PHILADLEPHIA – When the baseball gods go against a team, it’s easy to tell.
In the seventh inning Saturday night, David Lough blooped a single into center field with the Phillies and Indians tied, 3-3. Rookie center fielder Tyler Naquin broke the wrong way and it fell in front of him.
Tommy Hunter was on the mound in his first appearances for the Indians and he retired the next two batters, but Lough reached second on a sacrifice bunt. Then Freddy Galvis blooped a single down right field line to score Lough for a 4-3 lead. That’s the way things ended at Citizens Bank Park, but the next two innings told the real story about how things have been going for the Tribe.
Juan Uribe, with Francisco Lindor on third and Carlos Santana on second in the eighth, drove a ball to left center field that screamed home run. It kept screaming home run right until it fell in into Odubel Herrera’s glove on the track in center field for the third out.
In the ninth, Jeanmar Gomez was on the mound trying to close the game for the Phillies. Yes, it was the same Jeanmar Gomez who used to start for the Indians. Gomez retired Naquin for the first out, but Jose Ramirez and Lonnie Chisenhall singled.
Rajai Davis came to the plate and forced Chisenhall at second on a ground ball. Davis, however, ran his way out of the game-ending double play. Then he stole second with Jason Kipnis at the plate and Ramirez 90 feet away with the tying run.
Kipnis worked the count to 2-2 before sending 92 mph sinker on a line to deep right field. Peter Bourjos went back, turned one way, then the other and made lunging catch at the track. The Phillies celebrated their fifth straight win. The Indians walked to the locker room losers of four of their last five games, all by one-run margins.
The Phillies won it on two soft fly balls. The Indians hit two rockets to the deepest part of the ballpark and lost.
“Uribe hit his ball about as good as he could and Kip leaned all over his ball,” said manager Terry Francona. “That’s a tough break because those are two awfully good at-bats.”
Uribe, like Francona, thought his ball was gone.
“But sometimes you don’t think they’re going out and they do,” said Uribe. “Sometimes you think they’re going out and they don’t. That’s baseball.”
The Indians started this nine-game trip with a three-game sweep of Detroit. Then the Twins beat them on consecutive nights with walk-off hits. Friday night it happened again as Ryan Howard homered to start the 11th for the Phillies. The Indians are 10-11 overall and feel they’re playing good baseball. Still, they are not playing contending baseball. If this was a swim meeting, they’d be dog paddling in an Olympic-sized pool.
“I think we’re playing really well as a team actually,” said Trevor Bauer, who made his first start of the season Saturday night. “Our record doesn’t reflect it, but we don’t feel like we’re out of games. I think you saw that in the ninth inning.
“The first guy gets out. But then we get a hit and strung some stuff and we’re and an inch and a half from that ball getting over the guy’s head and being ahead.”
That is the feeling in the clubhouse.
“It’s always nice to be in the ballgame,” said Chisenhall. “We’ve done that for what feels like the whole season. It’s fun to be playing in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings when they mean something.”
Chisenhall had three hits Saturday. He had two for the season going into the game.
“It was nice to see some balls finally hit the grass, especially the ways things started this year,” said Chisenhall.
In the end, however, close only counts if a team is winning the majority of those games. That’s why watching Uribe and Kipnis’ drives get caught caused so much chagrin among the Indians.
“Baseball is a funny game that way,” said Chisenhall. “You hit a ball hard sometime and there’s no result.”
Funny, indeed, but no one with the Indians is laughing.