CLEVELAND — Nick Swisher and Carlos Santana finally showed up, and the Indians still lost.
Swisher and Santana, two of Cleveland’s biggest sagging offensive stars, displayed signs of life at the plate Friday night for one of the few times this season, but the Indians didn’t get enough production from the rest of the lineup in a 3-2 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays at Progressive Field.
Santana hit his first home run of the season to put Cleveland up 2-1 in the sixth inning and Swisher snapped a 0-for-12 skid with hits in his first two at-bats, but the Indians’ struggles with runners in scoring position continued and were at the root of their fifth loss in seven games.
The Indians went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position in the series opener with Toronto and left 12 on base after entering the night batting .229 with RISP on the season.
“I thought (Santana) and Swish swung the bat better tonight. That bodes well for us,” manager Terry Francona said. “Kip had some good at-bats. We had some good at-bats.
“I think when you’re not scoring in bunches, you’re trying to get the other runs in that don’t necessarily take hits (and those) are important. You get a runner on third and less than two outs, those are the important ones that we probably need to start doing better (on). We’re going to get hits. Two-out hits are great, but we’ve left some runners on third. That’s been costly for us.”
It certainly was Friday.
Down by the final count, the Indians loaded the bases with two outs and had their best hitter at the plate in left fielder Michael Brantley in the ninth inning against closer Sergio Santos. The uprising was snuffed when Brantley hit a one-hop smash that first baseman Edwin Encarnacion knocked down and made the play on to finish off Cleveland.
The Indians squandered a golden opportunity well before the Brantley at-bat when Lonnie Chisenhall started the inning with a double over the head of left fielder Melky Cabrera, and Michael Bourn and Swisher followed by striking out. Bourn failed to get down a bunt to move Chisenhall to third before fanning.
“We ended up with bases loaded and Brantley hitting a rocket at the first baseman, so through it all, you keep playing,” Francona said. “We didn’t get a bunt down, we had a strikeout, but we keep playing. If Brantley’s ball is a couple feet over, we win, but we put ourselves in a tough spot. It’s hard to win those games.”
The Indians got a positive performance from ace Justin Masterson, who bounced back from consecutive poor outings to allow two runs on six hits while striking out nine over 6 1/3 innings.
Masterson opened the seventh inning by striking out Moises Sierra, but walked No. 9 hitter Ryan Goins with Cabrera, who had hits in all three of his at-bats off the right-hander, coming to the plate.
With the Indians in front by a run, Francona turned to Marc Rzepczysnki and it backfired. Rzepczysnki allowed a soft single to Cabrera, then an RBI single to Munenori Kawasaki that tied the game before Cody Allen came on to surrender the go-ahead run on a base hit from Encarnacion.
“I always think we’re going to get them out, regardless of who’s pitching,” Francona said. “Melky had a very good night. He didn’t hit the ball real hard to left and Kawasaki hit the ball of his shoe tops up the middle. We had a pickoff on and we had him out and (Yan Gomes) skipped it to first or we had a chance to get out of that inning.”
Contact Chris Assenheimer at (440) 329-7136 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Like him on Facebook and follow him @CAwesomeheimer on Twitter.