TORONTO -- It took more than two weeks of baseball games, including a marathon that was the equivalent of a doubleheader with an extra-inning game in the nightcap. It also took a fatigued pitching staff that sought the help of a rookie who has never even pitched an inning in
TORONTO -- It took more than two weeks of baseball games, including a marathon that was the equivalent of a doubleheader with an extra-inning game in the nightcap. It also took a fatigued pitching staff that sought the help of a rookie who has never even pitched an inning in Triple-A.
Finally, it took about an inch in difference of opinion on an excruciatingly close play at the plate to end the Indians' winning streak at 14. With a 9-6 loss to the Blue Jays on Saturday at Rogers Centre, Cleveland saw its club-record 14-game run come to a close. For the first time since June 15, there was no celebratory music blaring in the clubhouse.
"It was going to end at some point," Tribe catcher Chris Gimenez said. "We weren't going to go 100-0."
It sure felt like Cleveland was trying.
Following a 19-inning victory over Toronto on Friday, the Indians were left with a pitching staff in shambles, though. Reliever Zach McAllister was named Saturday's starter and 23-year-old lefty Shawn Morimando was promoted from Double-A Akron to provide some length out of the bullpen. Morimando pitched admirably in his debut, but the patchwork staff took its lumps, putting pressure on the offense.
As Toronto kept pushing, the Tribe's never-say-die aura of the past two weeks persisted.
Rajai Davis completed Cleveland's first cycle since 2003 (Travis Hafner), knocking in two runs and scoring twice to spark the lineup. Carlos Santana launched his 18th home run of the season. Juan Uribe was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to force in a run in the sixth. Jose Ramirez and Mike Napoli came through with RBI hits in the seventh. Even under trying circumstances, Cleveland kept win No. 15 in its sights.
"We felt like we were going to win that game," Indians manager Terry Francona said.
Then, a critical play in the eighth inning derailed Cleveland's chances.
With runners on first and second and no outs, Josh Donaldson drove a pitch from Tribe reliever Tommy Hunter up the middle. Center fielder Tyler Naquin had to leap high to snare the baseball after it bounced off the turf, and he recovered in time to make a strong throw to the plate. The fleet-footed Ezequiel Carrera -- a former Indian -- hustled around third and toward home.
Gimenez gloved the throw, spun and lunged to his left to apply the tag on Carrera, who was diving headfirst through the dirt. Gimenez nicked Carrera on the left leg, as the outfielder's fingertips were sliding across the plate. Home-plate umpire D.J. Reyburn immediately signaled Carrera was out, as Hunter pumped a fist behind the plate.
Not so fast, though.
The ruling on the field was subsequently overturned after a replay-initiated challenge by the Blue Jays. Toronto took a 7-6 lead as a result, and then tacked on two more runs in the inning to help seal the Tribe's fate.
"I thought we had him out," Gimenez said. "[Naquin] made a pretty good throw on a pretty tough high hop, but I definitely thought I had him in the leg."
The explanation the Indians received was that the replay officials in New York deemed that Carrera touched the plate before Gimenez applied the tag. After the game, Francona discussed it with crew chief John Hirschbeck, before retreating to the clubhouse to watch a variety of replay angles.
Francona said the overturned call "shocked" him.
"I went and looked at it six or seven times," Francona said. "I don't know how you can overrule that. I mean, I couldn't tell if he's safe or out. If he would've called him safe, I don't know how they would've overruled it to call him out. I don't how you overrule that. I know they keep telling us it has to be conclusive. I will look forward to an explanation that I understand from the league."
It took a play that close to finally send Cleveland to the loss column again.
"It was a grind. We knew that from the get-go," Hunter said. "They were fortunate enough to throw the last punch, and that was the outcome of the game. We've got a great group of guys in here. Great staff, great team chemistry. Any team that wins 14 in a row -- I mean, that's two weeks -- you're doing something right."
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast.