CLEVELAND — Mike Clevinger wasn’t at his best and the Indians offense was at its worst for much of Monday night at Progressive Field.
It added up to a 7-5 defeat in the series opener against intrastate rival Cincinnati — Cleveland’s third straight loss following a five-game winning streak.
The Reds tagged Clevinger for five earned runs — matching a season high — on seven hits and three walks over six-plus innings. The right-hander equaled a season high with 11 strikeouts, but surrendered runs in four of the seven innings he appeared and allowed the leadoff batter to reach in five of them.
“They’re a really aggressive, first-ball fastball hitting team,” manager Terry Francona said of the last-place Reds, who improved to 9-2 in interleague play. “(Clevinger) made some mistakes with his fastball and he paid for that. But he had a lot of swing-and-miss, too, especially with his breaking ball, just trying to slow them down a little bit because they’re ultra-aggressive, especially fastball, and they took some pretty healthy swings with his fastball.”
“They took advantage of every ball I threw over the middle of the plate,” Clevinger said. “I think they batted .500 tonight on balls in play or something like that. (I) made good pitches, but it seemed like every single one was under a magnifying glass, every miss. That inconsistency can’t happen.
“There were a few first-pitch hits, but I think for the most part they were just barreling balls with two strikes. I was not making good pitches and they were taking full advantage of it the whole game.”
Had Clevinger, who was in the conversation to join five teammates in the upcoming All-Star Game in Washington, pitched better, it may not have mattered.
Cleveland’s offense continued to scuffle, managing just a run against Reds right-hander Anthony DeSclafani, who entered his seventh start with a 5.08 ERA.
The Indians, who scored their lone run off DeSclafani on Yonder Alonso’s 13th homer in the fourth inning, have been limited to eight runs over their last three games.
“He was getting his fastball past our barrel enough where he could throw the breaking ball,” Francona said. “We just weren’t squaring up a lot of his fastballs.”
Of the eight runs the Indians have scored in three straight losses, half of them came in the ninth inning, as they rallied against Cincinnati’s bullpen.
Alonso drew a leadoff walk and scored when Jason Kipnis followed with his eighth homer. After Yan Gomes doubled and moved to third on Greg Allen’s one-out base hit, the Reds were forced to employ right-hander Raisel Iglesias, their top-notch closer.
Francisco Lindor scored Gomes with a sacrifice fly and Michael Brantley plated Allen with a double to the gap in right-center to bring Cleveland within two runs.
Iglesias recovered quickly, striking out Jose Ramirez on three pitches to earn his 18th save in 21 opportunities.
“I’d rather not be down six, but if you can get the tying run to the plate, especially with Jose hitting, you give yourself a chance,” Francona said. “You want to win. If you don’t win, you want to certainly make them use their closer. Maybe it helps us win tomorrow or the next day.”
Though it didn’t seem significant at the time, another rough outing from Josh Tomlin cost Cleveland. He allowed a two-run homer to Scott Schebler in the top of the ninth.
“I think he’s fighting some stuff,” Francona said of Tomlin, who has surrendered 21 homers over only 49 innings.
“I don’t really know (what’s wrong),” said Tomlin, who lost his spot in the rotation and is in jeopardy of being removed from the big league roster. “When you’re going like this, it’s tough to put a finger on one specific thing. You get behind a guy and you thought you made a pretty good pitch and they still put it in play or it still finds a hole or it’s over the fence. That’s just where I’m at right now. It’s frustrating.”
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