CLEVELAND (AP) — The Cleveland Indians head into the All-Star break in a spot not many outside of the locker room would have predicted.They are only a half-game behind the Detroit Tigers in the AL Central after falling to the Toronto Blue Jays 7-1 on Sunday. Cleveland has led the division for most of the first half of the season.
“I don’t look at it as a momentum shift,” Indians centre fielder Grady Sizemore said. “We were in two of the losses, won the first game dramatically and before that played very well (going 2-1) from a very good Yankees team.”
Designated hitter Travis Hafner, whose walkoff grand slam beat the Blue Jays 5-4 Thursday night, said the Indians are not about to go away.
“Not many outside this clubhouse expected much,” Hafner said. “We’ve done a great job, especially with so many hitters (Hafner, Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo among them) going on the disabled list. Hopefully this break will help, we’ll get to full strength and play even better.”
Toronto’s Brett Cecil (2-4) gave up one unearned run over six innings for his first win in three starts since being recalled from the minors June 30. The left-hander allowed six hits and walked three. He struck out six, got out of a bases-loaded jam in the first inning, and stranded nine runners overall.
Eric Thames’ two-run homer in a five-run third off Carlos Carrasco (8-6) put the Blue Jays ahead.
Jose Bautista’s two-run double off Rafael Perez made it 7-0 in the sixth.
“I thought we played very well this series,” Toronto manager John Farrell said. “With the exception, obviously of game one and what took place late.”
Toronto moved within two games of .500 and have Bautista going to the All-Star Game as baseball’s home run leader with 31 — along with 65 RBIs and a .334 average.
The Indians have lost four of six, failing to build on Hafner’s big hit and be in first place at the break for the first time since 1999, when they went on to win their fifth straight division title.
Carrasco’s second consecutive poor outing didn’t help.
“I don’t know what happened,” Carrasco said before offering a reason may have been getting a couple of strikeout early with a good slider and failing to be aggressive enough with his fastball.
Thames followed a single by Yunel Escobar with his fourth homer for a 2-0 lead. Carrasco held Bautista — who had three homers in his previous two games — to a rare opposite-field single hit where the second baseman normally would have been stationed if not in a shift against the pull-hitting slugger. Bautista got to third on a pair of groundouts before Carrasco walked Travis Snider and gave up an RBI single on the first pitch to J.P. Arencibia that made it 3-0.
After pitching coach Tim Belcher went to the mound to try and settle Carrasco, the right-hander wild pitched the runners to second and third, and Corey Patterson hit a ground-rule double into the seats in right-centre for a 5-0 lead.
Carrasco released some frustration when he got Rajai Davis to bounce back to him to end the inning. The 24-year-old barehanded the ball, then fired it hard, forcing first baseman Carlos Santana to make a lunging stab of the near-errant throw.
“Yes, I was mad,” Carrasco said.
Carrasco gave up five runs on seven hits in three innings. On Tuesday, he allowed six runs and 10 hits in four innings to the Yankees, though Belcher pointed out that a missed double play in that game against New York resulted in another five-run inning.
“He didn’t pitch ahead today, but that last game he was a little unlucky,” said Belcher, who met the media in place of manager Manny Acta following the loss. Acta, shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera and closer Chris Perez left quickly after the final pitch to catch a plane to Phoenix for the All-Star game.
“Carlos needs to be aggressive with his fastball, but overall he has handled things well,” Belcher said.
Carrasco had gone 4-1 with a 0.98 ERA over his previous five starts.
Jack Hannahan had an RBI single in the bottom half for Cleveland.
Joe Smith worked a scoreless seventh for the Indians. He has not allowed an earned run in his last 25 outings, covering 23 2-3 innings since May 12.
Notes: Cleveland stranded 13 overall and went 3 of 12 with runners in scoring position. … The Indians are 27-18 at home. A year ago, they didn’t get their 27th win at Progressive Field until Aug. 15. … Choo said he will have his broken left thumb examined on Monday. He’s been out since June 25. … Jays LHP Luis Perez struck out Hafner on four pitches in seventh. On Thursday, Hafner hit first pitch from the rookie for the game-winning slam. … Farrell said he is encouraged by the progress of two pitchers on the disabled list. RHP Casey Janssen, out since June 15 with a strained right forearm, worked a scoreless inning at Double-A New Hampshire, hit 92 mph on the radar gun, and is scheduled for another rehab outing Monday. Jesse Litsch, out since May 20 with a sore shoulder, yielded 12 hits over four innings at Triple-A Las Vegas. Farrell said Litsch is “physically fine” and will start again Friday.
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