NEW YORK -- Jose Ramirez glided to his left, reached down and plucked the skipping baseball from the ground. The Indians shortstop spun and threw off-balance to first base, doing all he could to rob New York's Derek Jeter of a first-inning hit on Friday night.
The throw was on target and in time, but the ball clanked off the glove of first baseman Carlos Santana and fell to the dirt. If you have been searching for a reason why Cleveland is not in the thick of the postseason hunt, look no further than that early gaffe and the hole it helped create in a 10-6 loss to the Yankees.
All year long, routine plays have been ruinous.
"I think we all understand the type of team we need to be to win," manager Terry Francona said. "Not making teams earn every single thing they get doesn't put us in the best position to win."
Inconsistency has plagued both the offense and rotation -- the latter issue arose again in the form of Trevor Bauer's abbreviated outing -- but it has been the Tribe's defense that has been most detrimental. Coming off a three-error showing on Thursday, Cleveland saw its Major League-leading total climb to 91 on Friday.
Santana, who has mostly performed well at first base, was not charged with an error in the first inning, but the non-catch nudged the floodgate open. Jeter was credited with an infield hit -- moving him into a tie with Hall-of-Famer Honus Wagner for sixth on baseball's all-time list with 3,430 -- to begin a five-run rally for New York.
Santana said the area around first base hurt his footwork.
"The field was a little wet," Santana said. "I don't know what happened, but I tried to catch the ball and I slipped a little bit when I tried to [find] the base. The ball came and I dropped it. I know it was hard. It was a long inning. I feel bad, because I want to play good defense."
The early damage was sufficient in sending the Indians on their way to a fourth straight loss, coming directly on the heels of what had been a promising four-game winning streak.
Bauer ended with four walks in his 3 1/3 innings, which included three free passes in the opening frame. The right-hander walked Brian McCann to load the bases in the first and then proceeded to walk Chase Headley to force in a run. Stephen Drew and Martin Prado then followed with consecutive run-scoring singles to push New York ahead, 5-1.
"I start off kind of slow sometimes," said Bauer, who dropped to 4-7 on the season. "I have flashes where I just can't really come close and I can't really locate anything. I threw some pitches that I thought were strikes that weren't, and I threw some pitches that clearly were nowhere close. I ended up walking some people.
"That's a tough way to start the game off. You make a couple good pitches and are in a good spot, and then you're not all of a sudden."
It did not help matters that the Indians did little against righty Esmil Rogers -- the former Cleveland reliever making his first start with New York. The righty limited the Tribe to an RBI single by Santana in the first, turning in five solid innings after having logged no more than three frames in his previous 18 appearances this year.
The Yankees broke things open in the sixth inning, when Carlos Beltran launched a pitch from reliever John Axford deep to right-center field for a one-out grand slam. Thanks to three walks, one hit batsmen, an error by Ramirez and a pair of extra-base hits, New York posted another five spot for a 10-2 lead.
The Indians did what they could to mount a comeback, but the considerable deficit proved too much to overcome.
"That's a hard way to play," Francona said.
David Murphy contributed an RBI single in the sixth and Michael Brantley jump-started a four-run seventh by drawing a bases-loaded walk against New York reliever Shawn Kelley. Santana then came through with a two-run double and Murphy delivered a run-scoring sacrifice fly, but that is where the rally ended.
"They scored some runs," Bauer said. "Unfortunately, I wasn't able to go out there, give us some length and keep us in it."
Also unfortunate, once again, were the defensive missteps.
"We didn't make the first inning any easier," Francona said.