CLEVELAND — Joe Smith has been the workhorse of the Indians’ beleaguered bullpen, but he was bound to run out of energy at some point.
That point arrived on Wednesday night against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Smith allowed a tiebreaking, bases-clearing single to Munenori Kawasaki with two outs in the ninth inning, giving Toronto a 5-4 victory over the Tribe at Progressive Field.
Kawasaki had been hitless in his previous 18 at-bats, but laced a liner over Cleveland shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera that scored Colby Rasmus, J.P. Arencibia and Emilio Bonifacio — and put the Blue Jays ahead for good at 5-2.
“I said I was good to pitch and I felt all right, but I obviously wasn’t good,” said Smith, who allowed all four batters that he faced to reach base. “I was far from it.
“I didn’t have my good stuff, but I only had to get one out to end the inning. Once it started, though, the floodgates opened and I couldn’t stop them.”
Smith made his team-high 39th appearance of the season and was pitching for the fourth straight day. Rich Hill (0-1, 6.57 ERA) started the ninth for the Indians, but manager Terry Francona lifted him with one on and two outs.
Arencibia singled for his first hit in five career at-bats against Smith, while Bonifacio walked. The weak-hitting Kawasaki followed with a two-run single that Tribe center fielder Michael Bourn mishandled, allowing Bonifacio to score what turned out to be the game-deciding run.
“Smitty had faced Arencibia four times and struck him out four times, so that was the matchup we wanted,” Francona explained. “With Kawasaki, he just left the ball over the plate and Bourny mishandled it for the unearned run. It was a tough way to end it.”
Cleveland rallied with a pair of runs in the bottom of the ninth against Blue Jays closer Casey Janssen, but Steve Delabar ended the frame by getting Michael Brantley to fly out to center. The save was the first of Delabar’s career and required him to make one pitch.
Janssen retired the first two Indians in the ninth before Bourn and Asdrubal Cabrera had back-to-back singles. Cabrera drove in Bourn to cut the deficit to 5-3, then scored when Kawasaki threw Nick Swisher’s easy grounder away.
“Our offense was awesome again, never quitting and coming back late to score,” Smith said. “I just keep thinking if I had only allowed one run, we still would have won the game. It sucks. It really does.”
Toronto reliever Neil Wagner (2-3, 3.12 ERA) picked up the win by recording one out to end the eighth. All-Star Brett Cecil began the frame and gave up an RBI single to Brantley that tied the score at 2-2.
The Tribe’s other run occurred in the second off Blue Jays starter Esmil Rogers. Jason Giambi drove home Brantley to give Cleveland a 1-0 advantage.
The score stayed that way until the seventh, when Indians starter Justin Masterson allowed a two-run, two-out single to Bonifacio.
All-Star Masterson lasted 6⅔ innings, allowing two runs on four hits and five walks, while former Cleveland reliever Rogers went six innings and struck out seven. Both teams used six pitchers in the 3:17 game.
“I had an opportunity to finish out the seventh, but I didn’t, which is disappointing,” said Masterson, who carried a no-hitter into the fifth. “I didn’t set a good tone for the bullpen and put them in a bind.
“Tito showed great faith in me and I believed I could get the job done, but I think I just tried to do a little too much at the end.”
Contact Brian Dulik at email@example.com.