DETROIT: Isn’t the Indians’ consistent failure to mount an offense effective enough to make winning nothing more than a long shot?
The Tribe has found another way to lose, admittedly more exciting than merely making out after out. It started in Atlanta on Wednesday night, when the Braves were handed a 3-2 victory and didn’t even say thank you.
It continued in the Tribe’s 7-2 rain-shortened, seven-inning loss to the Detroit Tigers on Friday night at Comerica Park.
With the score tied 1-1 and the American League Central Division leaders coming to the plate in the bottom of the second, Jose Iglesias led off with a double against Zach McAllister and scored on Austin Jackson’s single off the glove of Jason Kipnis at second.
One out later, Andy Dirks singled Jackson to second and Prince Fielder walked to load the bases. Victor Martinez followed with a towering fly to center field. From the time the ball left the bat, Michael Bourn was looking at the dark sky in vain. He spread his arms and began gesturing to indicate he had lost the flight of the ball, which dropped 35 feet behind him.
Drew Stubbs rushed over from right field, but by that time Martinez had pulled into second with a double and two runs had scored. Fielder ended up on third, from where he scored on a force-out.
“I saw it off the bat,” Bourn said. “I knew it was coming to me. From then on I couldn’t pick it back up. I tried, but I wasn’t even close to it. Out of all the times that could happen, it happened tonight.
“It was the twilight. Nothing I could do about it. I knew I was in the vicinity. I take the blame; it gave them two extra runs.”
Had Bourn been able to catch the ball — a certain sacrifice fly — and the inning had proceeded the same way, McAllister would have given up two runs instead of four, leaving the Tribe two runs behind.
“Bourn is so conscientious,” manager Terry Francona said. “He just never saw it. Not even close. I know he’s kicking himself.”
But Francona did not attribute the defeat to Bourn.
“That didn’t help,” Francona said. “But we had 10 base runners in 3⅔ innings. We’re not coming up with the big hit, but at least we’re getting something going.”
Wednesday night in Atlanta, Asdrubal Cabrera was on first and thought Mike Aviles fouled off a pitch that hit the ground. So after taking off for second on the pitch, Cabrera stopped halfway to second and was tagged out in a rundown. His mistake: The ball was tipped by Aviles’ bat, but the catcher snagged it before it hit dirt.
With a runner ahead of Cabrera and only one out, the play cost the Indians a chance to score one or more runs, which have become almost as rare as Duane Kuiper home runs.
Moral of the story: If you think a pitch has been fouled off, keep running until someone, like the umpire, tells you to stop.
Not to put too much of a fine point on it, but Bourn’s unfortunate misplay was not the only time the Tribe gave away runs Friday night.
With two out in the seventh and runners on second and third, Rich Hill yanked a slider out of the reach of Yan Gomes for a wild pitch that scored Dirks. Naturally, Omar Infante followed with an RBI single.
McAllister (7-8, 3.81 ERA) was far from his best, walking four and giving up five runs (certainly not all his fault), six hits and four walks in 3⅔ innings.
“I just wasn’t as aggressive in the strike zone,” he said. “I got behind, and they were able to put some balls in play.”
So the Indians handed the Tigers three or four runs, depending on how you count. Either way, it was more than enough to ensure the Tribe’s fourth defeat in a row, this one leaving the Wayward Wahoos 7½ games behind Detroit in the standings.
The loss was the Indians’ 14th in 17 games against the Tigers. Thankfully for Northeast Ohio fans, these teams play one another only twice more this season.
What is it about the Tigers that has made the Tribe their patsy?
“The Tigers are our nemesis,” Bourn said. “They treat us like we’re children. You have to beat good teams. There’s no way around it.”
Are the psyches of the Tribe players affected by the Tigers’ domination?
“I don’t think we ever go into a game and not think we can win,” Francona said. “The reason they beat us is because they’re good. But what happened in April and May or even last week has no effect now.”
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.