CLEVELAND: First baseman Nick Swisher is adamant that it isn’t time to panic for the Tribe. That statement, though, was louder than anything the Indians’ bats could muster Saturday in a 5-0 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays at Progressive Field.
With the loss, the Indians fell to 7-10 this season and have dropped six of their past eight games.
Many of the same issues plagued the Tribe on Saturday as in the previous week — namely poor situational hitting and mediocre defense. But Swisher believes this team will rebound sooner rather than later.
“We feel good. Obviously, this isn’t the start we wanted as a group, but then again, last year we started off the season 5-10,” Swisher said. “It’s not time to jump off the bridge just yet.”
He has a point. The Indians are only 17 games deep in a 162-game season. That’s essentially the equivalent of one game and roughly three quarters of a second game of an NFL season (for the Browns, that was right about the time Brandon Weeden was missing a wide-open Chris Ogbonnaya for a would-be touchdown in a Week 2 loss to Baltimore).
Even after a cold, quiet loss, Indians manager Terry Francona believes the Indians’ problems will dissipate.
“This game, there’s a lot of [frustration],” Francona said. “The good part is, from where I sit, I know they’ll fight through it. We really believe in this group. It’s not always easy, it’s not always fun. But we really believe in this group. It’s what I hang my hat on every day, that we’ll figure it out.”
The Indians couldn’t figure out Blue Jays (10-8) starting pitcher Mark Buehrle, who continued his torrid start to the 2014 season. He threw seven scoreless innings, allowing only four hits and striking out three batters. He’s 4-0 this season with a Bob Gibson-like 0.66 ERA.
“He gets the lead and he kind of puts you in a rocking chair,” Francona said. “Little fastball, cuts it in to keep you honest, expands the plate, takes something off of it, throws a lot of changeups. ... He’s obviously feeling pretty good about himself right now.”
His counterpart, Corey Kluber (0-2, 5.40 ERA) threw 6⅔ innings, allowed five runs — four earned — to go along with three walks and three strikeouts.
The Blue Jays took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning. Melky Cabrera continued his run against the Tribe (he has six hits in two games) with a triple to right field that David Murphy nearly caught but couldn’t haul in as he stumbled at the wall. He scored on a Jose Bautista bloop single to shallow right field that Swisher got underneath but couldn’t catch while battling the wind. Dioner Navarro then brought Bautista home with a single that got took a bad hop and got past Swisher at first base.
“Pop up, we got a shift on, so Swish is the only one who had a chance,” Francona said. “He’s going as fast as he could, the wind’s blowing. It’s a tough play. It would have been a good play. When you’re not scoring a bunch of runs, you probably need those plays to be made. The next ball almost tore his head off.”
The Blue Jays tacked on a third run in the second inning on a Jose Reyes single up the middle to score Brett Lawrie, who walked to open the inning.
From there, Kluber settled down until the seventh inning, when he quickly retired two hitters but couldn’t get out of the inning. Bautista walked, Edwin Encarnacion doubled off the left-field wall and Navarro drove both of them home with single to left-center field to make it 5-0.
The Indians had two runners on base three times, including in each of the first two innings, but came up short each time.
Ryan Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/abj.sports.