CLEVELAND — When the Indians 2014 highlight film is made, there is only one song that should be the soundtrack. If you grew up watching the "Benny Hill Show", you know it very well.
What the Indians have done fielding the baseball and base-running though hasn’t been a comedy. It’s been a tragedy of errors.
The final two innings of Friday’s 5-1 loss to the Astros will go down as the most frustrating game of the season. Two base-running blunders took the Tribe out of a prime scoring opportunity in the eighth and then two errors in the ninth opened the floodgates. Cody Allen gave up four runs but none of them were earned.
"That’s not the way we want to play the game. Losing is one thing but losing like that … ," manager Terry Francona said after the game.
In what was a mostly-deserted clubhouse, it would have been easy to ask Allen what it was like to watch the game slowly slipping away in front of him. However, if it wasn’t for a high throw by Carlos Santana on a potential double play or Roberto Perez with a low throw to second on an attempted steal by Dexter Flower that ricocheted off Jose Ramirez, the Indians would have been out of the inning likely still tied.
By the time Jon Singleton hit a three-run homer to put it out of reach, Allen had thrown 11 more pitches than he should have.
After what the Tribe did in the eighth inning though, there was a feeling that the wheels were about to come off.
Mike Aviles led it off with a single to center and Tyler Holt got aboard when former Indians reliever Tony Sipp tried to get Aviles out at second instead of taking the sure out at first. With runners on first and second with no outs, the Indians were set up for a big inning.
Instead, Perez was unable to make contact on a bunt attempt and Aviles was too far off the bag at second before being caught in a rundown. Holt advanced to second on the play but was caught stealing a couple pitches later when he tried to go to third. Perez then struck out and the Astros were out of the inning.
Holt said that the decision to go to third was his decision.
"I don’t wanna say it waterfalled, but it kinda just (did as we) tried to make something happen afterwards," he said. "I felt like I gotta good jump, maybe just…I thought I saw maybe fastball away. It just happened to be a bad pitch to steal on. At least I wasn’t thrown out by a mile, but bang-bang. But that’s the way I play. I try to get in scoring position after something like that happens.
"That’s not to take away from Aviles, man it’s hard to be on second base with the guy’s throwing it in the zone consistently and Roberto kind of pulling back obviously it was a ball and he just kind of slipped and got caught out in the middle trying to make something happen afterwards and it didn’t work out."
Francona chalked up Holt’s caught stealing to youthful inexperience but also noted there is an obligation to make sure they understand when to take advantage of things.
The thing is, as much as you try to talk to players about it, these things keep happening. The Indians lead the Majors with 99 errors after having 98 all of last season. The pitchers have 66 unearned runs, which also is tops in MLB.
It’s also not a good thing when for the second straight game your only offense is supplied by Zach Walters. His home run in the fifth once again accounted for Cleveland’s lone run.
Over the past 11 games, Indians starters have an ERA of 1.88. However, they are 7-4 in that stretch instead of being at least 9-2. In the four losses, they scored a total of three runs.
"We have about six weeks left. If we want to continue to be in this thing we have to play a lot cleaner," Francona said. "Sometimes it just happens to being prepared and by that as you start getting tired just being ready for whatever play happens so you don’t have to react. We’re the type of team where we can’t play like that and expect to win."