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Indians drop fourth straight after eighth inning rally implodes

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Even calling it an implosion feels charitable

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Cincinnati Reds David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

A chance. The Indians had a chance.

Runners on first and second and nobody out. Top of the eighth. A prime opportunity to take the lead and never look back.

To get to that point, they needed another fine start from Zach Plesac. He went seven innings and allowed three runs. His only mistakes came to Nick Castellano’s and Joey Votto, who each meted out long balls as punishment.

Still — a 3-2 ballgame sat in the balance, and the Indians got a couple of nice breaks in to start the eighth. Greg Allen reached via HBP, then César Hernández grounded toward Freddy Galvis. It took a terrible hop on the edge of the infield grass and nearly domed Galvis; he managed to knock it down and flailed while flipping it to second. Allen reached without incident.

It felt like a little bit of luck might propel a rally for the Tribe. Or it might have felt that way to anyone who hasn’t watched the Indians this season.

José Ramírez struck out while flinging his bat all the way to second base. Then, Hernández got a terrible jump to second on a ball in the dirt. He still had a chance to sneak in before Barnhart’s throw reached, but a poor slide ensured the out. Lindor took the inning behind the dugout, shot it twice in the back of the head, then tossed it into the Ohio River with a brick tied to its ankles when he struck out on a not-very-close slider.

Shocking no one, the Indians went in order in the top of the ninth. Daniel Johnson, who made the last out, walked quietly to the dugout with the bat in his hand. The rest of the team packed their bags on the bench, no one chattering, no one making eye contact.

It’s one thing for a team to take some quality hacks and strike out trying to bring the runs home. What we saw in the eighth and ninth tonight — I’m not even sure what you call it. Remember the game when Rajai Davis lost two balls in the sun, or the time Mike Napoli and Jason Kipnis just stared at each other while a foul ball fell to the ground?

This felt worse than both of those because I knew it would happen. As soon as runners reached first and second with no outs, rather than getting excited about a possible rally, I asked myself, “How are they going to screw this one up?”

They’re running out of ways to one-up their own atrocities.

Other things that happened

It wasn’t all bad. Just most of it.

Lindor went yard with two out in the first. Sonny Gray tried to sneak a fastball inside and failed.

Oscar Mercado got a bloop single to left center. He advanced to second base after Votto failed to snare a throw back to first, to third on a wild pitch, and then scored on a second wild pitch. Yes - one of the Indians’ two runs was generated by a gift hit and three mistakes.

Zach Plesac looked good tonight. He mixed his pitches well and managed to freeze a few hitters with a curveball up in the zone. His two aforementioned mistakes were regrettable but not insurmountable for a group of major league hitters. The Indians have yet to convince me that they have any of those this season.

The bullpen is also still good, but it doesn’t really matter when you’re always pitching from behind.

Tidbits to Tribe

  • Someone, anybody, please, go make sure Franmil Reyes is actually the guy putting on his uniform everyday, because whoever it is sure doesn’t look like a baseball player at the dish.
  • After the second inning, the Indians sent two batters more than the minimum to the plate. In all but two of those innings they went in order; in one, Lindor was thrown out trying to steal second.
  • Zach Plesac is 0-1 in two starts with 17 Ks, 1 BB, and a 1.80 ERA.

The Indians play the Reds again tomorrow. Shane Bieber takes the mound and I’m not sure I’d trade places with him for all the whiskey in Ireland.