WASHINGTON (AP) – The Cleveland Indians are in danger of sitting out the postseason for the first time since 2015, pushed to the brink of elimination from the AL wild-card race Friday night with an 8-2 loss to the playoff-bound Washington Nationals.
Manager Terry Francona’s Indians won the AL Central each of the past three years, but they spent most of this season in second place behind the Minnesota Twins, who took over the division lead for good on Aug. 13.
The Indians began the day third in the wild-card standings – behind Oakland and Tampa Bay – and in need of both a victory and some help. They knew they’d be eliminated with the combination of a loss to Washington and a win by the Rays at Toronto.
Gerardo Parra had four RBIs to lead the Nationals to their sixth straight win. The Indians have lost three straight, totaling just two runs and seven hits in the last two, and their loss clinched a wild-card berth for Oakland.
When Cleveland’s loss closed, Tampa Bay was leading Toronto 5-2 in the eighth.
Asked beforehand whether he’d talked to his players about where things stood, Indians manager Terry Francona replied: “They can add. They know what’s going on.”
Washington also had reason to keep an eye on the out-of-town scores posted on Nationals Park’s right-field videoboard.
The Nationals clinched a playoff berth Tuesday and will participate in the NL wild-card game next week. What’s still undecided, though, is who the Nationals’ opponent will be and whether they’ll play at home or on the road: The Milwaukee Brewers began Friday one game behind them in the league’s wild-card standings.
Parra broke a 2-all tie for Washington with a sacrifice fly in the sixth off Nick Goody (3-2), and Asdrúbal Cabrera followed with a double that added two more runs. Goody was then replaced by Adam Cimber, who promptly served up Trea Turner’s 19th homer of the year, a two-run shot to left that made it 7-2.
Parra also hit two-run double off Zach Plesac in the second, and a solo homer off Dan Otero in the eighth.
The Indians’ runs came on an RBI double by Ryan Flaherty and a sacrifice fly by Francisco Lindor against Austin Voth (2-1), who went six innings.
Indians: 3B José Ramírez was out of the lineup with a sore right hand; he recently returned from being out with a fracture. “He’s just a little sore. He’s not hurt,” Francona said. “I don’t know if it was realistic to think that he would be able to play the whole way out.”
Nationals: C Kurt Suzuki made his first start since Sept. 5, limited since then to pinch-hitting duty because of a sore right arm. Suzuki played nine innings and went 1 for 3 with a walk and two runs scored.
SCHERZER GOES WILD
The Nationals don’t know which team they’ll face in the NL wild-card game or where it will be played, but they do know this: Three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer will be their starting pitcher Tuesday night against Milwaukee or St. Louis. Strasburg and Patrick Corbin will be available to pitch in relief.
Reliever Sean Doolittle was picked as the winner of Washington’s “Good Guy” award in voting by local media members. Strasburg was chosen as pitcher of the year; 3B Anthony Rendon got player of the year honors.
LHP Corbin (14-7, 3.05 ERA) starts for Washington against Cleveland RHP Adam Plutko (7-4, 4.25).
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