Tough loss extends Tribe's slide to 8

September 17th, 2020

Francisco Lindor tried to be the Indians’ hero on Tuesday with a game-tying home run in the ninth inning. attempted to bring some energy to the dugout on Wednesday by escaping a jam with runners on second and third and no outs with the game tied in the seventh. But no matter how many sparks the team receives, nothing ignites.

The Tribe lost its eighth consecutive game in the 10th inning on Wednesday night, as Phil Maton gave up a walk-off single to Javier Báez that lifted the Cubs to a 3-2 victory at Wrigley Field. It marks the first time Cleveland has lost eight straight games since June 2013.

“That's a tough one right there,” temporary Indians manager Sandy Alomar Jr. said. “Our guys battled. Our pitching did a good job. Unfortunately, we didn't hit very good with men in scoring position today. It seems like when we hit, we don't pitch well; and when we pitch well, we don't hit. You've just got to keep grinding, man. I don't know what else to say.”

With an automatic runner on second, Maton gave up a single to lead off the bottom of the 10th before walking the bases loaded. He rebounded with back-to-back strikeouts of Willson Contreras and Kyle Schwarber before Báez served an 0-2 curveball into left field to secure the win.

“That was a hanging pitch right there,” Alomar said. “I felt we should have stayed hard on him, maybe elevate. Maybe they had a different plan when they went up there.”

Maton may get credited with the loss, but there was an array of other blunders on the night that played a role in extending the Tribe’s losing streak to match the longest in the Terry Francona era.

The offense went just 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position, was held to five hits and scored only on a wild pitch and an solo homer.

The team continued to make mistakes on the bases, as Delino DeShields was responsible for the Tribe’s seventh pickoff of the season, trailing only the Marlins, who have eight.

“Getting picked off, that's the part that concerns me the most,” Alomar said. “I know we've been addressing that, but guys continue to force things at times and we make mistakes.”

The Indians have watched their name plummet from the No. 2 seed in the American League postseason rankings down to No. 8 during this skid. So, the only question that remains is: What does all of this mean moving forward?

The Tribe will travel to Detroit on Thursday to open a four-game set against the Tigers, who are currently just four games behind the Indians in the loss column. If Cleveland drops the series, then the club will be in a desperate battle for a postseason berth in the final week of the regular season. But the Indians at least have a decent track record against the Tigers, carrying a 20-game win streak that dated back to the 2019 season through their first three meetings this year before snapping it with a loss on Aug. 21.

The Indians used Karinchak, Oliver Pérez, Cal Quantrill and Maton out of the bullpen in Wednesday’s extra-inning loss, but none of them threw more than 14 pitches, which means the ‘pen should be at full strength heading into what’s become a crucial series.

Now, all the Tribe can do is hope that with Shane Bieber on the mound at Comerica Park, the team can finally have a game where its pitching and its offense simultaneously come to life for the first time in nine games to not only end the downward spiral, but establish some breathing room in the postseason standings.

“Everyone is going out there each day and giving it their all,” starter Aaron Civale said. “That's all we're trying to do as a team. The results aren't necessarily happening right now, but we're confident in the way that we're playing and the way that we're in the games right now, both mentally and physically. [We’re] confident we'll turn the page soon.”