CLEVELAND -- It was a moment when all could have been forgiven. All the struggles at the plate. All the stranded baserunners. One clutch hit could have helped reel in a win, and really, that is all the Indians are searching for these days.
Instead, with a runner on second base and two outs, Shin-Soo Choo rolled over a curveball in grounding out to Twins first baseman Luke Hughes, sealing a 3-2 loss for the Tribe in 10 innings on Wednesday. It felt like a wasted afternoon for a Cleveland club that is trying to right a battle-worn ship.
That ship is not quite sinking, yet.
"We're very much mentally in this," Indians left fielder Michael Brantley said. "We're not holding our heads low. It's going to be a tough season. You're going to go through ups and downs."
Recently, the Tribe's days have been filled with more downs.
In their latest lapse, the American League Central-leading Indians -- for all their struggles of late, that status has held up -- received a strong eight-inning effort from starter Justin Masterson. The Tribe (34-26) even enjoyed some late heroics in the form of a game-tying home run from Jack Hannahan in the ninth inning.
Solid pitching and late-inning comebacks were a common theme throughout the Tribe's run to the top of the standings earlier this season. In the finale of a three-game set against Minnesota (23-38), those elements were only a tease. The Twins had the last laugh with the game's decisive run in the 10th inning.
The loss wrapped up a 1-6 showing on a forgettable homestand that included visits from the Rangers and Twins.
"It was a poor homestand," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "I'm very disappointed today that we couldn't get a win for Justin. I thought that he threw the ball very well. We continue to struggle at the plate. Right now, it seems like if we don't hit a home run, we can't score runs. We're just having poor at-bats."
The Indians went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position on Wednesday to extend their current drought to 1-for-40 in such situations. Entering the stand, Cleveland paced the AL with a .303 average with RISP. That figure has since fallen to .282, in light of a 3-for-42 effort over the past seven games.
Given that production, it is not hard to see why the Tribe managed only 12 runs total in the past week.
"We were hitting over .300 with runners in scoring position," Acta said. "That's impossible for any team to keep up throughout the season. But right now, guys are just expanding the zone. We're being caught in-between way too much at the plate.
"We need to go back to having quality at-bats and letting the next guy take care of business, if [pitchers] are not giving in to certain hitters."
Twins starter Carl Pavano limited Cleveland's lineup to just one run over seven innings. The Indians' lone breakthrough against the right-hander came in the sixth, when Grady Sizemore drilled an 0-1 pitch to left field for a solo home run, the center fielder's seventh of the season.
Sizemore's shot cut Minnesota's lead to 2-1. The Twins struck once in each of the third and sixth frames against Masterson, who scattered nine hits, but limited the damage with 10 outs created on the ground and no walks. Masterson ultimately escaped away with a no-decision, running his winless drought to eight starts.
Masterson is not worried about his win total.
"Not really, personally," he said. "As a team, yeah, you get frustrated, just because you want the team to win. I'd be happier than happy if we got a win today, and it doesn't necessarily go on my record. That's probably the more frustrating part.
"Personally, you can only do what you can do."
Toss out one ugly start on May 29 at Tampa Bay, and Masterson has a 3.08 ERA since his last trip to the win column on April 26. Acta said he feels for the big sinkerballer, considering how well the righty has pitched without the luxury of solid run support.
"Man, I do," Acta said. "I see a guy that is giving us an opportunity to win every five games. Except for one outing in Tampa, he's been terrific. He's been very consistent. That's not forgotten."
Hannahan's two-out blast in the ninth inning off Twins closer Matt Capps pulled the game into a 2-2 deadlock, and also provided the Indians with a glimmer of hope. It was the kind of late magic that Cleveland experienced so often in April and early May.
"That's kind of what we've always had," Masterson said. "It was like, 'All right, here we go.'"
The shine, however, quickly wore off.
In the top of the 10th inning, the Twins pieced together back-to-back two-out hits off Indians closer Chris Perez. On the second, a flare into left off the bat of Ben Revere, Drew Butera hustled around third base to try to score.
The throw from Brantley in left came in plenty of time, but it took a tough hop and ate up Cleveland catcher Lou Marson. The baseball skipped away, Butero crossed the plate and Minnesota took a 3-2 lead that held up in the end.
"It's almost impossible to catch that ball clean," Acta said. "It would've been an exceptional play if Lou would've been able to pick that ball."
The game hardly came down to just that one play, though.
There were too many missed opportunities for the Tribe before Brantley's throw.
With the exception of the eighth inning, Cleveland put at least one runner on base in every frame. In the seventh, the Tribe had runners on the corners with two outs, but shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera grounded out to end the inning.
That has been an unfortunate trend of late for the Tribe.
"We're not getting the big hit; it's not a secret," Brantley said. "I'd be the first one to say it as well. I've got to do a better job of getting big hits, and so does everybody, one through nine."