After Saturday night's 11-6 loss to the Red Sox, the Tribe is not only on the verge of getting swept in a four-game set at Fenway Park but is also in real danger of finishing last in the American League Central for the first time since the division was created in 1994.
The Indians, who have already ensured themselves their worst record since going 57-105 in 1991, and Royals are in a tie for last. Both clubs are 65-96.
"Obviously, it's a bad situation to be in," starter Aaron Laffey said. "You don't want to finish last."
More than just that dubious distinction is on the line. On Sunday, a Cleveland loss, combined with a Kansas City win, would give the Tribe the No. 4 overall selection in the June First-Year Player Draft next year. Any other outcome would give the Indians the fifth pick.
Laffey wasn't thinking about Draft selection or the standings when he took the mound. He was just trying to end a solid season on a solid note. But his night went sour quickly, as the Red Sox tagged him for a seven-run second inning -- capped by Victor Martinez's grand slam -- and never looked back.
On the whole, Laffey has been a bright spot in the rotation. But in giving up eight runs on seven hits with two walks, four strikeouts, two homers and a balk in an eventful two innings of work, he ended the year with a night to forget.
"I just wasn't making pitches," he said. "It was one of those games. I'm not going to harp on it. I feel I had a good season."
What made Laffey's outing all the more frustrating for the Indians was the fact that a laboring offense got him some early run support. The Tribe had averaged just 3.1 runs per game in their previous 19 games, but they cranked out four runs in the first two innings of this one.
The Tribe bats quickly ripped into Red Sox starter Josh Beckett for a pair of runs in the first. Michael Brantley led off with a single, and Asdrubal Cabrera doubled to put two runners in scoring position. A Shin-Soo Choo groundout allowed Brantley to score, and Travis Hafner scored Cabrera with a single.
Laffey gave one of those runs back when Dustin Pedroia torched him with a leadoff blast on a 3-2 pitch in the bottom of the first. But in the second, Brantley singled to bring home Lou Marson, who had doubled. Brantley later came in to score on Hafner's fielder's choice to make it 4-1.
"We came out shooting," manager Eric Wedge said. "We swung the bats better."
Not better than the Red Sox, though.
The Tribe's lead wouldn't last long, because Laffey completely fell apart in the bottom of the second.
The Red Sox loaded the bases off Laffey, setting up Brian Anderson's RBI single that made it 4-2. Laffey then balked home a run, opening up first base.
"I just dropped the ball," Laffey said, literally. "I've never balked like that before. I've done crazy things, but I've never just dropped the ball like that. I don't know if it hit my leg as I was bringing it up or what, but it just fell out of my hand."
After striking out Joey Gathright, Laffey intentionally walked Pedroia to reload the bases. Jason Bay ripped an RBI single, and Martinez launched a grand slam to right-center field to cap the seven-run inning and make it 8-4.
"I was trying to throw him a good sinker down and away," Laffey said. "It was up and away. He's good at taking those pitches and shooting them to right-center. If the ball was down, it could have been a double play. But it was up."
That was Laffey's last inning of work, and reliever Jensen Lewis served up a two-run blast to Anderson -- the 13th homer allowed by Lewis this year -- to make it 10-4. The Tribe got a two-run homer out of Shin-Soo Choo in the seventh, but they never fully recovered.
The Indians have dropped a club-record 14 consecutive road games and 26 of their past 34 overall to fall into last. The question is whether they can climb out in the season finale.
"You've got to take pride in yourself and not want to be that team," Laffey said.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.