Rare is the game that the Indians engage in a slugfest with an opponent. That puts a premium on solid defense, which has been an area that has hurt Cleveland more than it has helped throughout the month of April.
A missed play in the field is one of the reasons that right-hander Zach McAllister is able to take the ball on only three days' rest for the Indians on Wednesday against the Angels. San Francisco scored four runs off McAllister in the fifth inning of his start Saturday and, with the Tribe losing and the pitcher's spot due up in the sixth, McAllister was pulled after only 75 pitches.
Within that four-run outburst by the Giants, two runs came when a would-be groundout eluded the glove of second baseman Jason Kipnis, resulting in a pair of runs.
"We haven't played our best defense. That's kind of stating the obvious," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "I do think we are able to play better. I think we will. I also think, when you're not scoring runs, it's [magnified]. That's not an excuse."
Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera made a fielding error in the fourth inning against the Angels on Tuesday, marking the ninth error in the last nine games for the Tribe. Cleveland had 17 errors in its past 16 games and had committed at least one error in 18 of its 27 games (25 total errors) on the season.
"If you give the opponent either extra outs or extra opportunities, it doesn't help you," Francona said. "The way we're built, probably more than other teams, the cleaner we play, it just puts ourselves in a much better position to give ourselves a chance to win."
Courtesy of his low pitch count Saturday, McAllister willingly accepted a start against the Angels on Wednesday, wrapping up Cleveland's six-game road trip. McAllister will be opposed by Los Angeles left-hander C.J. Wilson, with both pitchers entering the game riding similar hot streaks on the mound.
Over his last four turns in the Tribe's rotation, the 26-year-old McAllister has gone 3-1 with a 2.55 ERA and a .217 opponents' batting average. The 33-year-old Wilson has gone 3-1 with a 2.42 ERA and a .228 opponents' average over his last four outings for the Angels.
In a six-inning appearance in the Bronx on Friday, Wilson held the Yankees to one run on four hits en route to a 13-1 romp. That kind of result is no easy task in Yankee Stadium.
"I think one of the big things for pitching well [in New York]," Wilson said, "is you have to understand what you're getting into. You know that the fans are going to be on top of your case. When you're warming up, they're going to be calling you a bum or whatever. They have a really good lineup, and it's important to get off to a good start."
Indians: Carrasco to the bullpen
After four rocky starts, Cleveland pulled the plug on using right-hander Carlos Carrasco in the rotation. Carrasco returns to the bullpen, where he posted a 1.32 ERA in eight appearances for the Tribe last season. Francona was not sure if Carrasco would have a home in the rotation again before season's end.
"We really don't know," Francona said. "That's why when we talked to him [Monday], we didn't say he couldn't start, because I don't think we believe that. We just, 'Hey man, for now, you're in the bullpen. Attack it when you're asked to pitch. Help us win. And we'll always communicate with you.'"
Angels: Looking for an ideal closer
Although ex-Indian Joe Smith is the Angels closer for the time being, manager Mike Scioscia said the ideal situation would be for Ernesto Frieri (37 saves in 2013) to regain the role, and move Smith back to the eighth inning, or earlier. Scioscia said he views both Frieri and Smith as four-out pitchers, not one-inning specialists.
"You can really control the back end if you have both those guys pitching to their ability," Scioscia said.
• Francona gave first baseman Nick Swisher a scheduled day off Tuesday against the Angels. The Indians manager is trying to work in off-days in for his regular players now that the club is roughly a month into the season. Outfielder Michael Brantley will likely be out of the lineup Wednesday.
Swisher did make a pinch-hit appearance in the ninth inning Tuesday, striking out.
• No Angels batter has more than six career at-bats against McAllister, but the seven players who have faced the big right-hander have combined for a .360 (9-for-25) average. Mike Trout and Albert Pujols are a combined 3-for-6 with two homers and four RBIs against McAllister.
• Cleveland's first two batters, Michael Bourn and Swisher, have fared well against Wilson in their careers. Bourn has hit .412 (7-for-17) with three extra-base hits and four RBIs against Wilson, while Swisher has hit .324 (12-for-37) with seven extra-base hits and seven RBIs.