CLEVELAND – Another day, another ugly, low-scoring loss for the Indians.
Adam Plutko struggled to keep the ball in the ballpark and the Indians' sluggish lineup trudged through yet another slow showing in a 7-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday night at Progressive Field. It was the Indians' fourth consecutive loss, dropping their record to 25-24.
Plutko (1-1), coming off a strong season debut, was roughed up from the get-go. Tommy Pham, Avisail Garcia and Willy Adames all slugged solo home runs off him in the first two innings.
Those three swings proved to be enough to win but, just to be safe, the Rays (29-18) put the game out of reach in the sixth.
And the hit that did it was a painful one for Indians left fielder Oscar Mercado. With two runners on, Rays outfielder Kevin Kiermaier laced a ball to the gap in left-center field as Mercado and center fielder Leonys Martin both raced for it. As they neared each other, both ended up sliding but couldn't avoid a collision. Mercado received the brunt of it, appearing to take a knee to the midsection.
“Yeah, Leonys’ knee jammed into Oscar’s pelvic area and obviously that jarred him pretty good," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "I went and looked at it, [and] we’re probably lucky one guy dove and one guy slid. If they both dove that might have really been bad.”
With Mercado down and Martin slow to get up, Kiermaier turned it into a three-run, inside-the-park home run to put the Rays up 6-0.
"It couldn’t have been placed any [more] perfectly," said Mercado, who later left the game after registering a hit with what was announced as a right hip contusion. "We both went at it full speed and it’s just one of those things where it’s tough to call, because you don’t know if you’re going to get to it and it’s just a last-minute — we both reacted and dove. Unfortunately, it resulted in that, but it’s a learning experience."
After Oliver Perez entered the game in relief of Plutko, Pham added an RBI single to make it 7-0.
Plutko finished with seven earned runs allowed on 12 hits to go with three strikeouts.
"Clearly, they were better than I was today," Plutko said. "They got to me early. Hung with them for a bit and they delivered the knockout blow there in the sixth. Not my best day."
Jordan Luplow doubled home two runs in the bottom of the sixth to account for the only noise to come out of an otherwise silent Indians lineup that produced just four hits.
Ryan Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at @ByRyanLewis.