CLEVELAND — Corey Kluber and the Indians had the market cornered on pitching Wednesday night. It was the complete opposite Thursday.
With arms in starting and relief roles letting them down, the Indians dropped the series finale with Seattle, as the Mariners rallied for a 6-5 win.
Cleveland broke a 4-4 tie in the seventh inning on Carlos Santana’s one-out single, but Seattle came back with two runs in the eighth on a game-winning home run from Mike Zunino off Bryan Shaw.
It was a brief and ineffective outing for Indians starter Zach McAllister, who lasted only 3⅓ innings and allowed four runs on eight hits.
The right-hander allowed a run in the second and three in the third, as Seattle built a 4-1 lead. Once the Indians fought back to tie it at four with three runs in the third — two on Jason Kipnis’ sixth homer — manager Terry Francona didn’t rely on McAllister to find his groove, turning to his bullpen the rest of the way.
“I didn’t think we could give up more,” Francona said. “When Zach’s good, he’s down with his fastball. When he’s up, some of those balls start getting elevated. When he drives the ball down in the zone, everything seems to feed off that, I’m sure, including his confidence.”
Turning to the bullpen worked well until the eighth inning.
Shaw walked the first batter he faced, then grooved a pitch to Zunino, who clouted his 17th homer into the bleachers in left field on a 2-0 fastball.
“Uncharacteristically, he wasn’t commanding,” Francona said of Shaw. “He was trying to fight his way back in the count, get a strike, and he threw it right where Zunino could whack it.”
Shaw, one of the most reliable and most-used relievers on the staff for the majority of the season, hasn’t been as sharp lately. The right-hander has allowed seven earned runs on 15 hits over his last 17⅓ innings.
Francona has tried to stay away from Shaw, but the lack of work might be at the root of his recent problems.
“When he doesn’t pitch a lot, he worries about his command,” Francona said of Shaw. “He almost gets too strong.”
The Indians displayed the resiliency that has been a trademark of the club the past two seasons, battling back from the early hole left by McAllister. They had the bases loaded in the seventh after Santana’s game-tying base hit, but David Murphy grounded out to end the inning.
“I thought we did a really good job,” Francona said of his offense.
Santana joined Kipnis, Michael Brantley and Murphy with two hits apiece. Santana recorded 20 RBIs in July — a career-high for any month from the Indians’ first baseman.
McAllister offered up a promising performance last year, but has been largely ineffective this season, going 3-6 with a 5.91 ERA over 14 starts. He’s missed time with injuries, but hasn’t notched a win since April 26 — a string of 10 straight outings.
Francona was asked if McAllister could work out his issues on the big-league level or if he would need another trip back to Triple-A Columbus. Right-hander Josh Tomlin is available in Columbus.
“I didn’t even think of that,” Francona said.
The third-place Indians are 3-8 since taking three of four from Detroit to start the unofficial second half. They trail the Tigers by 6½ games in the Central Division standings.