Brantley headlines night of missed chances
Indians go 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position in loss to Rangers
CLEVELAND -- It was an ideal situation for the Indians. With two outs in the ninth inning on Tuesday night, a pair of mistakes by the Rangers -- a fielding miscue by shortstop Elvis Andrus and closer Shawn Tolleson hitting Carlos Santana with a pitch -- set the stage for a Tribe comeback.
Outside the left-field gate, fans poured out of neighboring Quicken Loans Arena to celebrate the Cavs clinching a spot in the NBA Finals. Inside Progressive Field, Indians left fielder Michael Brantley settled into the batter's box with runners on first and second base, and a chance to add to a memorable night for Cleveland.
"I don't think there's anybody else we'd rather have up there besides him," Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis said after the Indians' 4-3 loss to Texas. "Even when I'm going well, I'd still rather have him up over me. The guy is just that good."
Everyone is entitled to an off game. Unfortunately for the Tribe, Brantley encountered an uncharacteristically rough night on Tuesday.
"It happens to the best of them," Brantley said. "I'm human."
Brantley chopped an 81-mph changeup back to Tolleson, who gloved the ball and relayed it to first base for the game's final out. That ended an 0-for-5 showing for Brantley, who made the final out in the third and seventh innings, struck out with the bases loaded in the fifth and then came up empty again with the game on the line in the ninth.
Cleveland's offensive woes extended beyond its All-Star outfielder, though. Overall, the Indians ended Tuesday's loss with an 0-for-7 showing with runners in scoring position. Texas left-hander Wandy Rodriguez issued five walks, including three to load the bases in the fifth, but the Indians could not break through when it mattered most.
"We had their starter on the ropes a bunch of times," Kipnis said, "and a good chance to get into their 'pen early. But, we just couldn't come up with that big hit to kind of knock them out of the game. You tip the cap a little bit to him just for staying in there and making some pitches, but we've got to come up with the big hit next time."
Cleveland had a pair of solo home runs in the first inning -- one from Kipnis and another via Ryan Raburn -- to go along with a sacrifice fly from Yan Gomes in the fourth inning. That was not going to cut it on this night.
"We knew it was going to have to take more than two runs," Kipnis said.
Brantley typically plays a large role in igniting Cleveland's lineup, but he has been in a quiet spell of late.
Over his past 10 games, Brantley has hit .179 (7-for-39) with six strikeouts in 47 plate appearances. In his previous 28 contests, the outfielder hit at a .349 clip with only five strikeouts in his first 124 plate appearances of the season.
Even with the recent slump, the Indians liked their chances with Brantley in the box in the ninth.
"That's the way the game goes," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "I'm glad we had the opportunities right up until the end, especially with Brantley hitting. I'll take our chances every time."