CLEVELAND -- As the ball off the bat of White Sox center fielder Leury Garcia carried to the left-field corner, Indians outfielder Michael Brantley gave chase. Nine times out of 10, Brantley makes the catch on this kind of play. But this time, Brantley made an uncharacteristic miscue as the ball popped out of his glove and dropped, resulting in Garcia reaching on a three-base error.
Brantley's hiccup in the second inning of Saturday's 5-3 loss to the White Sox at Progressive Field went on to cost the team in the long run.
Indians starter Josh Tomlin, who gave up four of his nine hits in a three-run first inning, surrendered an RBI single to Melky Cabrera two batters later, scoring Garcia from third. Despite some great defensive plays and 6 1/3 strong innings from the bullpen, Brantley's error combined with Tomlin's rough outing proved to be the difference in the game.
"That's what it boiled down to," Tomlin said of his inability to execute pitches. "Poor execution on my end put us in a hole early on, and we couldn't dig out."
Before Saturday, Brantley had committed just two errors in 3,563 2/3 innings in left field dating back to 2013. Per Statcast™, the play had a catch probability of 55 percent, and Brantley covered 86 feet in 4.5 seconds to get to where the ball was going to land.
"That would have been a great play," Tomlin said. "I talked to [Brantley] on the bench about it. He was trying to take blame for it. He was playing the guy kind of a pull-gap a little bit. He made an unbelievable play on the ball. He got there, he's close to the wall right there, tried to make a good play right there. Good players still make mistakes. If he made that play, it would have been an unbelievable play."
Brantley later redeemed himself twice in the game, delivering a career-high two outfield assists. The first came in the second, when he and shortstop Francisco Lindor teamed up to nab Cabrera at the plate. The second took place in the fifth when he threw out Jose Abreu trying to stretch a single into a double.
"Brant is so consistent and the ball has so much good carry to it," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "And he's so accurate that very few times you see him throw the ball and an infielder gets handcuffed. He just has such a nice feel for it."
Tomlin praised the bullpen's efforts and took blame for the loss.
"The one person who didn't do their job today was me," Tomlin said. "I went out there and gave up four runs early on. You get a guy [White Sox starter David Holmberg] who finds their groove, kind of gets in that rhythm a little bit, it gets kind of tough for hitters to dig out of that. Whoever is on the mound, it doesn't matter -- big league pitchers, big league team -- you get a four-run deficit that early, it's difficult to dig out of."
William Kosileski is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cleveland. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.