Communication error in ninth proves costly in 7-6 loss
Cleveland, OH -- After the Cleveland offense mounted a five-run comeback against Washington ace Jordan Zimmermann, the Tribe bullpen allowed lead-changing solo homers in the eighth and ninth as the Nationals beat the Indians 7-6.
With the win, the Indians' three-game winning streak is snapped and the team falls one game under .500 (33-34). They continue to trail Detroit by 4.5 games in the American League Central as the Tigers lost to the Minnesota Twins.
After the Washington offense failed to plate runs against the Indians bullpen for four innings, Chad Tracy hit a pinch-hit solo home run off Joe Smith in the top of the eighth to tie the game at six. The homer was Tracy's second of the season and came with two outs in the inning.
In the ninth, Vinnie Pestano retired the first two batters he faced by fly out and ground out. Anthony Rendon followed with a foul pop to first base, which Nick Swisher dropped. Rendon took advantage of his extra chance by lining a homer to right field, the eventual winning run.
"That shouldn't happen to us but it did and it cost us the game," Swisher said. "It was a little miscommunication. It was something we handled already."
The home run was the first of Rendon's career. Rendon, the sixth overall pick by the Nationals in the 2011 amateur draft, is now hitting .333 on the season.
"I guess it's not a bad one to get on the board with," Rendon said. "I don't even know how to explain it."
Pestano (1-2, 4.50) struck out Ryan Zimmerman looking to end the inning but the damage was done.
Washington was all over Tribe starter Scott Kazmir from the get-go, homering twice in the first inning. With two outs in the first, Zimmerman hit a pitch 401 feet to right center for his eighth big fly of the season. Jayson Werth followed with another long ball to center to make it 2-0 after the back-to-back jacks.
Ian Desmond rudely greeted Kazmir with a leadoff homer in the second, the third of the game. With no outs in the third, Kazmir walked Werth to load the bases. Adam LaRoche grounded into a double play, scoring Rendon to make it 4-0.
Following the double play ball, Kazmir threw a wild pitch that scored a fifth run. He was done for the night after just two and two-thirds innings and was charged with five earned runs on four hits and four walks.
Matt Albers, Bryan Shaw, and Cody Allen combined to throw four and one-third innings of shutout relief, allowing the Indians offense to get back in the game. They allowed just three hits while striking out four.
The Indians got on the board in the bottom half of the third after Jason Kipnis singled home Mike Aviles who had doubled earlier in the inning. They plated two more in the fourth when Carlos Santana and Mark Reynolds hit back-to-back homers, pulling the score to 5-3.
It was the first home run for Reynolds in 13 games and his 14th of the season.
The Tribe continued their two-out RBI magic in the bottom of the fifth to take the lead. With Kipnis and Aviles on first and second, Swisher singled to score Aviles from second. Michael Brantley followed with another two-out hit, a double to center that scored Kipnis and Swisher. The double was Brantley's ninth of the season and put the Indians up 6-5.
Zimmermann allowed all six run in his worst start of the season. He allowed eight hits and walked one while his ERA moved from 2.00 to 2.44. The Indians would fail to tally another hit against three relievers, however, before hitting a double against Rafael Soriano in the ninth.
The Indians and Nationals will the play the rubber match of the three-game series on Sunday at 1:05 p.m. Corey Kluber (4-4, 4.08) will look to continue a string of recent success against Stephen Strasburg (3-5, 3.54) who is coming off the disabled list (oblique).
Notes: Indians closer Chris Perez (shoulder tendinitis) will pitch one inning on a minor league assignment for Class A Lake County on Sunday.
Nathan Kemp graduated from The University of Akron in 2012 with a bachelor's degree in English. He plans to pursue a graduate degree through NEOMFA in the fall. Follow him on Twitter @NathanCKemp.