Missed opportunities and consistent inconsistency on the mound put the Indians on the short end of the stick for the fifth consecutive series opener.
Despite outhitting the Blue Jays 8-6, the Tribe grounded into three inning-ending double plays and fell victim to Kevin Pillar’s game-saving catch to lose 4-2 on Monday night at the Rogers Centre.
Trevor Bauer allowed a two-run blast to a hitter with 13 career home runs while the Indians left 18 runners on base and batted .083 (1-for-12) with runners in scoring position.
Missed opportunities and a web gem
Marcus Stroman lived on the edge all game long by working in and out of run-scoring situations in the second, fourth, fifth and sixth innings.
"Early on, we really barreled up some balls," manager Terry Francona said to reporters. "As he got into the game a little bit, you're one pitch away from rolling over (and) hitting into a double play, which we did. There's just so much life on what he throws."
Yandy Diaz, Jose Ramirez and Roberto Perez all grounded into twin-killers before Ramirez was robbed of extra-bases on Pillar’s full extension dive to the warning track in dead center field.
"That was one of the better plays I've seen in a long time," said Francona. "That was a game-changing play."
Bauer allows four, throws career-high 125 pitches
Early-inning damage defined a rather pedestrian outing for Bauer as he surrendered a two-run homer to Ryan Goins in the second and two-run single to Justin Smoak in the third to put his club in a 4-0 rut.
"I thought his stuff was real good," Francona said. "I didn't think the pitch to Goins – it was up-and-in – I didn't think it was that bad. Just think maybe (it's) a pitch he's looking for and he hit it good."
Bauer recovered and retired nine of the final 12 hitters he faced to finish with a final line of 6 IP, 6 H, 4 R/ER, 3 BB, 6 K (125 pitches, 77 strikes, 61.6%, six groundouts, one flyout).
"He still threw a lot of pitches," said Francona. "To his credit, he wanted to keep pitching. I think he felt like it would be good for him. Mickey (Callaway) and I were okay with it. He went out and got them out (and) gave us a chance."
Late comeback proves too little, too late
A change in pitchers helped Cleveland break the scoring barrier as Danny Barnes issued a free pass to Roberto Perez and double to Carlos Santana to exit the eighth inning in a heap of trouble.
Former Indians sidewinder Joe Smith relieved Barnes and set down three of the four batters in his appearance. Amid the promising rally was Francisco Lindor’s RBI single to plate Perez and Santana and cut the deficit to 4-2. Lindor was caught in a rundown on the play, but reached second base safely on an interference error by Devon Travis.
Encarnacion returns to Toronto
Edwin Encarnacion acknowledged a warm welcome from the Toronto faithful before his first at-bat and eventual 2-for-3 performance at the plate.
"I thought it was a tremendous response to him," Francona said. "I thought it was really classy by [Toronto] and he looked like he was touched."
The 34-year-old logged seven seasons with the Blue Jays before signing with the Tribe in January.
Central Division update
The Royals (11-20) picked up a 7-3 win over the Rays to pick up a game in the divisional ladder.
Game 2 between the Indians and Blue Jays is scheduled for Tuesday at 7:07 p.m. ET from the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Canada.
RHP Carlos Carrasco (3-2, 2.18) has yet to allow more than three runs in a start this season after delivering six innings of two-run ball last Wednesday against Detroit.
RHP Mike Bolsinger (0-0, -.--) will make his 2017 debut in place of the injured Aaron Sanchez and J.A. Happ. The 29-year-old journeyman has spent time with the Dodgers and Diamondbacks before he was traded to Toronto last August.
John Alfes has covered the Indians for IBI since August of 2016. Follow him on Twitter @JohnAlfes for breaking news and in-depth coverage all season long.