Covering the Bases: Game 90

Final:

Rays 4, Indians 2

FIRST: I can’t put too much on Josh Tomlin for this loss. Sure, his first-inning woes set a poor tone, and ultimately were the difference for the Indians, but all things considered he gave the Tribe a decent outing.

After giving up three quick runs in the first — Carlos Pena belted a two-run homer and Luke Scott added a run-scoring triple — Tomlin buckled down and limited the Rays to one more run in his 5 2/3 innings. Manager Manny Acta wasn’t putting this one on Tomlin, either.

“I thought that Tomlin did a nice job for us after having a rough first inning,” Acta said. “He had kind of below-average stuff [in the first] and pitched behind and got hurt by the first three guys that got up there. After that, he just did a tremendous job for us. He was very efficient and gave us a very good outing.”

The Rays went 3-for-5 off Tomlin out of the gates and then went just 4-for-19 off him the rest of the way. Tampa Bay did a good job of laying off his cutter this time around (he held the Rays to one run in seven innings on July 5), and took advantage of some misplaced fastballs early on.

Overall, though, this was a solid enough start for Tomlin. Unfortunately, given the lineup’s shortcomings, he stumbled to the loss.

SECOND: Cleveland’s issues with the bases loaded continued on Tuesday night. The Tribe had the bags full with no outs in the fourth and managed just one run. An inning later, the Indians had them loaded with two outs and came up empty in that situation.

“Everybody is going to home plate trying to bring the guys in,” Jose Lopez said. “If it doesn’t happen, it’s part of the game. Every time we get bases loaded no outs, we get a chance to score a lot of runs. For the team, it’s not happening right now. We’ll keep pushing.”

Lopez came through with an RBI sac fly with the bases juiced in the fourth. He was the man up with ‘em full again in the fifth, and he flew out to left field. On Monday night, the Indians picked up a 3-2 win, but scored zero runs in the fourth after having the bases loaded with no outs.

For the season, the Indians are now hitting .195 (16-for-82) as a team with the bases loaded. Entering the night, the Tribe’s .198 mark was 12th in the American League, ahead of the A’s (.196) and Yankees (.191). Cleveland is now hitting an AL-worst .114 (4-for-35) with the bases loaded and two outs.

Entering Tuesday, Cleveland’s 18 strikeouts an 10 GIDP’s were each ranked 13th in the AL behind the Yankees (19/11). The Indians’ 81 at-bats with the bases loaded heading into Tuesday were the third-most opportunities in terms of AB’s in the American League.

THIRD: The Rays picked up a key insurance run in the sixth, when Desmond Jennings scored from second base on a single to right by Jose Lobaton. Jennings reached second with a two-out stolen base, but it was an extremely close play that the Indians felt was an out.

Ump CB Bucknor ruled that Jennings got a hand on the base just ahead of Cabrera’s tag. The shortstop was fired up over the call and Acta emerged from the dugout to argue the ruling. Following the game, Acta said he felt Bucknor missed the call.

“It’s unfortunate,” Acta said. “It’s part of the game, but [Tomlin] got out of the inning. The guy was out at second base. But what are you going to do? You can’t blame it on the umpire, but he was out. I just didn’t find anything tricky about the play. The throw beat the guy. Clean tag. Out. [Bucknor] didn’t see it that way.”

HOME: I’ll get into Carlos Santana’s slump in the notebook on Indians.com on Wednesday. I’m going to end tonight’s post on a more positive note, focusing on the improved patience on display by hot-hitting center fielder Michael Brantley (.434 over past 16 games).

In Tuesday’s loss, Brantley went 0-for-2, but he drew two walks, giving him five walks over the past two games. Over his past 72 plate appearances, Brantley has drawn 15 walks. Why is that significant? Because he had 15 walks in his previous 361 plate appearances, dating back to last season.

What’s going on? Probably a few things.

For starters, Brantley is on an extremely strong roll right now for the Tribe, and he boasts one of the highest contact rates in baseball. Pitchers are showing him more respect, going out of the strike zone and he’s not expanding. That said, pitching around Brantley also gives pitchers a shot at some of the Tribe’s struggling hitters.

On deck:

Indians (46-44) at Rays (47-44)
at 7:10 p.m. ET Wednesday at Tropicana Field

–JB

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