CLEVELAND — This ship is sinking fast and the Indians don’t have nearly enough patches to fill the holes.
With their last bastion of hope, ace Justin Masterson, letting them down Sunday afternoon at Progressive Field, the Indians limped to a 13-3 loss to Oakland that gave the A’s an emphatic three-game sweep.
In what may have been the worst series performance of the season, Cleveland was outscored 30-6 and batted just .191 (18-for-94) while going 0-for-15 with runners in scoring position. The pitching wasn’t much better and shoddy defense was present throughout, as the Indians committed two errors in the finale to bring their season total to a major league-high 45 in 44 games.
“We got beat at every facet of the game: pitching, defense, timely hitting,” said center fielder Michael Bourn, whose team lost its fourth straight game and for the fifth time in six. “We got embarrassed on our home field and it don’t get any easier. We’ve got Detroit coming to town (tonight). They’re not going to take it easy on us. We’ve gotta find a way to fix it and fix it fast.”
The Tigers come to town for a three-game series hot — they’ve won six straight games — and own a 101⁄2-game lead over the last-place Indians. Cleveland is scheduled to face Detroit’s Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer in the last two games of the series — not exactly the perfect tonic for a club struggling offensively and begging for a key hit.
“Through all the frustrations we’ve had offensively, we’ve done a really good job of working the starting pitcher,” manager Terry Francona said. “We’re doing some things good to get to that point. When we have runners in scoring position and we have chances to keep the line moving, then is when we’re not having the better at-bats.”
Admitting he had been more stubborn than patient, Francona moved two struggling projected offensive stars — second hitter Nick Swisher and cleanup hitter Carlos Santana — down to sixth and seventh in the order. It did little to remedy the situation, with the pair going 0-for-9 and replacements Mike Aviles and Ryan Raburn 0-for-7. Raburn struck out three times, including with the bases loaded in the sixth inning.
Swisher, who is making $15 million, is batting .196 in 43 games, while Santana is at .152 over 43 games.
A pivotal hit might not have mattered much for the Indians. Masterson took them out of the game early, allowing seven runs on seven hits and five walks over just 4⅓ innings.
When asked what his major issues were, Masterson said, “Too many. I mean, you saw it. It’s pretty much what you saw. I don’t have a lot of good words. I’m pretty frustrated.
“The next one will be good, don’t worry. This is the anomaly. The next one will be good. Next time, we’ll slice and dice again.”
Masterson (2-3, 5.06 ERA) hasn’t pitched much like a No. 1 starter this season. The right-hander has posted a 7.88 ERA over his last three starts (16 innings), allowing 17 hits and 12 walks, and has surrendered five or more earned runs in five of his 10 starts overall.
“I don’t think it will be a trend,” Francona said. “We believe in Masty a lot.”
The Indians believed they were a division contender this year after qualifying for the postseason as the American League’s top wild-card team in 2013. But Cleveland hasn’t had the look of a playoff team for the majority of the season.
“It’s a point where we’re being tested, but we’re a good team,” Masterson said. “Once we start getting back to the fundamentals again, we’ll be OK.”
“What we’re doing right now is not good enough,” Francona said. “We’ve got to play better. That’s on me to have better answers and to have our guys more prepared.”