Tribe's bullpen unable to protect late lead

Tribe's bullpen unable to protect late lead

CLEVELAND -- The Indians are hoping that they are simply scraping the bottom temporarily. They know that this is still just the first month of a season, but a variety of issues have come up over the past few weeks, and there has seemingly been a different culprit behind each defeat.

On Tuesday night, it was the bullpen's turn to sink the Tribe.

Following an admirable performance by starter Trevor Bauer -- pitching through a weakened state due to a recent bout with food poisoning -- Cleveland's relief corps coughed up eight runs over the final three innings. The result was an 11-5 loss to the rival Royals, a fourth consecutive defeat for the Tribe and a heightened level of frustration in the clubhouse.

"We know we're a good team," said Bauer, who looked drained during his postgame news conference. "We know we can win games. We're not doing it right now. Something has to change soon, really ... soon, or else it's going to be a long season."

Bauer's quality start

Veteran reliever Scott Atchison, who was charged with three runs and the loss, made no excuses for the late meltdown.

"Everybody is frustrated down there," said Atchison, referring to the bullpen. "We all take pride in what we're doing and we expect to go out and perform every night and be successful. It's been a rough start. We're not the first group to ever have a rough start. We can sit here and say it's early all we want, but it's time to get going."

Atchison took the mound in the seventh inning armed with a 5-3 lead, which was created by a three-run home run off the bat of Tribe slugger Brandon Moss in the sixth. It was an ideal situation for the right-hander, considering Kansas City had the bottom third of its lineup due to hit. Things began to unravel when Salvador Perez opened with a single and Omar Infante followed with a double.

Later in the frame, Alcides Escobar sent a one-out pitch from Atchison into right field for a two-run double, pulling the game into a 5-5 deadlock. Lefty Marc Rzepczynski and righty Bryan Shaw followed Atchison in the frame and combined to allow four more runs to score. Three came courtesy of a three-run home run off the bat of Kendrys Morales.

Indians reliever Anthony Swarzak also gave up two runs in the ninth.

"We've had some inconsistencies," Indians manager Terry Francona said of the bullpen. "That's a hard one, because they're guys that we know and we've relied on and count on and are going to count on."

The eight runs that Cleveland's bullpen gave up on Tuesday increased the group's season ERA to 4.59, which ranks last in the American League and 29th in the Majors. The Indians' relievers have also combined for an uncharacteristically high 1.55 WHIP. Closer Cody Allen, along with setup men Atchison, Rzepczynski and Shaw have combined for a 7.66 ERA in 24 2/3 innings this month.

It has been both a perplexing and damaging development for Cleveland.

"From the bullpen end of it, we've just got to be better," Atchison said. "We all know we can do it. We've shown it. We've done it plenty of times. We've just got to get on a roll and kind of start building on that and get things turned around."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.