CINCINNATI: A pattern is emerging, one that the Indians seem powerless to stop, now that the bullpen is in semi-disarray.
The Tribe’s 4-2 loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Monday afternoon at Great American Ballpark marked the club’s sixth in the past seven games and the third consecutive time a relief pitcher has been charged with the loss.
Closer Chris Perez is on the disabled list with a sore shoulder; setup man Vinnie Pestano, whose elbow hurt him for a couple of weeks, says he’s OK, but he is throwing 88 mph fastballs, four or five mph below his norm.
On Monday, Nick Hagadone was stung for a game-winning home run by Joey Votto, who took the left-hander deep with one on and one out in the eighth inning of a 2-2 game.
Hagadone had just reported from Triple-A Columbus to take Perez’s place on the roster.
“It was a fastball away,” Hagadone said. “That’s what it was supposed to be, but I got it a little up.”
Manager Terry Francona had a little different take on the pitch.
“We wanted to get Nick to go in, but he wasn’t comfortable with that,” he said. “We didn’t want Votto to get his arms extended.”
Just as it appeared the Indians couldn’t lose when they won 17 of 21 through May 20, it seems as if they will never win again after blowing two leads against the Boston Red Sox over the weekend and failing to hold onto a tie Monday.
“This club has been very resilient,” said Jason Giambi, who tied the score with the ninth pinch-hit home run of his career. “We have a nice mix of older and younger players.
“These guys haven’t gone into shutdown mode. The emotion of the club has been OK. Even after we lost that game yesterday, guys were talking and laughing on the plane; you have to let it go and live in tomorrow.”
Giambi was sent to the plate to hit for the pitcher in the eighth inning. It was his job to tie the score with the longball. And long it was, 467 feet to straight-away center on the third pitch he saw.
“It felt nice to contribute,” said Giambi, who snapped an 0-for-24 skid. “I’ve had a pinched nerve in my neck since the doubleheader [May 13], and it just loosened up today, so it felt much better.’’
Francona has told Giambi to do what he could at the plate and not worry about the pinched nerve.
“It’s nice for your manager to come up and tell you that you’re OK,” Giambi said. “I’ve been upset because I haven’t been helping much.”
The home run came off starter Mike Leake, who refused to allow the Tribe to mount anything close to a sustained rally, giving up two runs and five hits in 7⅓ innings. The first run he yielded was set up by Brandon Phillips’ error in the fourth to make it unearned.
“Leake had good everything today,” Francona said. “He proved early that he could throw every pitch for a strike.”
Ubaldo Jimenez started for the Indians, and it looked like this would be a bad Ubaldo day early. He gave up a home run to Shin-Soo Choo to start the first inning, then walked Zack Cozart before retiring the side. He also yielded a hit and a walk in the second inning but no runs.
After that, Jimenez handled the Reds easily, giving up two runs, four hit and four walks, while striking out six in seven innings.
“I thought he was tremendous,” Francona said. “He gave up that solo home run trying to get ahead. After that, he settled down and pitched great.”
Jimenez thought he did his job, saying, “I was able to compete and give our team a chance to stay in the game. Everything was moving today; my fastball was sinking a lot, and I could throw all my breaking pitches for strikes.”
Cozart’s sixth-inning double, which was fair by inches down the left-field line, was a game-changing event. Francona argued that the ball was foul (he couldn’t see it, but others did), but umpire Eric Cooper got it right. Cozart eventually scored on Phillips’ sacrifice fly.
Michael Bourn’s sensational catch (maybe the Tribe’s best defensive play of the season) in the seventh inning kept the Indians even. Bourn ran down Xavier Paul’s drive to the left-center field track with a runner on first who probably would have scored.
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at socker@the beaconjournal.com. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/Sheldon OckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.