CLEVELAND — There is nothing like a clubhouse after a team loses a game.
No music plays, guys sit quietly at their lockers, conversations are carried on in hushed tones.
Each player and coach feels each loss, no matter if there are 50 or 100.
And those losses are especially felt when a team has a game it can win, but doesn’t. The Cleveland Indians had such a game Sunday against the Minnesota Twins.
Cleveland lost the final game of a nine-game homestand 5-3 to Minnesota, but it was a game in which they left 10 runners on base. They had the bases loaded with nobody out in the second and scored one run. And they had two on in the third with two out and saw Ryan Raburn drive a ball to deep center that Clete Thomas caught with a leap at the wall.
“We gave ourselves plenty of opportunities,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “We just never really cashed in. We kept getting runners on base. We just didn’t do anything with it. Frustrating day.”
Frustrating day, but not a frustrating time.
Even as the Indians feel the loss, they can also take a step back and realize that things are again looking up after a very tough stretch.
In this homestand, Cleveland won six of nine, a two-of-three ratio any team would accept.
Overall, they have won eight of 11, and four of five.
They have won a season high four series in a row, taking two of three from Minnesota, Kansas City, Washington and Texas.
They have gone 22-9 at home since April 30. And since losing 16 of 20, they have gone 8-3.
“I think we lost a tough game today,” Francona said. “But we play like this we’re going to be OK. I’ll take our chances. You’re disappointed because you wanted to show up and win, but I like the way we’re playing.”
The Indians are 14-7 in one-run games, and their run differential is plus-16.
Jason Kipnis has carried the offense in June, hitting .400 with 15 RBI. He also has been on base in 25 consecutive games. Michael Bourn has a seven-game hitting streak and is hitting .324 the past 33 games. Carlos Santana has a .388 on-base percentage and .477 slugging percentage.
Things are not perfect by any means. Mark Reynolds remains in a funk, and Nick Swisher is dealing with a troublesome left shoulder.
But the Indians have been without their three-four hitters for some time, without their closer and without starting pitcher Zach McAllister.
They’ve still managed to right the ship following the tough streak.
Slowly, the injured guys might start returning.
Asdrubal Cabrera, who hit third, has been on the disabled list since June 4 with a strained quad muscle. He will travel with the team to Baltimore, with the hope that he can return by the end of the week.
Swisher. the cleanup hitter, missed several days with the shoulder, which will have to be maintained properly all season. Swisher had an 0-for-5 return on Sunday, but the Indians hope he will regain his swing as he strengthens the shoulder.
Closer Chris Perez, whose absence seems to have made the bullpen go tilt, will have another minor-league rehab appearance early in the week. If that goes well, he could be activated soon after.
The Indians have been a team of streaks, with an outstanding one followed by a bad one followed by a good one. They are trying to find their level and equilibrium.
They are 38-36, which is one game better than a year ago at this time. That team went on to a high-water mark of 45-41 before the bottom dropped out.
This season’s team has shown it can withstand a tough stretch. At least it has done it once.
But that’s a ways from contending for a playoff spot. All five teams in the AL East started Sunday’s play above .500, and Oakland and Texas both have records better than Cleveland’s. And there’s always Detroit, which can turn it on at any point.
The competition will be significant.
But if the Indians want to be what they thought they can be when the season started, it’s time to seize what they’ve gained on this homestand and carry it forward.
There’s been enough going back the past couple years for a lifetime.