CLEVELAND — A return to Progressive Field following a lengthy road trip did not provide relief for the Indians on Tuesday night.
Cleveland, one of the majors’ top teams at home this season, couldn’t continue the trend in the series opener with Seattle, dropping a 5-2 decision in front of just 15,713 fans.
For one starter, the Indians’ Trevor Bauer, it was a surprisingly disappointing result from a right-hander who entered the night with a sparkling 2.82 ERA in seven starts this year at home.
For his counterpart, right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma, it was the continuation of a dominant road performance that began during the middle of last season. Iwakuma improved to 9-0 with a 2.17 ERA in 14 starts away from Safeco Field, allowing two runs on six hits over seven innings, while striking out six.
Bauer (4-6, 4.25 ERA) allowed a season-high five runs on eight hits over just 4⅓ innings, with the Mariners scoring four of the five runs in a decisive fourth-inning uprising.
“I thought he started out pretty good,” Francona said of Bauer, who allowed three run-scoring doubles in the fourth. “And then the second time through, he got in some fastball counts and threw his fastball where they could get the good part of the bat on it, and he kind of paid for it.
“You’re only going to get so many chances off Iwakuma. Whether we lined out, they made a play or Iwakuma made a pitch, we couldn’t string them together enough.”
Though neither Bauer nor Francona discussed it after the game, it appeared there was some friction when Bauer was removed. After returning to the dugout, Bauer stared at the mound as the pitching change was made. When Francona returned to the dugout, he motioned for Bauer and the two went down the tunnel together.
Bauer was short with the media when asked about his poor performance.
“I didn’t command the ball too well, so that was probably it,” Bauer said. “Obviously, I wasn’t too good. I think I was just behind too much. When you don’t get ahead, they take good swings, so you kind of back yourself into a corner. I think that’s what happened to me.”
Kyle Seager started the fateful fourth by beating the shift with a bunt single down the third-base line. Whether there was purpose or not, Bauer hit the following batter — catcher Mike Zunino — with a pitch and Zunino scored on Dustin Ackley’s two-out double.
Zunino got revenge by clouting a solo home run to chase Bauer and put the Mariners up 5-0 in the fifth.
Cleveland went scoreless on two hits off Iwakuma over the first four innings. He surrendered his first walk in 35⅔ innings to the third batter of the game — Michael Brantley.
Nick Swisher started the fifth inning with a double and scored the Indians’ first run on Yan Gomes’ one-out single. A ground out from Jason Kipnis scored Gomes after he advanced on Chris Dickerson’s double for Cleveland’s final run.
Swisher and Dickerson each had two hits, accounting for half of their team’s offensive output.
The Indians — losers of seven of their last nine games — have hovered around .500 for the majority of the season. They have been unable to put together a winning streak that would label them as a serious contender.
According to Francona, there’s still time.
“The season’s not over,” Francona said. “That thinking is for when it’s over. We’re far from that. Now’s not the time to evaluate how the offseason is going to be. What we need to do is find ways to put that streak together. The only way we’re going to do that is to win the game at hand.”
WHO: Cleveland vs. Seattle
WHERE: Progressive Field
PITCHERS: Kluber (10-6, 2.77 ERA) vs. Hernandez (11-2, 1.99)
TV/RADIO: SportsTime Ohio; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM, WMMS 100.7-FM