If Corey Kluber is on the mound for the Cleveland Indians, more often than not, the team should come away with a victory. That scenario is much harder to make a reality when the offense goes 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position and strands seven men against the San Diego Padres, as was the case on Tuesday night as the Indians were blanked, 1-0, in front of a sold out crowd at Progressive Field.
Fans looking for early fireworks from the Tribe left disappointed as the offense could not find its way despite several opportunities across the night with interim manager Brad Mills once again calling the shots with manager Terry Francona down the street at the Cleveland Clinic as part of his continued evaluation for his recent physical ailments that have been bothering him.
The Padres activated right-hander Trevor Cahill from the 10-day disabled list prior to the game to make his first start in over seven weeks and his first one against the Indians since 2011. He kept the Indians offense in check for much of the early going with a diet of pitches low in the zone and the Tribe bats could do little to get anything done.
After Cahill struck out three of the first four hitters on the night, Jose Ramirez gave the Indians their first big scoring opportunity in the second as he tripled just past a diving Hunter Renfroe in right field. Lonnie Chisenhall sent a 3-2 pitch back to the mound, where Cahill completed the play at first for the second out. Ramirez tried to catch the Padres napping and broke for the plate after a brief delay, but Wil Myers’ return throw home nailed the speedy Tribe All-Star for the 1-3-2 inning ending double play.
The first seven Padres were retired by Kluber until a one-out single in the third by Cory Spangenberg. He stole second, but would be stranded there. The Indians would follow a similar path, as Carlos Santana reached in the bottom of the inning on an infield single and advanced to second on a wild pitch, but the next three were retired in order by Cahill as the Tribe again could not deliver with a runner in scoring position.
The Indians attempted a two-out rally in the fourth, again to no avail. Edwin Encarnacion worked a walk and moved to third on a single by Ramirez. The Indians third baseman moved to second on a wild pitch, but the significantly slower Encarnacion could not score on the play. Three pitches later, Chisenhall grounded out to second to strand the pair.
Bad defensive work happened in the fifth and the plays would again come back to cost Kluber in the win column, as it did several starts ago against the Minnesota Twins. Hector Sanchez singled to center and moved to second on a walk by Carlos Asuaje. Erick Aybar grounded into a fielder’s choice, as Jason Kipnis did not get to the bag on time and Lindor was not able to convert the double play himself. Spangenberg then grounded to Kipnis, who bobbled the ball before throwing to Lindor and pulling him off of second. Alertly, Lindor was able to tag out Asuaje to at least get one out, but another double play opportunity was lost and this one cost the Indians a run as Sanchez scored from third on the play to give the Padres a 1-0 lead.
The bottom of the fifth was more of the same for the Indians. Bradley Zimmer reached on an infield single with one out and stole second. Yan Gomes walked, ending Cahill’s night and bringing Jose Torres on in relief. Kipnis grounded into a fielder’s choice, with Gomes forced at second for the second out. Lindor walked to load the bases, but Michael Brantley grounded to short in a close play at first to end the inning.
Kluber did a magnificent job of working out of a jam in the sixth to keep it a one-run game. Jose Pirela doubled over the head of Zimmer in center and moved to third on a sacrifice by Manuel Margot. Kluber came back to strike out Myers looking and Renfroe swinging to leave a big run 90 feet from the plate.
After a 1-2-3 inning from one-time Indians pitcher Kirby Yates, Ryan Buchter came on for the seventh. Santana sent his first pitch into right for a double, his second hit of the night, but he would move no further as Zimmer and Gomes struck out swinging and Kipnis fouled out to first.
Kluber continued on the mound in the eighth, giving up a leadoff single to Spangenberg, his second hit of the game. He advanced to second on a wild pitch before a foul out and a strikeout. With two down, Margot grounded softly between the mound and third base. A sprinting Ramirez fielded and threw to first, but the throw pulled Santana from the bag. He quickly fired to the plate where Spangenberg was attempting to score. He appeared to be giving himself up, out by several feet, but an awkward looking slide nearly gave the Padres a run as it appeared his foot may have slipped between Gomes’ legs and hit the plate before the Indians catcher successfully tagged him out. The play was originally ruled an out and withstood the replay review called for by Padres manager Andy Green, sending the game to the bottom of the eighth still a 1-0 contest.
Padres All-Star reliever Brad Hand made quick work of the Tribe, striking out Lindor, Brantley, and Encarnacion. Cody Allen gave the same treatment to the Padres in the top of the ninth, striking out Myers, Renfroe, and Sanchez swinging. San Diego closer Brandon Maurer came on for the save and did just that, getting Ramirez to ground back to the mound, Chisenhall to ground out to first, and Santana to strike out looking on a 1-2 pitch to end it.
The home woes continued for Cleveland as it dropped to 44-38 on the season and just 18-22 at home. The loss dropped the Tribe to just 2-10 in interleague play this year. San Diego improved to 35-48 with the victory and 6-8 in interleague action. They are just 13-26 on the year away from home.
Kluber took his third loss of the year, despite a dominant start on the mound. He scattered five hits and a walk over eight innings of work, but his offense’s lack of run support and the defensive woes proved to be too much to overcome. He did extend his personal streak of double digit strikeout performances to five straight games with ten more strikeouts on the night, becoming the first Indians pitcher to have five such consecutive games.
Cahill gave the Padres four and one-third scoreless innings in a no-decision. On a bit of a pitch count in his first game off of the disabled list, he threw 85 pitches, but held the Indians to no runs on four hits with two walks surrendered and four strikeouts. Torres claimed his fifth win, while Maurer earned his 17th save.
While the Indians were 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position, the Padres were not much better, going 1-for-9 while stranding four.
Cleveland will look to even up the series on Wednesday night. The Indians have never lost a series to the Padres in four previous sets, winning all by 2-1 counts. Trevor Bauer (7-6, 5.24 ERA) will make his third career start against San Diego and is in search of his first win against them. Right-hander Luis Perdomo (3-4, 4.71) will oppose for the Padres. The 24-year-old gave up four runs on seven hits in five and one-third innings in his last start.
First pitch from Progressive Field is scheduled for 7:10 PM ET.
Photo: Ron Schwane/Getty Images