For anyone wondering how the Indians have become the worst defensive team in the American League, no need to look any further than Friday night’s late debacle that led to a 5-1 loss to the visiting Houston Astros.
With the score knotted at 1-1 since the fifth inning, the Indians spoiled a good chance to take the lead in the bottom of the eighth. With runners on first and second base with no outs, they promptly ran themselves out of the promising inning.
Then in the top of the inning with lockdown closer Cody Allen on the mound, two errors that pushed the club’s total to 99 on the season, followed by a Jon Singleton home run sealed Tribe’s demise.
It was the errors that set the tone, however, as all four ninth-inning runs were unearned. The defensive debacle began with one out and one on, Tribe first baseman Carlos Santana airmailed a routine throw to second base into shallow left field on what should have been a fielder’s choice at least - if not a double play - allowing Dexter Fowler to reach safely and put two men on.
When Fowler took off in an attempt to steal second, rookie catcher Roberto Perez bounced a pick off throw to second base. It deflected off of shortstop Jose Ramirez and dribbled into shallow centerfield, allowing the go-ahead run in Chris Carter to score uncontested.
“Obviously we need to do better," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "That’s not the way we want to play the game. Losing is one thing, but losing like that? We’ll do better.”
But really put the game out of hand came with two outs when Allen dished up a three-run home run to .186-hitting Singleton, a shot to left field that just snuck over the wall of the home run porch. Although all four runs were unearned, they counted nonetheless.
Earlier in the game, Carlos Carrasco stretched his consecutive shutout innings streak to 16 and gave the Indians another strong six-inning effort Friday, his third since returning to the Indians starting rotation. He also struck out a season-high tying eight batters.
The right-hander held theAstros scoreless through the first four innings before his streak came to a halt in the fifth inning when shortstop Marwin Gonzalez led off with a solo home run to right field that put the vistors on the board first.
But the Indians answered with two outs in the bottom of the inning when newcomer and Tribe designated hitter Zach Walters countered with a solo homer of his own against Astros starting pitcher Brad Peacock to knot the score, 1-1.
The home run was Walters third in as many games and his fifth in his first 10 games since being acquired by the Tribe at the trading deadline from the Washington Nationals in exchange for veteran shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera.
The Indians acquired the versatile Walters in part because they liked his power potential. But few – save perhaps for former big league slugger Jose Canseco and current Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera – saw this kind of power coming.
Walters credits the sluggers for helping his power emerge with batting tips over the years.