"Unfortunately for us, we're just not getting much going, especially against left-handers," Indians utility man Ryan Raburn said. "Hopefully it is a fluke. I know a lot of us haven't started off the way we should, but it's 162 games. We've just got to keep battling and grinding and sooner or later we'll start to turn it around."
The Indians (19-22) headed home with a 3-3 ledger on their six-game swing through St. Petersburg and Toronto, giving the club an acceptable showing away from the confines of home. It had to be frustrating for the Tribe, however, that two of the three defeats came at the hands of two middle-of-the-road southpaws in Tampa Bay's Erik Bedard and Toronto's J.A. Happ.
In helping the Blue Jays claim two of three north of the border, Happ held the Indians to just one run on six hits in six innings. Happ worked out of a handful of jams, holding the Indians to an 0-for-6 showing with runners in scoring position in his time on the hill. Cleveland went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position overall in the loss.
The lefty opened this season in Toronto's bullpen and entered the evening having logged just 7 1/3 innings combined in his previous two starts. Happ was hardly overpowering -- he struck out four and walked two in the 100-pitch effort -- but he did plenty to keep the Tribe's hitters honest.
"He pitched in enough, especially to our righties," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "That kind of opened up the rest of the plate. And, we just never really could sustain an inning. We'd get a couple guys on here and there and we just couldn't really get three or four hits in a row."
It was a similar situation Saturday for the Indians, who were quieted by Bedard over his six innings. Combined, Happ and Bedard held Cleveland to two runs on seven hits in 12 innings, sending the Tribe to two losses and dropping the Indians' record against lefty starters to 4-10 on the year.
With its showing against Happ and fellow Toronto lefties Brett Cecil and Aaron Loup, Cleveland's offense has now turned in a .211/.283/.326 slash line against left-handers this season. The Indians rank last in the American League against lefties in batting average and OPS (.609) after leading the league in both categories (.271 average and .766 OPS) in 2013.
Part of the problem has been the fact that players such as Carlos Santana, Nick Swisher, Yan Gomes and Raburn -- that foursome hit .304 combined against lefties last season -- have been slow out of the gate against southpaws this year. That group combined for a 2-for-13 showing against the Blue Jays' three left-handers Thursday.
"We have guys with track records," Francona said. "They will hit."
Cleveland's lone breakthrough against Happ was a fifth-inning, solo home run off the bat of David Murphy, who also collected five hits in Wednesday's win. The homer by Murphy (his third of the year) was one of two extra-base hits for the Indians -- one day after they had 10 extra-base hits among 22 overall.
"His fastball was really getting on guys," Raburn said of Happ. "I know it was 92-93 [mph], but I know out of his hand it seemed a lot harder. He spotted his pitches. He didn't miss over the plate a whole lot from what I saw. He just did his job and we didn't come through with some big hits when we needed them."
Following Happ's exit, the Blue Jays (21-21) turned to Cecil, who kept Cleveland off the board in the seventh to pave the way to the win column for Toronto. After Gomes delivered a two-out RBI single off righty Steve Delabar in the eighth, the left-handed Loup took over for the Jays and struck out Murphy, stranding two to end Cleveland's rally.
Complicating matters for the Indians was the short start by Salazar (1-4), who hit the showers after logging 98 pitches in only four innings. Edwin Encarnacion and Juan Francisco both clubbed a solo homer off Salazar in the second inning, giving each Toronto slugger seven shots on the season. Encarnacion's eighth home run was a two-run blast off reliever C.C. Lee in the fifth.
"My pitches just weren't working like they do usually," said Salazar, who struck out three and walked two in the loss. "I just didn't have a good feeling for the ball today to command my fastball, and my changeup wasn't there."
One night after it feasted on Toronto pitching, the Tribe offense went missing, too.
"A lot of it has to do with that guy on the mound," Raburn said. "He was doing his job."