Second loss to Braves is a shot to the Indians gut
ATLANTA -- If the heavy silence and gloom didn’t sum up the mood in the Indians clubhouse, Joe Smith’s words did.
“Tonight sucks,” he said. “We needed a win and we needed it bad.”
The second loss in two nights in Turner Field came in a painful, painful way, as the Braves scored in the bottom of the ninth on a two-out base hit by Chris Johnson. That followed Jordan Schafer’s infield hit and stolen base. And the Indians lost 3-2 when they could have picked up some good vibes by scraping past the Braves, as Atlanta had used its closer and its bullpen was stretched heading to the 10th.
It didn’t happen -- for a number or reasons and with a number of players accepting the burden of responsibility.
“I didn’t help us tonight,” Smith said of the ninth.
Which was admirable, except Smith was victimized by a ball pounded into the ground that turned into a hit even though it barely got to the outfield.
“You know what, when you’re on the road one hit can end a game, and it did,” manager Terry Francona said. “I thought (Smith) threw the ball real well.”
Then there was Masterson.
“Don’t let Joe fool you over there,” starter Justin Masterson said. “I’m the reason we lost the game tonight.”
His thinking: He gave up a two-out double to the No. 8 hitter, Andrelton Simmons, then walked the pitcher to load the bases.
“Second inning had two outs, Andrelton Simmons in a good count,” Masterson said. “Lose him, hang a slider to him. He hits it for a double. I got the pitcher up next, and I walk him. Then Schafer makes a good play on a sinker away, they score two runs. That was kind of the turning point.
“Without that it’s probably a 1-0 ballgame heading into potentially a win for us.”
Which was admirable, but when a starting pitcher gives up two runs in six innings, he has no reason for shame, or blame.
Then there was Asdrubal Cabrera, who was on first with Jason Kipinis on third and two out in the eighth. Michael Brantley was at the plate, and the Indians realized the Braves would not throw to second with a runner on third in a tie game.
So Cabrera took off on the first pitch, and Brantley swung and missed.
Somehow, Cabrera thought the pitch was fouled straight back, so he stopped between first and second. Despite screams from the dugout, he was trapped and tagged out on a catcher-to-pitcher-to-the-shortstop play that wiped out the Indians chance to go ahead.
“I just thought Michael hit a foul ball,” Cabrera said. “I thought it was straight back to the net.”
The Indians were screaming from the dugout, but he couldn’t hear. And he said he never saw the catcher catch the ball.
“If they’re not going to throw through we’ll take second and third,” Francona said. “We’re trying to yell. It’s kind of frustrating because he thought it was a foul ball. There’s nothing you can do. We’re too far away.
“Everybody’s yelling. But he thought it was foul.”
Would Brantley have gotten a hit? He’s in a 2-for-31 stretch, but he’s also hitting .321 with a team-high 22 RBI with runners in scoring position and two out. So who knows. Whatever would have happened, Cabrera’s third out cost Brantley the chance.
“That was really bad for the team,” Cabrera said. “I’ve got nothing to say. It was my fault and that’s it.”
The Indians pitchers have been more than solid, giving up five runs in two games. But the Braves pitchers have been better, giving up two runs and winning twice.
The Indians aren’t hitting, and they’re not scoring. In 15 of the last 24 games the Indians have scored three runs or fewer. In those 15 games, they are 3-12.
In the two losses in Atlanta, two games that are the start to a big nine-game stretch, the Indians are 0 for 14 with runners in scoring position. Their runs scored on a Mike Aviles home run with none on, and an Aviles sacrifice fly wih the bases loaded.
The Braves have played well. They ran down a lot of balls in the outfield, especially Aviles’ in the eighth that could have easily been a double.
But the Indians lack of scoring makes every mistake seem gargantuan.
And with every loss the climb to the playoffs seems a little steeper.