The Indians showed some good fight, but it wasn’t enough to undo the damage caused by a Russ Canzler error Tuesday night as the Tribe fell to the Rangers 6-4 in the opener of a three-game series in Texas. The loss drops the Indians to 59-83, tied with the Twins for last place in the AL Central and 17.5 games behind the White Sox with 20 games to play.
At first, the game looked like it might be a pitcher’s duel as Matt Harrison and Ubaldo Jimenez combined to throw three perfect half-innings to open the contest. But that changed in the second inning. Adrian Beltre led off the inning by grounding Jimenez’ 1-2 pitch to third baseman Jason Donald; Donald threw to Canzler at first, but he missed the catch and Beltre ended up safe on second base. A Michael Young single, a wild pitch to Mitch Moreland, a Leonys Martin sacrifice fly, and an Ian Kinsler RBI double gave the Rangers four runs before the inning was over, only three of which were scored as earned.
While both teams threatened to score in the innings that followed, the score sat at 4-0 until the fifth. A Brent Lillibridge walk and a Jason Donald single put runners at the corners with two outs for Ezequiel Carrera, who delivered with a base hit to put the Tribe on the board. But Texas got the run back as Beltre led off the bottom of the frame with a solo home run that was initially ruled a double. The back-and-forth continued in the sixth—Matt LaPorta hit an RBI double, and Texas responded with an Elvis Andrus RBI single off Cody Allen—as the Rangers maintained their four-run lead.
The Indians made it a ball game in the top of the eighth against Mike Adams as a Shin-Soo Choo walk and a Jason Kipnis base hit brought the tying run to the on-deck circle with nobody out; Canzler’s fielder’s choice and Casey Kotchman‘s RBI single both plated runs as Cleveland moved into striking distance. But it wasn’t enough as Joe Nathan retired the Tribe in order in the ninth to seal the Indians’ fate in a 6-4 loss.
The Good: We’ll put Ubaldo Jimenez here, but with some ambiguity. His basic line for the night was pretty good, as he held one of the best offenses in the game to two earned runs on four hits with four strikeouts in five innings. But you can’t totally ignore the three unearned runs that scored in the bottom of the second—it’s not easy to retire the side in what’s effectively a four-out inning, but you have to limit the damage somehow. Also, that he allowed a home run, a wild pitch, and four walks won’t help his reputation as being prone to mistake pitches.
Offensively Jason Kipnis was the star going 2-for-3 with a walk. More generally, it was nice to see this team put together a genuine late-inning rally. It wasn’t enough to erase the deficit, but at least it was something.
The Bad: Say what you want about Casey Kotchman, but this game was a great argument for why he’s monopolized the first base job this year over guys like Russ Canzler and Matt LaPorta. It’s only one game and everyone makes mistakes, but the Indians probably go on to win this game if Canzler doesn’t miss the catch in the second inning, and that probably wouldn’t have happened were Kotchman in the field.
The “Huh?”: With a runner on third and two outs in the bottom of the eighth, Joe Smith intentionally walked Josh Hamilton to face Adrian Beltre. It wasn’t a particularly consequential move and it ended up working out (Beltre grounded out to end the inning), but it caused this fan to flash back to May 5, when Manny Acta had Smith walk Mitch Moreland to face Beltre with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 11th because Beltre was 0-for-5 against Smith in his career. At the risk of overreacting to a now-inconsequential game from four months ago, the decision to walk Moreland was one of the most ridiculous managerial moves I’ve ever seen, and it happened again (albeit in a much more reasonable situation) Tuesday.
Interesting Tidbit: After drawing two free passes Tuesday night, Shin-Soo Choo has now walked 19 teams in 146 career plate appearances against the Rangers.