Rays Pile on Late, Complete Sweep of Tribe; Rays 8, Indians 2

In a key matchup against a potential playoff foe this weekend, the Cleveland Indians did not show up. The Tampa Bay Rays, however, got another strong pitching performance from All-Star Charlie Morton and piled up runs in the middle and late innings to complete a three-game sweep of the Indians behind an 8-2 final.

The Cleveland bats were missing for much of the weekend, much as they have been over the course of the last couple of weeks. For the second time in the last four series, the Indians failed to earn a win against a playoff caliber opponent while looking as though they have run out of gas after several demoralizing late season injuries have put significant dents in the offense. The Tribe mustered just six hits, and both runs scored came from Jake Bauers, who rejoined the team after a month away to replace the injured Tyler Naquin, who was lost after a torn ACL suffered in Friday night’s loss.

The Rays got a run in the bottom of the first off of starter Adam Plutko. All-Star Austin Meadows doubled with one out and was joined on base on a five-pitch walk by Tommy Pham. Plutko retired Ji-Man Choi on a liner to second for the second out, but Joey Wendle dropped a single into center field to put the Rays on the board. A double steal put two runners in scoring position for Tampa Bay before Plutko got out of the mess, getting Willy Adames to fly to right.

The Indians responded with a needed run in the next half inning against Morton. Mike Freeman reached on a one-out single and moved to second on a walk by Franmil Reyes. Bauers, the former Rays prospect, launched a ground-rule double over the wall in center to drive in Freeman to tie the game. With two in scoring position and only one out, the Indians were unable to get another run across as Kevin Plawecki flied to right and Yu Chang struck out swinging.

Meadows – Mark LoMoglio/Getty Images

Plutko worked out of jams in the second and third. A double play ball erased a one-out walk by Nate Lowe in the second, and Meadows was stranded after a one-out double in the third.

The Indians got a pair on base in the fourth against Morton, but he kept the Tribe off of the scoreboard. Freeman walked to open the inning and two outs later, Plawecki singled to center to put two on. Chang once again came up empty, lining to right to end the rally.

The Rays broke the tie in the bottom of the fourth with a big fly. Adames walked with one out but was caught stealing. Kevin Kiermaier worked a walk to keep the inning alive and Lowe parked the next pitch 442 feet over the wall in right-center to give the Rays a 3-1 lead.

Tampa added on in its next trip. Eric Sogard singled to right-center to start the inning and moved to second on a one-out single by Pham. Travis d’Arnaud pinch-hit for Choi as manager Terry Francona went to his bullpen for Oliver Perez, but it was d’Arnaud who won the matchup as he doubled to right-center. Sogard scored on the play and Pham nearly did too, had it not been for Francona’s challenge of the safe ruling at the plate. With a runner at second and two outs, Wendle reached safely on a fielding error by Carlos Santana at first to put runners on the corners, but Adames grounded to Freeman at second to leave it a three-run game.

Morton exited after giving up a single to Freeman and a grounder to Reyes to start the sixth. Former Indians Rule 5 pick Hoby Milner got the next two to strand another runner in scoring position.

James Hoyt, in his Indians debut after being added to the roster as a September call-up, retired the Rays in order in the sixth, but Tampa added another run in the bottom of the seventh as Carlos Carrasco made a celebrated return to the Major League mound for the Tribe. He retired the first two batters before Pham doubled into the left field corner. A single by d’Arnaud plated the Rays’ fifth run of the game.

The Indians got a run back in the eighth against Andrew Kittredge. Yasiel Puig ended a long hitting slump with a single to right-center and moved into scoring position on the third hit of the afternoon by Freeman. Puig moved to third on a fly to right by Reyes and came in to score on a sacrifice fly by Bauers that made it a 5-2 game.

Tampa responded with three runs to put the game officially out of reach in the bottom of the eighth as Dan Otero made his first appearance since May 30. After striking out Adames to start his outing, he gave up five straight singles. Kiermaier and Lowe put runners on the corners and Mike Zunino drove one in with an RBI-base hit. Sogard scored Lowe with a single to right and Meadows plated Zunino with a single to right-center before Pham ended the onslaught with a double play grounder to second that was nicely turned by Freeman and Francisco Lindor.

Ricardo Pinto made his second straight appearance as he took over for Tampa in the ninth and he breezed through the top of the Tribe lineup, getting Lindor to ground to second, Oscar Mercado to line to center, and Santana to ground to short to secure the sweep.

Carrasco – Mark LoMoglio/Getty Images

With a third straight defeat, the Indians (79-58) lost their top seat in the American League Wild Card race. Coupled with an Oakland walk-off loss to the New York Yankees, the Indians and A’s are now tied for the second Wild Card berth. Tampa Bay (80-58) now holds a half-game lead over both teams for the top spot.

Carrasco and Otero were activated by the Indians from the injured list prior to the game, while Hoyt and catcher Eric Haase were also recalled. Utility man Ryan Flaherty also joined the club as his contract was purchased from Triple-A Columbus. Carrasco received a loud ovation from the fans at Tropicana Field and both clubs were on the field applauding when he entered for his inning of relief in the seventh.

Morton improved to 14-6 on the season and nudged his ERA down to 3.06 with five and one-third innings of work on the afternoon. He allowed just a run on four hits with three walks and eight strikeouts before turning the game over to the bullpen. The relief staff allowed just a run on two hits over 50 pitches in three and two-thirds innings.

Plutko dropped to 6-4 on the season as he was unable to clear five on the day. He was charged with four runs on six hits with four walks and two strikeouts. Carrasco allowed a run on two hits in his return to the club, while Otero was tagged for three runs on five hits in an inning of work.

Freeman reached all five trips to the plate for the Tribe, going 3-for-3 with three singles and a walk while also reaching on an error. The rest of the team combined for three hits, while Lindor and Santana each struck out three times on the day.

Tampa had five multi-hit efforts in the lineup. Meadows went 3-for-5 with a run scored and a run batted in. d’Arnaud had two hits and two runs batted in after taking over for Choi midway through. Lowe, in his first action for the Rays since July 31, went 2-for-3 with a deep go-ahead home run and two runs batted in.

The Indians will head back home to start another short homestand, this time a four-game set with the Chicago White Sox. Cleveland’s Aaron Civale (2-3, 1.96 ERA) will get the nod for the Indians on Monday, while former Indians left-hander Ross Detwiler (2-4, 6.45) will counter for Chicago.

First pitch on Labor Day is scheduled for 7:10 PM ET.

Photo: Mark LoMoglio/Getty Images

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