By John Fanta CLEVELAND — With one out in the bottom of the ninth inning in a 2-2 tie, the Indians had the bases loaded. Oscar Mercado and Roberto […]
By John Fanta
CLEVELAND — With one out in the bottom of the ninth inning in a 2-2 tie, the Indians had the bases loaded. Oscar Mercado and Roberto Perez proceeded to strike out.
Down 3-2 in the 10th with men at first and second base, the Tribe’s top three hitters, Cesar Hernandez, Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor all followed in Mercado and Perez’s shoes. Those were five of the 15 strikeouts that Indians hitters accounted for, as Cleveland suffered its first loss to the Kansas City Royals to fall to 1-1 on the 60-game campaign.
In total, the Indians left 20 men on base, with the top trio in the order accounting for half of those. Cleveland wasted a seven-inning gem of a start from Mike Clevinger, who, after allowing back-to-back home runs in the first inning, was dominant. Nick Wittgren delivered a shutdown eighth inning and James Karinchak, although the game-winning run came across off a sacrifice bunt and sac fly in the 10th, was solid in two innings of work.
While the rule, allowing a runner on second base to begin each extra inning, caused many to be disgruntled, Kansas City did what the Royals had to do to get the run across and the Tribe failed to find a way despite the winning run being at first base.
“I think we chased a lot of balls out of the zone today,” Terry Francona said. “The strike to ball, breaking ball or changeup, really gave us a difficult time. Once you start thinking about that, then they elevated a few fastballs that got by us.”
Shortstop Francisco Lindor, who went one-for-five, struck out twice and left five men on base in the third spot in the lineup, took ownership.
“I put a lot of this loss on me,” Lindor said. “I definitely got to make an adjustment. I’ve probably swung at five strikes in nine at-bats. We shouldn’t have lost this game today. We had plenty of opportunities with people on base today and I didn’t come through.”
In terms of the extra-innings drama, the Indians had a golden opportunity with the tying run at second base and the winning run at first after Bradley Zimmer walked. After Hernandez foul popped his first bunt attempt, Francona took the bunt off, having Hernandez hit rather than moving the runners to second and third.
“They were extremely aggressive with what they were running with their bunt plays,” Francona said of the Royals defense. “‘We’re a hit away from winning the game,’ was our thinking. We were okay starting out to bunt but if you’re bunting into an out, that first baseman was so far in, that’s really difficult to convert on something like that.”
With change, comes opinions, and Clevinger did not hold back on his thoughts on the new extra-innings format.
“It would make me a lot happier if the other team had to earn it at the end,” Clevinger said. “This isn’t travel ball. You know how hard it is to get a runner on second base off the back end of any bullpen, how incredibly hard that is? And now all of a sudden you just get a guy on second base with a guy like Karinchak on the mound. I’m not happy about it.”
The Tribe will play the rubber match against the Royals to decide the season opening series Sunday at 1:10 p.m. ET at Progressive Field. Carlos Carrasco gets the start for the Indians, while Kansas City will go with a bullpen day.
Photo: Ken Blaze/USA Today Sports