WASHINGTON -- Once the Indians were officially eliminated from playoff contention on Friday night, they decided, like most teams, to give some of their starters some rest over the rest of the weekend.
Francisco Lindor wanted no part of it.
Even though his club was playing its first game without the postseason on the line since Oct. 4, 2015, Lindor texted his manager, Terry Francona, late Friday night to let him know he wanted to continue to play. The All-Star shortstop started on both Saturday and Sunday and was responsible for one of the team’s two runs in the 8-2 loss to the Nationals in Sunday’s season finale.
“I wanted to play,” Lindor said. “I missed a bunch of games in the beginning, and I just feel like I got to finish things. ... There’s no reason, just because we’re out, no reason not to play. I have plenty [of time] to rest.”
Lindor struggled offensively through the final week of the season, going hitless in 14 at-bats entering Sunday. But he found a way to end his year on a more positive note, snapping that streak with his 40th double of the year in the first. Then, in the third, he launched his 32nd homer to end his season with an .854 OPS. He became the first player to record at least 40 doubles and 30 homers in three straight seasons.
“I don’t care when it is, I love seeing our guys do well,” Francona said. “It could be Feb. 20 or Oct. 20, I’ll never get tired of seeing them take good swings.”
Faltering throughout the final week of the season and falling short of the postseason for the first time in four years is far from what Lindor and his teammates wanted. Lindor was forced to miss all of Spring Training due to a right calf strain and then was sidelined for the first 19 games of the regular season with a left ankle sprain. During his time rehabbing through his first major injury, Lindor would say that he wouldn’t take his health for granted when he returned, and he certainly did what he could to keep his word.
“I’ve tried to give Frankie a few days, and it’s like he views that as a direct insult to his manhood,” Francona said last week. “And I actually kind of like it.”
The Indians gave Lindor a day off during his first week off the injured list to make sure he wasn’t pushing his body too far. But Lindor started every game from April 28 until Sunday, and he plans to be in the lineup as much as possible next season.
“If I’m healthy, I will play every day,” Lindor said. “It’s a blessing, it’s an honor to play every single day. If I’m healthy, I’m a baseball player. I want to play whether I’m struggling or not. That’s just how it is. If we play next year 180-some games, I’m going to try to play 180-some games. I don’t care. I’m a baseball player. I get paid to play baseball. If I’m healthy, I will do it. ... One thing is being injured; another thing is having pain. It’s different.”
Though that refusal to accept a day off may have led to some late-season fatigue that played a part in him hitting .161 with no homers in 14 games leading up to Sunday, Lindor isn’t the only member of the roster who started to run out of gas. The pitching staff, which had carried the team all season, allowed 42 runs and nine homers over the last five games. That includes an uncharacteristic six-run outing by Mike Clevinger on Sunday after he'd gone 12-1 with a 1.76 ERA since the start of July.
“Storybook ending,” Clevinger said sarcastically. “I wasn't really worried about numbers. We were on the run, and I just wanted to play in the playoffs. … You don't want that to come to an end. That was the big, driving motivator; I wanted to pitch in October.”
Instead the Indians spent Sunday evening hugging one another and saying their goodbyes, not knowing who will be in the clubhouse next season.
“It sucks. I don't know,” Clevinger said. “It's hard to process right now. It's going to give me more motivation all offseason, and I hope it does for the rest of this clubhouse.”