CLEVELAND — Manager Terry Francona was confident his team’s defense would improve as the season wore on. It hasn’t, and it’s starting to cost the Indians games.
Another night on the diamond Saturday meant more fielding gaffes for Cleveland, which committed three to bolster its major league lead in the category, during a lackluster 6-2 loss to Oakland.
The Indians have committed 43 errors in 43 games, with 16 players making at least one.
“It certainly makes it harder to win,” said Francona, whose last-place team is riding a three-game losing streak and has lost four of its last five. “The thing that’s kind of perplexing is that it seems it’s something different, or it’s not just a similar play. We talk a lot about not only making errors but giving extra opportunities, not finishing plays. And it’s making it hard for us.
“You can’t feel sorry for yourself. We have to be strong enough to get better, because there’s no other alternative.”
The night’s most glaring defensive miscue arrived at a key point in the game.
With the Indians down 3-2 after a sacrifice fly from Asdrubal Cabrera in the sixth inning, Oakland’s Coco Crisp hit what could have been an inning-ending double-play grounder to second baseman Mike Aviles. Aviles flipped to Cabrera for the force at second, but Cleveland first baseman Jesus Aguilar dropped Cabrera’s throw to first, allowing Crisp to reach.
Reliever Marc Rczepczysnki walked the following batter before departing for Bryan Shaw, who served up a two-run triple to Josh Donaldson that just missed clearing the yellow home-run line in left-center. Brandon Moss followed with an RBI single that put Oakland in front to stay at 6-2.
“He just dropped it,” Francona said of Aguilar, who was lifted for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the inning. “It ends up being a huge play in the game.”
“I don’t feel good,” said Aguilar, who was promoted from Triple-A Columbus on Thursday and was appearing in his third major league game. “I have to keep my head up and keep going. The good things are going to happen. I have to keep going and be positive.”
Things appeared to begin well for the Indians, when A’s starter Scott Kazmir was ejected after walking Aguilar on a close 3-2 pitch with one out in the second inning. Cleveland entered the night with a 4-10 record against left-handed starters, and Kazmir, who resurrected his career with the Indians last year, came in with a 5-1 record and 2.28 ERA over eight starts.
Kazmir clearly thought the pitch to Aguilar was a strike, throwing his hands in the air and saying something to home plate umpire Jerry Layne.
Layne said he warned Kazmir before tossing him.
“He was gesturing and arguing balls and strikes,” Layne said. “That’s automatic ejection. When I warned him, he didn’t take any knowledge of that, and that’s it. Bottom line, it was just pure balls and strikes.”
Upon being ejected, Kazmir took his frustration out in the visiting dugout, slamming his glove off the bench and kicking a garbage can down the stairs to the clubhouse.
The A’s wound up having little to gripe about after Kazmir’s replacement, right-hander Dan Otero, held the Indians scoreless for 3⅔ innings, while Oakland’s offense went to work.
“Otero really did a good job for them,” Francona said. “He really bailed them out.”
“We could have definitely taken advantage of that, but that guy came in and did a good job,” said Indians starter Josh Tomlin, who allowed three runs on five hits over six innings. “He kept them in the game. That’s his job.”
Tomlin allowed a two-run homer to Moss in the third, but he retired 11 of the last 13 hitters he faced — one reaching on an error by third baseman Carlos Santana and another on a walk.
It was a positive effort for Tomlin that was overshadowed by another poor performance from the fielders behind him.
“It’s just the luck that’s not going for us right now,” Rczepczysnki said. “It’s just the luck of the draw. I know it’s not affecting the pitchers and I know the guys are going out there and doing the best they can. Unfortunately, it’s just happening to us right now.”
WHO: Cleveland vs. Oakland
WHERE: Progressive Field
PITCHERS: Masterson (2-2, 4.31 ERA) vs. Chavez (3-1, 2.44)
TV/RADIO: SportsTime Ohio; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM, WMMS 100.7-FM