CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – After taking two out of three from the Tigers in Detroit, hosting the 34-48 San Diego Padres seemed like three winnable games.
Tuesday’s 1-0 loss was exactly that, winnable in all facets, though all but one facet of the Indians’ night let them down. Corey Kluber was again fantastic as the all-star’s ERA dipped to 2.85 following his seventh start since being activated from the disabled list, but the offense and defense behind him failed.
Kluber picked up one earned run on the night, though it was far from that. In the 5th inning, Padres DH Hector Sanchez singled before a Carlos Asuaje walk, both on Kluber, ultimately.
The ability to induce groundballs has always been among Kluber’s numerous strong spots, something which he did to the next two batters, with underwhelming results.
Erick Aybar smacked a 1-0 pitch to Francisco Lindor, who misjudged the distance between himself and second base, throwing off the timing of a potential twin-killing. Three pitches later, 3B Cory Spangenberg grounded a potential inning-ender to Jason Kipnis, but a bobble caused a riff in timing before Kipnis’ throw pulled Lindor off of the bag, allowing Sanchez to score the game’s only run.
“Ground ball, needs to be turned,” Kipnis said. “It just caught me in the palm a little bit, top-spinned a little bit more and caught me in the bad part of the glove and popped out right in front of me. At that point, I just had to rush and get one.”
The Indians escaped another potential issue in the 8th when a poor throw from Jose Ramirez brought Carlos Santana off the bag at first, forcing him to throw home to try and nab Spangenberg at home. The third baseman stuttered at home after the ball beat him there, but looked to slide under a Yan Gomes tag. He was called out, and despite video evidence that seemed to show otherwise, the call was upheld, freezing the lead at one.
The defense was far from the only issue, as the offense struggled to five hits against a patchwork bullpen. Starter Trevor Cahill allowed four hits in 4 1/3 innings while making his return from the disabled list, and the Indians managed just one more hit and walk in the final 4 2/3.
The home team almost stole the first run of the game in the bottom of the 2nd following a Jose Ramirez triple. Lonnie Chisenhall chopped a ball back to Cahill with one out, and Ramirez broke home after the pitcher paid him little notice, but 1B and former OF Wil Myers was able to throw the all-star out at home by a few steps.
Though aggression on the base-paths has been something the 2017 Indians have lacked relative to a year ago and needed this season, this particular effort did not work out, and very few chances were created from there.
“The thing was, when he first started, when the ball was hit and he first started down, he thought he was far enough down himself to go ahead and go,” Bench Coach Brad Mills said, filling in for Terry Francona. “The pitcher just kind of glanced at him, didn’t really stop him, but he kind of glanced at him. He thought he was far enough down to go ahead and make it.”
The Indians went on to strand five more runners in scoring position, including Carlos Santana on third with no outs in the 3rd, and Santana again on second with no outs in the 7th.
Mills bemoaned wasting another gem from Kluber.
“There’s no doubt, especially early obviously we had all the guys on and couple guys at third and less than two outs,” he said. “We weren’t able to get them in. Cahill’s ball was moving all over the place. It would’ve been nice (if) we tried to get up in those situations a little bit. But at the same time, he pitched well. It was effective, so he kept doing it.”
The reigning American League Champions have struggled to score in clutch situations all season, a vast departure from the 2016 club, and many times those struggles have come in front of large crowds.
But baseball never works as one expects, and Kipnis said not to read too much into those issues.
“It’s not like we’re not capable of hitting with guys on base,” he said. “It’s not like we don’t have the offense to do it. Just some nights, we press or we swing at the wrong pitches and don’t get it done. Tonight was one of those games. It was unfortunate, because Corey pitched great.”