With a runner on third, Indians starter Aaron Civale made a slight flinch that resulted in a balk, and the right-hander was forced to watch his career-high fifth run cross the plate in the third inning of the Tribe’s 7-2 loss to the Cardinals on Sunday at Busch Stadium.
Although a four-run second backed by a two-run double from Dexter Fowler and a two-run single from Dylan Carlson preceded the balk, Civale still managed to toss six innings, allowing five runs on eight hits with three strikeouts and a season-high two walks.
“At that point, it’s just about getting as deep into the game as I can, leaving the game achievable to win,” Civale said. “Not ideal to give up five in six innings, but I did my best to go out there and minimize damage, do some damage control and get through as many innings as I could. Definitely a grind, but on to the next one after I digest this.”
After he was replaced at the start of the seventh with a three-run Cardinals lead, the Indians’ offense was unable to put together a rally against Adam Wainwright.
“[Civale] didn't have his command early in the game,” Indians temporary manager Sandy Alomar Jr. said. “He struggled a little bit. As the game went on, he got better, but they already had five runs in the fourth, and that was enough for Wainwright right there.”
On his 39th birthday, Wainwright tossed a complete game, limiting the Tribe to two runs (a two-run homer from Tyler Naquin) on four hits with nine strikeouts on 122 pitches. It was the first time Wainwright had recorded a complete game since July 16, 2016, against the Marlins.
“He’s been doing it for a long time,” Naquin said. “He’s got really good stuff. You got to tip your hat whenever they perform like that. He was missing barrels.”
Although St. Louis’ pitching staff boasts an impressive 3.57 ERA, Cleveland’s inconsistency on offense has been a theme all season.
The Tribe started the three-game series with a bang on Friday, recording 20 hits and scoring 14 runs, but the Indians were limited to fewer than six hits in each of the next two games. Aside from Naquin’s homer that extended his hitting streak to 10 games exactly one year after he suffered his ACL tear against Tampa Bay, only Francisco Lindor, Cesar Hernandez and Delino DeShields logged a hit on Sunday.
Cleveland remains in the thick of the American League Central race thanks to its incredible pitching staff that has an AL-best 2.88 ERA. However, when the Indians don't receive a stellar performance from their starter, their bats have struggled to pick them up.
The Tribe has gone just 2-11 in games in which it trailed after six innings. And with the 4 p.m. ET Trade Deadline on Monday, this may just be another reminder of how helpful acquiring an impact bat could be for a team with high odds of making the postseason.
Starter Mike Clevinger has heard his name pop up in numerous rumors over the weekend and would bring in an enormous haul should the Indians find the perfect trade partner. But even with the whispers swirling, Alomar said that his team has been unfazed.
“Guys are not really focused on that,” Alomar said. “Guys are out there playing ball and they're not really concerned with the Trade Deadline -- not that I've noticed. … I haven't been concerned.”
The Indians still hold a share of the lead in the AL Central with the White Sox, and the two sit 1 1/2 games ahead of the Twins, who were swept by the Tigers on Sunday. Despite the loss, Cleveland has come out on top in 11 of its past 15 games.
“It's a lot of fun,” Carlos Carrasco said Saturday night of the close division race. “It's a good energy right now. The starting pitchers have been doing a great job. The position players, the bullpen -- everyone is kind of together right now and it's been working. I think we need to continue to do that for the rest of the season.”