Despite defeat, Indians give fans reason to care
CLEVELAND — This was bound to happen. The Indians were bound to have a night like this, against a good team, at Progressive Field. They were bound to bottom out, receive less-than-average pitching and hardly any hitting, and see their impressive home winning streak come to an end.
All of that and more was the case Wednesday, when Tampa Bay pulled off an 8-2 hammer job in perhaps the Indians' worst all-around outing of the season. It ends a streak of 14 victories in a row at home.
Basically, nothing went right.
Indians starter Carlos Carrasco returned from the disabled list to pitch five disastrous innings, surrendering six hits and four runs. It was Carrasco's first outing since April 24, and eight of his first nine pitches were balls. So right from the beginning, things were not good.
"I was rushing a little bit and getting behind hitters," Carrasco said. "Every time I'd throw a strike, they would get a hit."
Reliever Justin Germano wasn't much better, giving up three runs on four hits in just 2 2/3 innings.
Meanwhile, Rays pitcher David Price was brilliant. He didn't allow a hit until the fifth inning (a Carlos Santana double), and even the Indians' two runs came in the bottom of the eighth — or about the same time the Rays seemed to lose interest. Price struck out seven in eight innings and walked none.
Only Santana, Michael Brantley, Asdrubal Cabrera, Orlando Cabrera and Matt LaPorta had hits for the Tribe — and even they had just one apiece. (Brantley and LaPorta each drove in a run as well.)
Other than that, the Indians were silent in suffering their first loss in eight games against teams from the AL East. Shin-Soo Choo and Shelley Duncan each finished 0-for-4, and Austin Kearns and Jack Hannahan were each 0-for-3.
"You basically know a fastball is coming every time, but (Price) manages to go corner to corner with it," Duncan said. "He wouldn't miss over the plate tonight. That's what makes him so good. He's got a really good fastball that's hard to hit. When he's hitting the corners like he did tonight, it's near impossible."
In fact, the Rays aren't too shabby overall. They captured their division last season as a surprising club in their own right, winning four in a row entering this series (which concludes Thursday at 12:05 p.m.)
The Rays are also a good model for the Indians to follow, as the Rays aren't exactly loaded with big names and bigger contracts themselves. On Wednesday, they gave a clinic on just how far chemistry and effort can carry you. Thankfully, this year's batch of Indians already seems to understand that.
As for the loss . . . hey, it's a 162-game season. And, hey, the Indians are still 23-12 and tied with Philadelphia for the best record in baseball.
"We had a good run at home; it had to end at some point," said Indians manager Manny Acta. "Price was just overpowering. Everybody knows what's coming, but you still can't hit it. We just ran into a very tough pitcher today."
So don't look at this as anything more than one of those games — the type of game that every team has and the type that the Indians will certainly have again.
On the even brighter side, Indians fans never expected to care this much. They never figured they would be this disappointed after a loss, especially this early in the year. Not after back-to-back seasons of 65-97 and 69-93 records.
When losing hurts, it's a good thing. It means you're actually playing for something. Right now, that is this year's Indians.
And whoever thought we'd say that?