Missed chance in sixth sets up crushing eighth
Angels relievers put down rally before Tribe errors open up game
CLEVELAND -- After a sloppy fifth inning put the Indians behind C.J. Wilson and the Angels on Saturday, Cleveland appeared to have a rally brewing in the sixth.
An RBI single by Michael Bourn brought the Tribe to within one run. With men on the corners and one out, Cleveland seemed to be on the verge of breaking out and putting a stop to all the miseries this week has carried.
But with Bourn running, Nick Swisher popped up off right-hander Michael Kohn, and Jason Kipnis soon followed with a strikeout against lefty Buddy Boshers, making his Major League debut. As they've made a habit of doing lately, the Indians failed when a crucial scoring opportunity presented itself. Later, the tight game devolved into a rout, as the Tribe lost a 7-2 contest.
"This is a game where how you handle frustration goes so far in how your season is defined," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "We're going to find out. We're not the type of team that can just show up and throw your gloves out. But when we play as a team, we can be pretty good. That's what we're going to have to do."
The defeat extended Cleveland's losing streak to six games. The Indians (62-55) are now eight games behind Detroit in the American League Central and four games out of the second AL Wild Card spot.
Plenty of factors are to blame for this lousy homestand the Indians are stumbling through. A struggling offense has probably been Cleveland's most significant malfunction.
Dating back to Aug. 2 in Miami, when Marlins rookie Jose Fernandez racked up 13 strikeouts across eight innings of a shutout, the Indians are averaging just 2.3 runs per game. The Tribe managed to take two out of three games in Florida, but has gone winless in six contests since, losing four to Detroit and two to Los Angeles.
During the skid, the Indians have been outscored, 37-15, while hitting .200 (43-for-215), with a .180 (9-for-50) mark with runners in scoring position.
Outfielder Drew Stubbs, who went 2-for-4 with an RBI on Saturday, admitted the pressure to turn things around has played a role in the Tribe's recent inability to notch clutch hits.
"Yeah, it does," he said. "As a team, as a player, you try to avoid that at all costs and just treat it as any other situation, but it's the truth of the matter whenever you're kind of reeling a little bit as a team, and you're just trying to get a win any way you can. You're in those situations and maybe you don't relax like you normally do. That's part of this job and something we've just got to do a better job of."
Tribe starter Ubaldo Jimenez did his best to keep Cleveland in the game. Across 6 1/3 innings, the lanky right-hander held the Angels to three runs (two earned) and five hits. He also had three walks and five strikeouts, using 96 pitches as he threw into the seventh. For the 18th time this year, Jimenez kept the opponent to three earned runs or less.
"When he left the game, we had a chance to win," Francona said.
The decisive inning was the fifth, when the score was still tied at 1. Jimenez (8-7, 4.11 ERA) opened it with a walk to Chris Iannetta. Grant Green then laid down a bunt that the pitcher fielded in front of third baseman Mike Aviles.
Jimenez scooped it up and turned around to fling it to first, but the ball sailed maybe 10 feet over the head of Swisher at first base and into the stands. Iannetta and Green wound up on third and second, respectively, and both runners scored on ensuing sacrifice flies.
"He should've let Mike take it," Francona said. "When they're trying to give you outs, we need to take every out. Obviously, that led to two of the runs."
"As a pitcher, the first reaction is going to be 'Try to get the ball,'" Jimenez said. "If you hear the third baseman calling you off, then you're going to let him take it, but I didn't hear anything."
The Indians got a run back in the sixth, but the outs by Swisher and Kipnis meant they still trailed. If the score were even, perhaps Cleveland would have done more to prevent the Angels (53-62) from piling on four runs in the eighth. That's when the game got out of hand, as infielders Asdrubal Cabrera and Kipnis committed errors and reliever Bryan Shaw threw a wild pitch.
"We didn't play the game the way we need to," Francona said.
The Indians committed four errors, setting a new high for one game this season.
"Tonight, I just felt like we played pretty lackluster," Stubbs said. "It's getting to be the point in the season where everybody's tired, and you're going to have some lapses here and there, but we've got to be better, a little bit more upbeat and just on top of our game."
Cleveland opened the scoring in the second inning, when Yan Gomes doubled and later came around on a lightly hit ball from Stubbs that Angels third baseman Chris Nelson picked up, but bobbled. The Angels got that run back in the third, when Mike Trout hit a fielder's choice grounder to Aviles at third with the bases loaded to plate a run.
Over 5 1/3 innings, Wilson (12-6, 3.49 ERA) surrendered two runs on seven hits. He issued four walks and six strikeouts.
"They cracked the door open a little for us, obviously," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "But in a game where we didn't really drive the ball, I thought we did a really good job of situational hitting. I thought every chance we had to get a runner over and score them, we pretty much did so. When we got up in those situations, we took our walks, we started rallies, we ran the bases well and had really good situational hitting. So, good night."
Francona wasn't nearly as satisfied in his postgame media conference.
"The game was actually kind of even," Francona started. "They executed and we didn't. They made plays and we didn't -- offensively, defensively -- and because of that, we go from a 3-2 game where we've got Bourny in motion, first and third, Swish up, to all of a sudden we're getting blown out."