The Indians were one out away from a 4-2 victory when Valbuena let Aaron Hill's grounder get by him, allowing Fred Lewis to score from second. Chris Perez then served up a two-run homer to Adam Lind to give the Jays the go-ahead and, essentially, the game.
Perez didn't shy away from the fault. He was waiting at his locker for reporters, and he was accountable.
"It's easy to try to blame it on Valbuena," Perez said. "But the truth is, I didn't make pitches when I needed to. It's totally my fault. Luis didn't make those pitches. I did."
Valbuena was equally quick to take accountability for his actions.
"It was a routine ground ball," he said. "I don't make any excuse for that."
Although Perez and Valbuena handled the postgame procedures well, the fact of the matter is the Indians are now 1-5 on this homestand and had a potential confidence-builder stripped out of their hands in the final inning.
"Tough loss, tough series, tough homestand so far," manager Manny Acta said. "There's nothing more discouraging than battling for eight or 8 2/3 innings and then not winning the ballgame."
Fausto Carmona guided that battle by giving the Indians 6 1/3 effective innings. He limited the potent Jays bats to a pair of runs on seven hits with four walks and two strikeouts.
The Jays took a 1-0 lead on Carmona in the third, after Jose Bautista tripled to left on a ball that fell out of Matt LaPorta's glove at the track. Travis Snider singled to bring Bautista home.
The Indians answered right back against Brandon Morrow in the bottom of the inning when Mike Redmond walked and scored on a Grady Sizemore double to right. And in the fourth, the Tribe grabbed the lead when Travis Hafner connected with a Morrow fastball and sent it 430 feet out to right-center field for a solo shot that made it 2-1.
In the fifth, Alex Gonzalez doubled and Jose Molina singled to bring him home and tie it back up at 2. But the Indians answered again in the sixth, when they loaded the bases against Morrow and got an RBI single from Mike Redmond. The Tribe might have done more, had Mark Grudzielanek not grounded into an inning-ending double play.
And so it was a 3-2 lead that the Indians took into the late innings. Tony Sipp relieved Carmona with a man on and one out in the seventh and kept the Jays off the scoreboard. In the eighth, Perez relieved Sipp with a man on and one out and struck out Gonzalez and Bautista in succession.
Perez hadn't pitched in several days and the Indians are idle Thursday, so he was physically ready to tolerate the five-out save situation.
"The plan was to finish the last three innings with Tony Sipp and [Perez]," Acta said. "They've both been throwing well and were fresh."
And everything was going to plan. In the bottom of the eighth, Valbuena gave Perez some breathing room with an RBI double off Rommie Lewis. He seemingly gave himself a bit of breathing room, too, as Valbuena's slow start, coupled with prospect Jason Donald's hot start at Triple-A Columbus, has led to speculation that Valbuena's days as the starting second baseman might be numbered.
But Valbuena on this day was the starting shortstop because of Asdrubal Cabrera's left quadriceps tightness, which held him out of the lineup for a second straight day. And that position switch would loom large in the ninth.
Perez quickly recorded the first two outs of the inning, and the sparse crowd at Progressive Field was on its feet. They were momentarily silenced when Lewis ripped a double to right, but when Hill sent a roller in Valbuena's direction, the game appeared over.
Not so fast. Valbuena perhaps got ahead of himself, because he lifted his head as the ball scooted through his legs and into the outfield. Lewis motored home easily, and the score was 4-3.
Acta didn't think the position change affected Valbuena, who played quite a bit of shortstop last year.
"A ground ball is a ground ball," Acta said. "I feel bad for the kid, but we win as a team and we lose as a team."
Acta made a visit to the mound to ensure Perez was in the right frame of mind after the error, and Perez assured his skipper that he was ready to attack the next hitter. But he hung a 1-2 fastball to Lind, who made him pay.
"I felt good in that situation that I could get the next guy out," Perez said. "I threw him a fastball that caught too much of the plate."
Moments later, Valbuena only drew more attention to himself when he booted a low liner off the bat of Vernon Wells for his second error of the inning. Acta, however, made it clear that the Indians were not considering making a move with Valbuena as a result of his eventful ninth inning.
"For the same reason I wasn't going to put him in the Hall of Fame when he hit a two-out RBI double to put us ahead by two [in the eighth]," Acta said. "We can't be reacting to every good game or bad game."