kipnis said. "We were only down three runs and they never did a good job of putting us away, and that’s a complement to our pitching staff. We hung around for a little bit, but you’re seen with all our walk offs this year and all our comebacks we knew we still had a chance.  You always want to take advantage of opportunities. We didn’t that time, but we knew we would have more.”  
                                                                              
He says the team never stopped believing they could win.

A renewed interest from fans 
Fans and stadium workers were optimistic as well. Before the gates opened, ticket taker Jamie Pieh was opening boxes of white towels that were handed to fans to wave from the stands.

“We nicknamed them 'team streak,' and they gone through some peaks and valleys, and they peaked at the right time," Pieh said. "It was awesome seeing them win the last 10 games of the season. I was there for the 2007 playoffs. It’s been six years, but it’s great to see everybody back. It’s going to be a packed house tonight, and we’re looking forward to that.”

The Indians recorded one of this season’s lowest home game attendance records. But, while getting the hot dogs and pretzels ready for Wednesday’s crowd, concession stand operator Julie Baltulus looked at the bright side.

“I know attendance hasn’t been spectacular, and I hope making the playoffs actually brings more people in for the entire season. It hasn’t been extremely slow, it could always be better. But I think the people who were here were very supportive. I know this sell out is going to be just like the home opener, and I hope the atmosphere is fantastic.”

And, Wednesday night’s crowd stuck with the team until the final out.                                       

Players hopeful for the future
Back in the Indians quiet clubhouse, the usually enthusiastic Nick Swisher reflected on the loss, this season, and what might happen next.

“It sucks right now to be in this spot, the sting is super bad right now," Swisher said. "Either way I couldn’t be more proud of these guys. We fought our tails off and no one expected us to be here. Obviously we don’t want to be going home, and it’s a great group in here, and, you never know with free agency and thing like that who will be back next year. So for us, we’re just trying to soak this up, it’s frustrating.”                                                                                          

This was Swisher’s first season with the Indians after coming over from the Yankees, and he hopes to be back next year to help finally bring a championship to Cleveland.

(Click image for larger view.)

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