CLEVELAND — A misplayed foul ball wound up costing the Indians dearly Saturday night.
Rookie Anthony Rendon belted a solo home run with two outs in the ninth inning off reliever Vinnie Pestano, giving the Washington Nationals a 7-6 victory at Progressive Field. It was Rendon’s first major league homer.
Two pitches earlier, Rendon hit a high pop foul just beyond the infield, but it fell untouched between Cleveland first baseman Nick Swisher and second baseman Jason Kipnis. Swisher was assessed an error after inexplicably stopping his pursuit of the ball at the last moment.
“It was a little miscommunication, but it shouldn’t have happened to us,” Swisher said. “It did, and it cost us the game.”
Kipnis also chalked up the mistake to “miscommunication,” adding: “He thought I had it, and I thought he had it. Vinnie never should have had to throw another pitch, that’s for sure.”
The Indians had trailed 5-0 after three innings, but rallied for six straight runs — all coming with two outs — off Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann, who entered with a 15-inning scoreless streak.
Kipnis’ single drove home Mike Aviles to start the comeback in the third, while Carlos Santana and Mark Reynolds smacked back-to-back homers in the fourth to pull the Tribe within 5-3. It was Reynolds’ first hit in 12 at-bats and his team-high 14th home run.
In the fifth, Swisher laced an RBI single before Michael Brantley gave Cleveland a 6-5 lead with a two-run double. The right-handed Zimmermann gave up six runs and eight hits in five innings.
“We did a really good job fighting back against one of the best pitchers in the game,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “It got pretty exciting, but we just couldn’t finish it off.
“That’s a heartbreaker what happened at the end, but that’s what happens when you give teams extra outs. I think Swish thought he was under it, but at the last minute he wasn’t.”
Pestano (1-2, 4.50 ERA) took the loss because of the unearned run, but fellow reliever Joe Smith deserved some of the blame after giving up a two-out solo home run to Chad Tracy in the eighth.
Tracy’s eighth career pinch-hit homer tied the score at 6 and was Washington’s first run since chasing Cleveland starter Scott Kazmir in the third.
Kazmir lasted 2⅔ innings in his shortest outing of the season, allowing five runs on four hits and four walks. Three of the Nationals’ first six batters of the game — Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth and Ian Desmond — hit solo shots off the left-hander.
“It was just a poor outing, which is frustrating because of how good I felt going out there,” said Kazmir, who is 0-3 with a 7.98 ERA in three June starts. “The way the guys came back was tremendous, but I can’t put my team in a situation like that again.”
Washington reliever Drew Storen (1-1, 4.67 ERA) earned the victory by retiring one batter to end the eighth, while closer Rafael Soriano picked up his 18th save in working the ninth.
Matt Albers, Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen combined to pitch 4⅓ scoreless innings while following Kazmir, but it went for naught as the Indians’ three-game winning streak was snapped.
“This loss had nothing to do with anything about a dropped ball,” Pestano said. “I had the ball in my hand, and I threw a belt-high fastball right down the middle. My assessment is that’s not a good pitch, and I’m getting pretty (expletive) tired of saying I’m feeling good, but not getting results.”
Rendon — a 23-year-old second baseman in his 16th game — laughed when he was asked about the play, saying he was certain Swisher was going to catch it.
“It was a popup, but I thought it was actually going to go fair,” said Rendon, who had three hits and scored twice. “That’s why I kept running. I don’t even know how to explain it, but I guess it’s not a bad one to get on the board with.”
Shortstop Mike Aviles went 3-for-4 with two doubles, two runs and two errors for the Tribe. Kipnis had a pair of hits, but was caught stealing and played a key role in the game-losing sequence.
Contact Brian Dulik at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nationals 7, Indians 6: Botched popup leads to losing homer