In an effort to give the Indians a fighting chance on the final day of the team’s disappointing six-game road trip, the club turned to its best starting pitcher of the to date this season in Zach McAllister.
Starting on two days short rest Wednesday in the place of struggling Carlos Carrasco (who’d been banished to the bullpen), even McAllister’s unselfish shot at halting the team’s mounting losing streak wasn’t enough to drag the Indians out of their all-around slump.
Instead, the Tribe fell for a third consecutive game to the host Angels, this time by a score of 7-1 and without much of a fight at a blustery Angels Stadium.
“I thought (McAllister) really competed,” Tribe manager Terry Francona said. “He just had a tough time putting some hitters away, which drove his pitch count up. Saying that, he was working hard and he was on three days rest.”
With the loss, the Indians extended their losing streak skid to six games, going 0-for-California with back-to-back three-game series sweeps by the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Angels.
“This was definitely a rough road trip for us,” McAllister said. “It’ll be nice to get a day off (Thursday) just relaxing and getting away from baseball to get rejuvenated and get ready for this next home series.”
Despite the right-hander’s best intentions, McAllister made it just 4 2/3 innings, giving up five runs on four hits and four walks to take the loss. It was obvious from the start he didn’t have his usual command when McAllister walkedthe leadoff batter in the first two innings and then dished up a two-run home run to Hank Conger that erased an Indians early run.
“I felt good today, just didn’t have the command I would have liked,” McAllister said. “I went pretty deep to a couple hitters and it really pushed my pitch count up. But As far as the way my arm and my body felt, I felt extremely good out there.”
About the only positive on the day for the Indians was making it on the board first, but even that little offense was aided by the Angels starter C.J. Wilson. With one out in the second inning, Wilson hit Asdrubal Cabrera with a pitch, and then moved him along to second on a wild pitch.
But with two out, Cabrera scored on David Murphy’s single to center, the hit increasing Murphy’s average with runners in scoring position to .529 (9-for-17). However, the Indians ran themselves out of the inning when Murphy was caught stealing at second base by catcher Conger.
They never threatened again as Wilson retired the last 18 batters he faced after giving up a third-inning double to Elliot Johnson to start the inning.
Conger carried the defensive momentum with him to the plate in the bottom of the inning, belting a McAllister one-out pitch into the right field jet stream that carried it over the wall for a two-run homerun that handed the Angels a 2-1 advantage. The homer was the first allowed by McAllister in 37 consecutive innings, dating back to Sept. 20th versus Houston’s Brandon Laird.
The Tribe’s defensive woes continued as well, as catcher Yan Gomes airmailed a throw into shallow center field in anattempt to catch a stealing Howie Kendrick. Instead, Kendrick, stole the base then advanced to third on the bad throw and soon trotted home on an Albert Pujols sacrifice fly.
The error was Gomes’ seventh – over just first month of the season, mind you - increasing the Indians’ America-League leading total to 26 errors in their first 28 games.
“That’s not the way we play baseball,” said first baseman and head clubhouse cheerleader Nick Swisher. “We’ve got to get back to fundamanetals.”
Even after McAllister's day was done, left-handed reliever Marc Rzepczynski wasn’t able to escape the inherited jam as he often does. Instead, a two-run single by David Freese pushed the host’s lead to four runs, 5-1.
Not wanting to blow through the bullpen, Francona called on Carrasco to make his first appearance as a reliever this season. But the embattled right-hander gave up a two-out, two-run double to Mike Trout (which was credited to Rzepczynski) and further increased the Angels lead to an insurmountable six-run lead after six innings.
“We brought Carlos in and we got an out, but he gave up a couple more runs,” Francona said.
The Indians might as well have started the team plane then, because they went down without much of a struggle the rest of the way as Wilson mowed through the lineup. The left-hander exited after eight innings, earning the win by limiting the Indians to a run on two hits and striking out eight.
“(Wilson) was very aggressive with different fastballs from cutting it and changing speeds with it,” Francona said. “Then off of that, there was the breaking ball. He was just so aggressive in the zone, working ahead and just attacking.”
If ever there was a scheduled off day coming at a time the Indians needed it most, it’s Thursday’s.
“We’ve been down before, this organization’s been down before,” Swisher said. “But we’re going to do our best to fight back. That’s what we do.”
The Indians showed as much last year. Now, they’ve got to fight to find the same formula again early already this season.
“The best way to remedy it is to play better,” Francona said. “We’re going to be strong, because this was a tough road trip.”