Uribe's hesitation proves costly

May 22nd, 2016

BOSTON -- Given the way the Indians have played of late, a four-run deficit did not seem insurmountable on Saturday. The Indians have pulled off a handful of comebacks in recent weeks, fueling confidence in the dugout that no lead is safe for the opposition.

In the seventh inning of Saturday's 9-1 loss to the Red Sox, though, a mental mistake by veteran third baseman Juan Uribe opened the floodgates and turned a close game into a blowout. Standing at his locker in Fenway Park's cramped visitors' clubhouse after the defeat, which ended Cleveland's five-game winning streak, Uribe made no excuses for his misstep.

"This is my fault," Uribe said.

Truth be told, Cleveland had been playing with fire all afternoon with Boston's potent lineup. By the end of the game, the Red Sox had 17 at-bats with runners in scoring position and had loaded the bases on three occasions. For the most part, the Tribe had limited the damage, allowing four runs in the six frames leading up to Boston's five-run breakout in the seventh.

Indians lefty Kyle Crockett took over in that inning and allowed two consecutive hits with one out, prompting an intentional walk to Jackie Bradley Jr. to load the bases. At that juncture, Tribe manager Terry Francona handed the ball to veteran Joba Chamberlain, who entered the evening with no home runs allowed and only one earned run relinquished through the season's first six weeks.

Chamberlain did his job, inducing a ground ball off the bat of Boston's Christian Vazquez.

"It just seemed like we were trying to wiggle out of stuff all day," Francona said. "We finally got the one inning where it's bases loaded and we get a double-play ball."

It certainly looked like one.

The infield was playing in and Uribe was shaded a touch farther from third than usual, but he was in a perfect position to scoop up the sharp grounder from Vazquez. Uribe gloved the ball and -- for a brief moment -- appeared headed to third base. Had he gone through with that approach, Uribe could have stepped on the bag and either fired the ball to first or to the plate for a possible inning-ending double play.

Uribe hesitated, though, and he chose to throw to catcher Chris Gimenez for a forceout at home.

"On his initial run, I thought he was going to tag third and throw to first," Gimenez said. "He ended up throwing to me. Looking back on it, that was probably his only decision other than tagging third and eating the ball. I think he was playing [too far] off the bag to get the double play."

Mike Sarbaugh, Cleveland's third-base coach and infield instructor, agreed.

"He maybe could've turned a double play," Sarbaugh said, "but in the heat of the moment, I get it. He was playing off the bag to where it would've been a tough play."

From there, Chamberlain issued a bases-loaded walk to Blake Swihart before surrendering a grand slam to Mookie Betts. The Fenway faithful then cheered as Chamberlain -- once a villain in these parts when he wore the Yankees' pinstripes -- trudged off the mound. In a span of three batters, the Indians went from potentially escaping unscathed to staring down a nine-run deficit.

"If it's not hit hard enough, [Uribe] knows he has to go to the plate," Francona said. "I think his initial thought was he was going to go to third, and then he realized he might not have time. It's happening fast for those guys -- I get it -- but that would've been huge. That's exactly what we needed right there."

Uribe was kicking himself after the loss.

"I was thinking of going to third base, and I moved a little bit over there," he said. "I talked to a couple guys and they told me I could've [tried for a double play]. This is my fault."