CLEVELAND: Managers say it all the time: Any major leaguer with a bat in his hand is dangerous.
That includes Emilio Bonifacio and Munenori Kawasaki, who hit eighth and ninth, respectively, in the Blue Jays’ lineup but today are No. 1 and 1A in the hearts of two thousand or so fans who were cheering on the visitors at Progressive Field on Wednesday night.
It was the kind of defeat — the Indians lost it 5-4 — that leaves a bad taste in the mouth of the home fans for a couple of reasons, one of which is that Bonifacio came into the game batting .206, Kawasaki .212.
Kawasaki’s bases-loaded single in the ninth snapped a 2-2 tie and put three runs on the board for the Jays, the final one scoring on an error by Michael Bourn, who bobbled the hit in center field.
Bonifacio, who walked during the winning rally, drove in his team’s first two runs with a single in the seventh.
“It seemed like the guys at the bottom of their order were on all night,” manager Terry Francona said.
It also was not the finest hour for Joe Smith, who presided over most of the wreckage, giving up two runs (one unearned) and letting a run in for Rich Hill.
But Smith was pitching for the fourth consecutive day and might have felt some fatigue. Nevertheless, you could hardly blame Francona for bringing him to face pinch-hitter J.P Arencibia, who singled.
“Smitty had faced him four times [in his career] and struck him out four times,” the manager said.
The Tribe almost came back in the ninth on two-out singles by Bourn and Asdrubal Cabrera, a walk to Jason Kipnis and a throwing error by Kawasaki from second. However, the rally came up one run short.
The Indians tied the score in the eighth off Brett Cecil, and it took a two-out hit. Bourn led off the inning with a single and stole second, but two outs later he was only on third.
It’s not easy to pull off 1-0 wins, but for six innings it looked like the Tribe might do it.
But with two out in the seventh and Adam Lind on second with a double, Justin Masterson forgot how to pitch. At least that’s how it looked.
His right arm fell totally out of synch with the other parts of his body. The result was that Masterson continually missed the outside corner of the plate, on one pitch by a few feet, forcing Carlos Santana to make a diving stop to his left to snag the ball. That prompted pitching coach Mickey Callaway to trot to the mound for a visit, but it didn’t stop the bleeding.
Masterson walked two batters to load the bases and gave up Bonifacio’s two-run single.
“Masty probably was a little bit tired,” Francona said. “In those last six pitches or so, he needed one ground ball or something and couldn’t get it.”
Bonifacio’s hit came on Masterson’s 120th pitch and he was replaced by Preston Guilmet, who was making his major-league debut. Guilmet struck out Kawasaki on a 3-and-2 pitch to end the inning and retired Jose Reyes to start the eighth, but Francona did not want him facing Jose Bautista, who can hit home runs by accident.
Until his sudden meltdown in the seventh, Masterson had resolutely protected a one-run lead. In the first six innings, he gave up just two hits and three walks, striking out five and inducing the Jays to beat the ball into the dirt nine times, twice for double plays.
The Indians were facing Esmil Rogers, whom they obtained during the season last year and placed in the bullpen. The hard-throwing right-hander performed so well, the Blue Jays acquired him in the deal that brought Mike Aviles and Yan Gomes to Cleveland over the winter.
The Tribe broke through against Rogers in the second but for only one run, when Brantley and Carlos Santana walked and Jason Giambi delivered an RBI single. But in the next four innings, Rogers gave up one hit and one walk, leaving after the sixth.
Bourn and Cabrera singled to start the first, but Kipnis bounced into a double play to kill the threat.
“Rogers worked so quickly that just about when he got on the rubber, he was ready to go,” Francona said. “ It was almost a kind of deception.”
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.