Offensive woes continue for Tribe
CLEVELAND — When your offense is struggling, the last thing you want to face is the pitcher who has gotten off to the hottest start in the American League. Considering the Indians luck the past 10 days that is exactly what happened.
Toronto’s Mark Buehrle became the AL’s first four-game winner as he dominated Cleveland for seven innings en route to a 5-0 win at Progressive Field. With the loss, the Indians have dropped seven of nine and have the same record that they held after 17 games last season — 7-10.
In 28 innings pitched this season, Buehrle has allowed only two earned runs and has the AL’s lowest ERA at 0.64. He came into the game with a 6.82 ERA against the Tribe in five starts the past three seasons.
As has been the case the past couple weeks, the Indians haven’t helped themselves. In this series, they have stranded 19 runners on base and are 0 for 14 with runners in scoring position. On Saturday they Indians couldn’t even get a runner to third. For the season they are hitting just .208 with runners in scoring position.
It also doesn’t help when your number two and four hitters are below the Mendoza Line. After showing some signs of life on Friday, Nick Swisher (.174) and Carlos Santana (.153) were both 0 for 4 on Saturday.
"If we’re not getting it done, we’re not getting it done," Swisher said. "I feel like we have been getting some guys on base. We haven’t exactly been hitting great with runners in scoring position. But hey, either way, sometimes you have rough starts to the year."
It also wasn’t one of the best of days for Swisher in the field. In the first inning and Melky Cabrera on third after a triple, Jose Bautista hit a fly ball to shallow right that Swisher was unable to come up with. The Indians had a shift called and Swisher was unable to get there in time. Two batters later, Dioner Navarro hit a laser that went off of Swisher’s glove and scored another run.
The Indians didn’t have an error but they came into the day tied with Oakland for most errors in the league with 16 and have an AL-worst .972 fielding percentage.
"I think we’re just kind of playing a little sloppy right now. I don’t think we’re really playing the game we need to play," said Corey Kluber, who dropped to 1-2. "We’re walking too many guys as a staff. When the offense goes out and scores, we’re not really doing a good job picking them up and going back out and having a shut-down inning.
"Our defense hasn’t been great. We’re not really moving runners over, or doing the little things that we need to do to be a good team. I think Tito says it a lot, we’re not the kind of team that can just roll out of bed and win games. We need to play the game the right way. We’re just not quite doing enough of that consistently right now, and it’s costing us some games."
Kluber, who had quality starts in his past two outings, allowed five runs (four earned) on nine hits over 6 2/3 innings with three walks and three strikeouts.
With the Blue Jays giving Buehrle a three-run lead, that was all the left-hander needed. Buehrle allowed four hits and had three walks with three strikeouts.
Said Francona of Buehrle: "He gets the lead and he kind of puts you in a rocking chair. A little fastball cuts it in to keep you honest, expands the plate and takes something off of it. Throws a lot of changeups. You hit a ball hard to someone, you get a guy on and he’ll get you to roll over. He’s really good at that. He’s obviously feeling pretty good about himself. He’s throwing the ball real well right now."
The Tribe and Blue Jays conclude a three-game series on Sunday as Toronto attempts to get its first sweep at Progressive Field since 2010. It doesn’t get easier for the Indians after that with Kansas City in for four and then a six-game Western swing against the Giants and Angels.
With the season one-tenth completed, one of the saving graces is that the rest of the division is struggling too. The Indians are in last in the AL Central but only 2Â½ games behind Detroit. While there is a lot of frustration about the record, Francona continues to stress his belief in his clubhouse.
"The good part from where I sit is that I know they will fight through it," he said. "We really believe in this group a lot. It’s not always easy and fun but we believe in them. That’s what I hang my hat on every day we will figure it out."
Follow on Twitter joereedy