Tribe knows 'pen not to blame for tough loss

Indians' offense looks to provide more support

Tribe knows 'pen not to blame for tough loss

CLEVELAND -- After any tough loss, it is only natural for fans to browse a box score while playing the blame game. In the wake of the Indians' extra-inning defeat to the Rockies on Wednesday, the fine print would show a blown save for closer Cody Allen and a loss for reliever Zach McAllister.

Indeed, Allen and McAllister played a role in the 3-2, 12-inning loss to Colorado -- spoiling a dominant performance from starter Trevor Bauer -- but finding fault is never a black-and-white process. On this particular afternoon, another quiet showing from Cleveland's lineup put the team's pitchers in a pressure cooker, and any missteps on their part later found their way under a microscope.

"We have to help them," Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor said. "We're not helping them. That's one of the reasons why we're losing games."

As it happens, Lindor was the source of the Tribe's only offensive breakthrough in this loss. His two-run homer off Rockies righty Antonio Senzatela in the third inning pushed Cleveland ahead, 2-1, and that slim lead held until the top of the ninth inning. There was little room for error for any of the Indians' arms, and all the tightrope walking eventually led to a fall.

Lindor's two-run home run

This has been an unfortunate trend this year for Cleveland's offense, which has endured a feast-or-famine existence to date. The group's status is another bout of starvation, as the lineup has produced just eight runs over the past four games (four coming via a ninth-inning rally in Tuesday's walk-off win). Over those four games, the Indians have hit .120 (3-for-25) with runners in scoring position and .143 (7-for-49) with runners on, stranding 23 runners along the way.

Throughout that same stretch, Cleveland's rotation has spun a tidy 2.51 ERA in 28 2/3 innings.

"It's tough. The past couple of days, we've probably left at least 19-20 runners on base," Lindor said. "That's something we have to get better at. I have to get better at it."

Under those circumstances, a bullpen -- even Cleveland's relief corps, which ranks second in the American League in ERA (2.98) -- is one errant offering away from a difficult defeat to swallow.

In the ninth, Allen surrendered a single up the middle to Carlos Gonzalez, who later scored on a game-tying Jonathan Lucroy double. That run was helped by a misplay in right-center, where center fielder Bradley Zimmer struggled to corral the liner after it fell in. In the 12th, McAllister surrendered a two-out, go-ahead homer to Charlie Blackmon, who has victimized plenty of pitchers this year.

Blackmon's go-ahead solo homer

The bullpen received strong efforts from Joe Smith, Bryan Shaw and Tyler Olson, but the two mistakes loomed large in the loss.

Bauer hoped Indians fans did not heap the blame on their shoulders.

Francona on Bauer's outing

"They're one of the best bullpens in baseball," Bauer said. "Everybody here feels comfortable handing the ball to them. In a game like today, the bullpen had to pitch [five innings]. They gave up two runs. If a starter goes six innings and gives up two runs, it's a good start. But because the bullpen went [five] innings and gave up two runs, now they get under the microscope, because it's late in the game and the game ends. I think the bullpen pitched really well.

"It would've been nice to add on some runs throughout the game, but they got a nasty pitching staff," he continued. "It's tough to score runs on them. I don't know. I think it's extremely unfair to blame one person for anything. It's a team game."

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.