CLEVELAND -- The Indians came up empty in their quest to reel in a starting pitcher in the hours and minutes leading up Thursday's non-waiver Trade Deadline. The need for improvement remains for Cleveland's rotation, and that was made clear again against the Mariners.
In the finale of the season series with Seattle, right-hander Zach McAllister labored in another abbreviated effort for Cleveland. McAllister's missteps heaped too much pressure on the Tribe's bullpen, creating a formula that led to a 6-5 loss to the Mariners at Progressive Field.
The defeat knocked the Indians another step back in their pursuit of the postseason picture, but the players are trying not to be discouraged by the lack of reinforcements at the Deadline.
"You can look at it two ways," Indians closer Cody Allen said. "You can look at it as, we have the pieces here that we feel like we can win with. We're still right there within striking distance of that second Wild Card spot. We've got a lot of guys here that this organization is going to build itself around for the next few years and if you add a guy, it may push a guy out.
"So, the way I look at it is, we've got the pieces we need already here."
Three of those core players -- Jason Kipnis, Michael Brantley and Carlos Santana -- led an offensive attack that nearly helped the Indians to the comeback win, but setup man Bryan Shaw faltered late. The loss added some sting for Cleveland's players after the front office traded away starter Justin Masterson (Cardinals) and shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera (Nationals) in the 48 hours prior to the 4 p.m. ET Deadline.
The Indians reeled in a pair of upper-level prospects in the deals -- outfielder James Ramsey and infielder Zach Walters -- but the club was unable to add to its Major League roster. Cleveland had interest in righty John Lackey (traded to the Cardinals by the Red Sox) and had loosely been linked to lefty David Price (sent from Tampa Bay to Detroit in a three-team swap), but the Tribe did not pull the trigger for a pitcher.
"I hated losing Masty and Cabby," Allen said. "Because I feel like those guys were as big a part of this organization as anybody. Cabby was the last guy from the '07 [playoff] team, so he brings a lot. Masty's been the workhorse of our rotation for the last however many years. He means a ton to this team on and off the field. So, I hated losing those guys, but we've still got a chance."
Behind rotation leader Corey Kluber, Cleveland has mixed and matched and shuffled arms back and forth between Triple-A and the Majors all season. McAllister opened the year in the starting staff, spent time on the disabled list, worked through some kinks in the Minors and recently earned a promotion back to Cleveland.
Against the Mariners, McAllister's familiar issues arose once again in a no-decision.
"When Zach's looked good, he's down with his fastball," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "And even when he doesn't really locate in or out, if he's down, he's OK. When he's up, balls start to get elevated. And they were getting under some of the offspeed pitches"
The big right-hander relied heavily on his fastball and surrendered four runs (two on a home run from Dustin Ackley in the third) on eight hits before Francona pulled the plug after 64 pitches and 3 1/3 innings. Over his past seven starts for the Indians, dating back to May 10, McAllister has gone 0-4 with a 9.88 ERA, 1.98 WHIP and .345 opponents' batting average in 27 1/3 innings.
"It's definitely something you can work through," said McAllister, who has a 5.91 ERA this season. "It's a thing of being able to do it. I've done it before, I know I can do it. It's just getting back to it."
Cleveland's bullpen -- fully rested in the wake of Kluber's 85-pitch shutout on Wednesday -- handled the remainder of the frames admirably in an effort to buy the Tribe's offense time.
Facing Mariners right-hander Chris Young, Kipnis opened the first inning with a double to deep center field. Two batters later, Cleveland was on the board thanks to an RBI single off the bat of Brantley. In the third, Kipnis added a two-run homer -- his sixth of the season -- to cut Seattle's lead to 4-3. Cleveland knotted things up when Brantley tripled and scored on a sacrifice fly from Santana.
The deadlock held until the seventh, when Santana ripped a pitch from Mariners righty Danny Farquhar into left field for a run-scoring single that pushed the Tribe ahead, 5-4.
"I thought we did a really good job," Francona said.
That slim advantage proved short-lived for Cleveland, though.
In the eighth inning, Francona handed the ball to Shaw, who issued a leadoff walk to Kyle Seager. Seattle catcher Mike Zunino followed by launching a 2-0 offering from the reliever out to left field for a two-run homer, celebrating the blast with a fist pump as the Mariners grabbed a 6-5 lead.
"You know when you go to your bullpen that early, if somebody has a hiccup, it's runs," Francona said. "Our guys did a really good job when we turned it over. Shaw uncharacteristically wasn't commanding."
It was the kind of loss that showed again that the Indians have a steep uphill climb to chase down the Royals and Tigers in the American League Central. And, while Cleveland could not add a starter at the Deadline, the rich got richer with Price heading to Detroit.
"They felt like they needed to get a starter and they went out and got one," Allen said. "They got a starter in David Price, who's going to help them try to win some ballgames and go deep in the postseason. But, we're going to do our part to stay in this thing and hopefully meet up with them."