Bullpen and Defense Falter Late as Tribe Loses Again; Giants 5, Indians 4

The Cleveland Indians have yet to win an interleague series in 2017. This time, the culprit was a key eighth inning error that led to a big two-run pinch-hit double by Buster Posey off of Bryan Shaw as the Tribe fell again to the San Francisco Giants on Wednesday afternoon, 5-4.

The Indians have been unable to figure out the senior circuit all year long. They fell to 4-13 in head-to-head matchups with the National League and are now 48-45, just a half game in front of the Minnesota Twins in the American League Central Division.

With the trade deadline looming, much of the focus on the Indians has revolved around the belief that the team should consider adding to the starting rotation due to inconsistent results from Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin and Danny Salazar‘s inability to stay on the mound in good health.

Carlos Carrasco has been one of the reliable pieces for the Tribe this season, but despite a quality outing from the right-hander on Wednesday, the Indians could not prevail as the bullpen could not protect a 3-2 lead in the final innings.

The Giants jumped on top in the first as the first two men reached off of Carrasco. Denard Span doubled to right and Miguel Gomez singled, putting runners on the corners. Brandon Belt popped to short for the first out, but Brandon Crawford’s grounder to second scored Span to put San Francisco up, 1-0.

Cleveland continued its struggles with runners in scoring position, failing to drive home Carlos Santana after a one-out double in the second. In the third, that story changed slightly against Giants starter Matt Cain and it started with one of the more embarrassing things that a pitcher can do on the mound – walk the opposing pitcher (especially one from the American League!). Carrasco walked with one out in the third and moved to second on a walk by Bradley Zimmer before a line out by Francisco Lindor. With the inning hanging in the balance, Michael Brantley drove the next pitch into right field, scoring a sliding Carrasco from second base. Both runners advanced into scoring position on the throw to the plate, which would prove big for Jose Ramirez, who knocked in both teammates with a single to center, giving the Indians a 3-1 lead.

The score remained the same through four and a half innings, despite threats from the Giants in the third and fourth. In the fifth, Span came through with his second extra base hit of the day as he cleared the wall in right and splashed down for a solo home run to cut the Giants’ deficit to one at 3-2.

Cain exited after six innings, making a quality start in his first appearance after being moved to the bullpen (an injury to Johnny Cueto opened a spot for him in the rotation). George Kontos took over for the seventh, giving up a one-out double to Erik Gonzalez, but he would be stranded at third as the Indians again could do nothing with runners in scoring position.

Steven Okert entered for San Francisco in the eighth and got into trouble four pitches into the inning as Brantley doubled to right with one out. Ramirez was intentionally walked, but Santana delivered what should have been a big blow with an RBI-single to left to score Brantley. With two on and still only one out, the Indians could not add on further, and Kontos and Cory Gearrin retired the next two hitters to strand a pair.

Posey - Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
Posey – Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Boone Logan started the bottom of the eighth for the Indians after retiring the final out of the seventh. After striking out Gomez to start the inning, he walked Belt and left the game in what appeared to be a significant amount of pain with what would later be ruled a latissimus dorsi strain (barring a surprising change of events, he will be placed on the disabled list on Friday). Shaw entered and immediately fueled the Giants fire, allowing Crawford to reach with a single to right. Conor Gillaspie fell behind 0-2 before grounding sharply to Santana at first, but the ball went right through him and into right field, allowing Belt to score to make it a 4-3 game. With runners on the corners, catcher Nick Hundley struck out swinging, bringing pinch-hitter Posey to the plate to hit for Kelby Tomlinson. Despite struggles this season in a sub role, Posey doubled to the wall in left, scoring both Crawford and Gillaspie to make it a 5-4 game in favor of the Giants.

The Indians threatened in the ninth against Sam Dyson, who they had banged around in the first series of the season while he was a member of the Texas Rangers. After a strikeout by Gonzalez, Brandon Guyer singled to right before being forced at second on a fielder’s choice from Zimmer. Lindor was hit by a pitch and Brantley worked a walk to load the bases for Ramirez. Some suspect calls went against the switch-hitting All-Star before he flied out deep to Hunter Pence in right to end the ball game.

Carrasco took the no-decision despite working six innings while allowing two runs on six hits with two walks and six strikeouts. Brantley’s double in the eighth inning was the 1,000th hit of his career. The Indians went 3-for-13 with runners in scoring position and stranded nine men on the bases.

The Indians’ second half has started about as poorly as possible, with the club returning home losers of six of the last seven after a 1-5 road trip to the Bay Area. They will take a needed day off on Thursday to regroup before Bauer takes the mound in the series opener from Progressive Field on Friday night against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Photo: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

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