Five Run Fourth Stifles Tribe; Blue Jays 5, Indians 1

Did the Tribe Win Last Night? Nope. Despite forcing Toronto starter Daniel Norris to throw 77 pitches in the first three innings, the paltry Indians offense was unable to score a run early. Meanwhile, T.J. House got nine ground ball outs in the first three frames and was quite pitch-efficient.

However, things changed fast in the top of the fourth inning when a walk and four straight hits to start the inning chased House from the game after allowing four runs. After a walk and a single by Edwin Encarnacion, Danny Valencia singled in a run and Russell Martin doubled in another and Kevin Pillar doubled in a pair to end House’s night at 4-0. Ryan Webb made his Indians debut before allowing another run to score and be charged to House.

Jeff Francis came on for Toronto and worked two and one-third innings, scattering three hits and allowing just one run to lead the Blue Jays to a 5-1 victory at Progressive Field. The win opens a four game series for Toronto and ends a very disappointing first month for the Indians. Cleveland had 11 hits on the evening, but couldn’t string them together to produce some runs.

WP: Francis (1-0)     LP: House (0-4)

Key Inning: Bottom of the 2nd inning. The Indians had a chance to take an early lead against Norris and the Blue Jays. With one out, Ryan Raburn singled before Lonnie Chisenhall and Roberto Perez each walked to load the bases. With Norris having control problems, it looked like Cleveland had a great chance to put together a big inning. However, Michael Bourn popped out on the infield to second base and Jason Kipnis ended the inning with a line out to left field.

Cleveland had another chance in the bottom of the third, getting runners to second and third base with two outs, but Raburn grounded back to the pitcher to end the inning. The two golden scoring opportunities let Norris and the Blue Jays off the hook. Norris had thrown 77 pitches in three innings, but didn’t allow a run.

The Indians inability to take the lead, allowed Toronto’s big inning in the top of the fourth to put the game away quickly.

Player of the Game: Raburn. On a night with little excitement or offense, Raburn deserves credit for a good first month. After a terrible 2014, Raburn has been the lone, offensive bat to succeed against left-handed pitching this year for the Tribe. After going 3-for-5 on Thursday night, he is now 13-for-31 versus southpaws this year for a .419 average.

They Said It: “It’s tough to win a series when you don’t win the first one,” Rick Manning said. The Indians are now 1-8 in series openers this year.

Standings: Cleveland ends April at 7-14, tied for the worst record in the American League and buried in last place of the American League Central Division. The season started a week later in 2015 than 2014, but this April flop seems like a bigger disappointment than last season’s 11-17 April. Toronto improves to 11-12, in last place, but just 2.5 games back of first place in a bunched up American League East.

Etc.: Nick Swisher is off today, but will play the next two games with Triple-A Columbus. After those two games, he’ll return to Cleveland to again be assessed and evaluated moving forward. There is still no known timetable for his return to the Indians active, 25-man roster.

Analysis: House now has a 13.15 ERA in 13 innings through four starts. He’s allowed 19 runs, 21 hits, 12 walks and just seven strikeouts. Time may be running out for House in the Indians rotation, but the real question is who is going to replace him. With Gavin Floyd and Josh Tomlin sidelined and the Zach McAllister Experience already scrapped, the pickings are rather thin for the Indians at Triple-A. If the Indians go to Shaun Marcum or Bruce Chen, it means the Tribe will have to make a move to their 40-man roster and likely designate someone for assignment. Having to rely on someone like Marcum or Chen as early as May, isn’t a good sign.

The Indians continue to be dominated by left-handed pitching. When the left-hander Norris struggled, the Blue Jays went to an older, slower, soft-tossing, left-hander in journeyman Jeff Francis. Francis has bounced through four franchises in the last two seasons. It doesn’t even take a good left-hander to beat the Indians, just a pitcher who throws the ball with his left hand.

Up Next: Friday the Indians will send Carlos Carrasco (2-2, 4.60) to the mound to try and start May better than their tumultuous April. Toronto will counter with another left-handed starter, veteran Mark Buehrle (3-1, 4.94). Left-handed pitching has been the Indians kryptonite for several years and continues to be so now.

Photo: Tony Dejak/AP Photo

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