Jeanmar Gomez couldn’t make it out of the fifth inning and Asdrubal Cabrera made three costly errors as the Pittsburgh beat Cleveland, 9-5, in the rubber match of a three-game series Sunday afternoon. The loss drops the Indians’ record to 33-32, though thanks to the White Sox’ 2-1 loss in Los Angeles they remain within a game and a half of Chicago.
The game got off to a promising start—just as it had in Saturday’s loss. With two outs in the bottom of the first, Jason Kipnis battled Pittsburgh starter Brad Lincoln for seven pitches before taking him deep for a solo home run. The Indians added another two-out run in the second as Johnny Damon got a base hit and stole second ahead of Casey Kotchman‘s RBI single to give the Tribe an early 2-0 lead.
The Pirates’ bats woke up in the top of the fourth. Andrew McCutchen got things started with a one-out single, then traded places with Garrett Jones on his fielder’s choice. Cabrera’s error on Casey McGehee‘s grounder turned what should have been the end of the inning into runners at second and third with two outs, and Pedro Alvarez made Cleveland pay two pitches later with a three-run homer. However, the lead was short-lived as Shin-Soo Choo doubled home Damon and Lou Marson in the bottom of the inning to put the Tribe back on top, 4-3.
But Pittsburgh blew the game open in the fifth. After Gomez got Michael McKenry to hit into a leadoff groundout, he gave up a solo homer to Alex Presley and then loaded the bases. McGehee hit another ground ball to Cabrera, but he flubbed the ball before making an inaccurate throw—Neil Walker and McCutchen both scored on what should have been an inning-ending double play as Cabrera was charged for two errors on one play and Gomez hit the showers. Alvarez then delivered with another three-run shot on Esmil Rogers‘ second pitch of the game to put the Pirates up 9-4.
The Indians weren’t quite done; Michael Brantley delivered with a two-out RBI double in the seventh to bring home Kipnis. Rogers and Jeremy Accardo stopped the bleeding from there, but the damage was done and the Pirates prevailed, 9-5.
The Good: Jason Kipnis had a great day at the plate (what else is new?) going 3-for-5 with a homer and two runs scored. Johnny Damon went 2-for-4 with a double and a stolen base and Asdrubal Cabrera (2-for-4) also had a multi-hit game, while Lou Marson went 1-for-2 with a pair of walks.
We also saw a strong showing from the Tribe’s long relief corps. After the fifth inning, Esmil Rogers and Jeremy Accardo combined to throw four shutout innings, yielding only two hits while racking up five strikeouts.
The Bad: Jeanmar Gomez didn’t exactly get a fair shake as the fourth and fifth innings both effectively lasted more than three outs thanks to Asdrubal Cabrera’s errors, but even so it was another lackluster performance. He was tagged for eight runs (four earned) on four hits, ceding two home runs and a pair of walks while getting only one strikeout. A couple more starts like this and we could see Zach McAllister get called back from Columbus.
Asdrubal Cabrera’s errors were also a somewhat troubling. Everyone has rough games and errors are a misleading way to judge defensive ability, but nonetheless he botched two fairly routine plays in two consecutive innings. Cabrera doesn’t have very good range for a shortstop, so he makes his living with his glove by fielding the routine balls cleanly; without that, Cleveland’s pitch-to-contact worm-burning rotation is at a huge disadvantage.
The “Huh?”: Jose Lopez was back in the lineup Sunday—he was slotted in at designated hitter and hit cleanup. The question is: Why did he get the honor of DHing over Shelley Duncan? Duncan has proven over the last few years that he is clearly the better hitter, and they’re both right-handed so there was no platoon advantage to be had. And while Lopez may seem like the hotter hand, he hasn’t been appreciably better than Duncan with the bat this year (.241/.275/.384 to Duncan’s .200/.301/.328).
Interesting Tidbit: Pedro Alvarez’ two-homer game was just the fourth of his career, and his first since…Saturday. The other times he’d done it were also in back-to-back games: July 20 and 21, 2010.