Trouble catches Laffey, Tribe

Trouble catches Laffey, Tribe

CLEVELAND -- When Rafael Betancourt struck out Norris Hopper to end the top of the ninth inning Sunday, the 4,000 or so remaining fans at Progressive Field sent the reliever off with a loud ovation.

And they cheered even louder when Ben Francisco cranked a two-run homer in the bottom half of the inning, which had no effect on the game's outcome. It simply narrowed the margin of defeat to four in the Tribe's 9-5 loss to the Reds.

There hasn't been much to cheer about at Progressive Field this season, so forgive the die-hard fans who stuck it out through a rain storm and found something to get excited about as they watched the Indians drop another Interleague series.

"We were just kind of down a little bit, and that's kind of carried over into Interleague Play," starter Aaron Laffey said. "If you're in a rut, it's kind of hard to get out of it."

The Indians wrapped Interleague Play with a 6-12 record, losing five of six against the intrastate rival Reds.

With the Ohio Cup behind them, the Indians can be thankful that Interleague is over, but their schedule doesn't get any easier. An eight-game road intradivision trip against the first-place White Sox, second-place Twins and third-place Tigers starts Monday for the last-place Tribe.

If the Indians hope to be successful on the trip manager Eric Wedge said would "make it or break it for us," they can't play like they did Sunday -- both from a pitching and hitting standpoint.

Laffey, who has had a knack for finding trouble but somehow managing to squirm out of it, didn't miss a beat on this day.

He first dodged danger in the second, when Adam Dunn was thrown out at the plate after trying to advance on a Javier Valentin double. Dunn, at 6-foot-6 and 275 pounds, tried to steamroll Kelly Shoppach, but the Tribe catcher was able to hang on and keep the game tied.

"I think that's the biggest guy in baseball, pretty much," Shoppach said. "He didn't get me good, because I had time to spin out and deflect some of the force. Inertia, you know."

But after Laffey escaped the fourth with a timely double play, that knack finally got the best of him in the fifth inning.

With runners on second and third, Laffey threw a changeup to the backstop to let in the first Reds run.

"I was getting ready to throw the ball back in, because it had too much of whatever that dirt stuff is on it," Laffey said. "Guess I should have changed balls."

Laffey watched it spin out of control from there. Back-to-back doubles, Brandon Phillips' RBI single and a two-run Edwin Encarnacion homer did the damage, sending Laffey out after five innings down, 5-0.

"You've got to be able to control damage," Wedge said. "Whether it be offensively us working to put together an inning, or on the flip side, in Aaron's case, being able to nip it in the bud."

The Tribe's bats didn't do much to help Laffey until it was too late. Bronson Arroyo, coming off a one-plus-inning, 10-run outing at Toronto, had the Indians baffled with an effective slider and cut fastball, which kept Cleveland scoreless through the first five innings.

"I'm starting to sound like a broken record, but we talk about needing to make adjustments," Wedge said. "You can't cover everything against a guy like him. You've got to give up something to get something. And when you do get it, you can't miss it."

The Tribe finally got to Arroyo in the sixth, when Grady Sizemore hit his 19th home run of the year and Shin-Soo Choo's double, with the assistance of an error from Jerry Hairston, scored Ben Francisco. But that's where the rally stopped against Arroyo, even though the Indians added another run in the eighth and the two more delivered by Francisco in the ninth.

Those late runs were essentially moot after a three-run homer from Dunn, who batted .300 with five home runs and 10 RBIs in the Ohio Cup, essentially sealed the win for the Reds in the seventh and sent the bulk of the 37,079 fans home.

"[Our] guys are capable of driving in runs," Casey Blake said. "When we're not playing well, we give ourselves one or two opportunities to drive in runs -- and that's not enough."

Andrew Gribble is an associate reporter for MLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.