Indians drop slugfest to Jays in series finale
Santana comes up triple short of cycle as Myers struggles in debut
TORONTO -- The Indians won their first series of the season. That is the main takeaway from Cleveland's opening act north of the border. The other is that this new brand of offense already appears more resilient than the lineup assembled last season.
As for Thursday night, the Indians would probably prefer to quickly forget about what took place on the mound in the finale of this three-game series at Rogers Centre. Starter Brett Myers labored through a difficult season debut for the Tribe, putting too much pressure on Cleveland's determined cast of hitters in a 10-8 loss.
"The only person at fault here is me," Myers said.
It will not be too hard for the Indians to head to Tampa Bay with their chins up.
That is because there is this: the Tribe took two out of three in the much-anticipated season-opening set against an overhauled Blue Jays squad considered to be World Series contenders. That is not a bad way to get the year rolling for Cleveland.
In the first two games, starters Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez gave admirable efforts en route to consecutive victories. In the final game in Toronto, the lineup showed off its potential, churning out eight runs on 14 hits, including eight extra-base hits and two home runs. The group also hit .471 (8-for-17) with runners in scoring position in the loss.
"When you score eight runs, you're probably going to win more than you're going to lose," said Mark Reynolds, who launched a home run in the fourth inning. "The Blue Jays have a great team and we came in on the road and took two out of three. Last night and tonight, we kept battling back.
"That's a sign of a good team. We didn't get down on ourselves. Hopefully we can just keep it rolling."
The Indians' lineup did what it could to keep pace with Toronto's relentless attack, answering the Blue Jays blow for blow for most of the night. Toronto's outpouring, which included five towering homers, simply proved too much to match as the game wore on.
Myers was victimized by four of the blasts -- two by J.P. Arencibia, one apiece for Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, three of which landed in the second-deck -- and was chased from the game after only 68 pitches. The veteran right-hander had not yielded four homers, a career worst, since June 29, 2010.
"I thought he elevated some pitches," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "And the ones that were elevated were a little bit flat."
Myers made no excuses.
"I couldn't get the ball down tonight. Everything was up," Myers said. "When you pitch up in the zone against these type of hitters in the big leagues, it's not going to be good."
By statistical standards, Myers' showing ranked among the worst debuts in the team's long history.
Myers finished allowing seven runs on seven hits with two walks and no strikeouts in five innings. He joined Jeff Shaw (April 30, 1990) as the only pitcher in franchise history to give up at least four homers and finish with zero strikeouts in five innings or more in a regular-season game.
Bautista and Arencibia's home runs off Myers in the first and second innings, respectively, put the Indians in an early 3-1 hole. Facing lefty Mark Buehrle, Cleveland countered with back-to-back solo shots by Carlos Santana and Reynolds to pull the game into a 3-3 deadlock. In the fifth inning, Encarnacion ripped a pitch from Myers over the wall in left for a three-run homer.
The Indians again did their best to rally.
Buehrle -- acquired from the Marlins in Toronto's headline-grabbing trade over the winter -- allowed six runs on seven hits in 5 1/3 innings in his Blue Jays debut. That included a three-run burst from the Tribe in the sixth, when Santana added an RBI double and Lonnie Chisenhall later contributed a two-run, two-base hit of his own.
"Buehrle, [pitching with a lead] feeds right into him," Francona said. "He starts taking some off and cuts it in on you. We did a really good job. That's a hard way to play, but if that's the way you have to play, that's the way you have to play. There are going to be nights like that."
With the game caught in a 6-6 tie, and Myers sitting at just 65 pitches, Francona chose to stick with the righty to open the home half of the sixth -- a move aimed at saving the bullpen some pitches. Arencibia took advantage of Myers' continued struggles by drilling his second home run of the evening. After Myers hit the showers, Colby Rasmus added a solo shot against Indians reliever Cody Allen.
The Indians added two more runs down the stretch, but Santana, who went 3-for-5 and was a triple short of the cycle, grounded out with the bases loaded to end the eighth, halting the Tribe's desperate push. On the play, Toronto second baseman Emilio Bonifacio sprinted up the middle, snared the chopper before it could reach center field, and threw Santana out at first.
"If it goes up the middle, we could be talking a different ballgame," said Cleveland's Nick Swisher. "Either way, I was so proud of the way the guys battled and fought."
It was a disappointing showing from Myers, considering Cleveland is counting on him to be a key cog within a rotation beset with question marks. Given the uncertainty surrounding the staff, the Indians signed Myers to a one-year, $7 million deal, due to his history as a proven innings eater.
During Spring Training, Myers posted a 9.00 ERA with 23 runs allowed on 36 hits in 21 Cactus League innings. Some inconsistency was expected due to his transition back to starting after spending all of last year as a late-inning reliever for the White Sox and Astros.
For one game, Myers' spring woes carried into the regular season.
Cleveland will hope it is more fluke than foreshadowing.
As for Myers, he was grateful for the effort by his offense.
"That's unbelievable," Myers said. "It's very encouraging to see that, when we're down like that and they keep fighting. They picked me up a lot tonight. Unfortunately, we came up a little short. I've got to do a better job of getting the ball down in the zone and pitching."