CLEVELAND: The Indians’ ugly losing streak became truly a team effort with loss No. 11, a 7-5 loss to the Twins on Tuesday night at Progressive Field.
And for the record, this is the longest Tribe losing streak since the club dropped 11 in a row from Sept. 13-24, 2009. The Woeful Wahoos can match the franchise record this afternoon. It is a mark of shame that has stood since May 21, 1931.
Until now, the streak has been mostly a product of horrible starting pitching with a generous dose of non-support by the offense and one terrible outing by Chris Perez, who blew a three-run led in the ninth on Sunday against the Tigers.
Tuesday night’s loss can be pinned on the defense. Errors by Asdrubal Cabrera, Jason Kipnis and Casey Kotchman cost the Indians five unearned runs, all from the seventh inning on.
“Unfortunately, our two strengths during the season – defense and the bullpen – betrayed us,’’ manager Manny Acta said. “When things are going bad, this is what happens. You go around the infield, and these are three guys who play good defense who made costly errors.
“They also made some good plays tonight. But that’s the way the ball bounces, and it’s not bouncing good for us right now.’’
The clinching error was committed by Kotchman, the normally excellent defensive first baseman who let Justin Morneau’s hard ground ball along the first-base line to get by him with one on and one out in the ninth and the Tribe nursing a one-run lead.
“It took a bad hop,’’ Kotchman explained. “That ball actually started out foul. It just so happened that it came in the midst of what’s going on.’’
As Kotchman spoke, third-base coach Steve Smith approached the dozen or so media surrounding Kotchman.
“He’s not going to make any excuses,’’ Smith said. “But that ball was hit foul then bounced back fair.’’
The grounder did seem to take some strange twists and turns on its way to Kotchman.
Perez was on the mound and allowed the inning to continue on until Minnesota had scored three runs in all, two of them unearned.
“It was a hard-hit ball to first and he couldn’t get in front of it,’’ Perez said. “The score was still tied. I could have gotten out of it, but I didn’t make good pitches.’’
Perez has given up six earned runs, seven hits and three walks in his past two outings, which encompass a total of 1⅓ innings.
“I felt a little better today than I did Sunday,’’ he said. “It’s not my stuff; it’s location. I’m getting behind guys.’’
Corey Kluber gave Tribe operatives something to think about. He was making his second major-league start. In his first, five days earlier, he gave up six runs in the first inning, so it didn’t matter much that for the remainder of the 4⅓-inning outing he didn’t allow anymore.
“Kluber gave us what we needed,’’ Acta said. “He did not have good command, but he made good pitches when he had to.’’
He began his start Tuesday night by giving up a run in the first inning, but he was in absolutely no trouble again until the seventh, when his teammates conspired to put him in jeopardy.
The inning began when Brian Dozier blooped a double to right. Cabrera then fumbled Jamey Carroll’s ground ball for an error that put runners on first and third.
Acta figured there was no sense subjecting Kluber to further stress after that and summoned Tony Sipp from the bullpen. Sipp retired the next two batters, but the second, Ben Revere, grounded out to second to drive in the Twins’ second run of the game. And when Sipp walked Joe Mauer, Joe Smith entered to face Josh Willingham and hit him with a pitch.
The inning turned on the next at-bat, which belonged to Morneau, who slapped a ground ball through the legs of Kipnis at second for an error that scored two runs.
Kluber pitched six solid innings, giving up six hits and one earned run (three total), walking three and striking out three. A few more like that, and he will turn himself into a contender for a spot in the rotation next year.
Acta was asked if he had a tendency to let his anger spill over into hostile actions against toward a wall, a chair or his desk.
“When I flip tables, I don’t do it in front of you guys,’’ he said. “When I say bad words in both languages, I’m not going to do it in front of you. I know how to behave. So don’t be looking for those kind of reactions, because you’re not going to see them.’’
Maybe not, but his resolve certainly is being tested.
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.