CLEVELAND -- In the final game before the All-Star break, the Indians' two All-Stars did what they've rarely done this season -- they made mistakes.
Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera committed an error at a critical moment in the sixth inning on Sunday afternoon against the Rays, and closer Chris Perez blew his first save since Opening Day.
Those mistakes proved costly as the Indians blew an early five-run lead and suffered a 7-6 loss to Tampa Bay in the final game of a four-game series at Progressive Field. The Indians (44-41) led 6-4 in the ninth before Perez entered the game.
"We can't get on these two guys just for one game," Indians manager Manny Acta said of Cabrera and Perez. "These guys are responsible for where we're at today. You can't expect every single one of these guys to be on top of their game every single day. They have carried us for a lot of games. So when they don't have a good one, hang with them."
The ninth inning began like it often does in a save situation -- with a Perez strikeout. The big right-hander got Jose Lobaton, but he failed to hit his spots after that. Perez gave up a solo blast to the next hitter, Will Rhymes, cutting the Indians lead to just one. It was Rhymes' first home run of the season.
"I was trying to come in, left it over the plate," Perez said.
That began a Tampa Bay rally that included four consecutive hits and three runs. Elliot Johnson singled to center, and Carlos Pena tied the game with an RBI triple. Indians center fielder Michael Brantley made a diving attempt to catch Pena's slicing liner, but the ball landed and rolled past Brantley into left-center field. If he didn't dive, Brantley likely could have held Pena to a single on the play.
Ben Zobrist provided the go-ahead run with an RBI single to right. After converting 24 consecutive save opportunities, Perez had finally blown one.
"He put together a great run," said setup man Vinnie Pestano. "Closers can't be perfect every time. Going 24-for-26, you'll take that every first half. He does a tremendous job, and sometimes things just don't go your way. Sometimes you're gonna have those games."
The Indians threatened in the bottom of the ninth when they put runners on first and third with two out, but Casey Kotchman grounded out to end the game.
While Perez's mistakes in the ninth will likely be the ones everyone remembers, Cabrera's miscue in the sixth inning was just as costly. After the Indians had jumped out to a 5-0 lead behind solid pitching from starter Zach McAllister, they let the Rays back in the game.
With one out in the sixth, Pena hit a soft roller at Cabrera who, on the shift, was playing on the right side of the infield. Cabrera charged the ball and made an underhand flip to Kotchman at first, but first-base umpire Gary Darling called Pena safe. Acta said replays showed that Pena was out.
The next hitter was Zobrist, who hit a ground ball to second baseman Jason Kipnis. Kipnis threw to Cabrera at second in an attempt to get the lead runner, but the ball fell out of Cabrera's mitt and everybody was safe. The Rays proceeded to score four runs in the inning on two-run doubles by Luke Scott and Desmond Jennings.
"It's part of the game," McAllister said. "As a pitcher, you want to pick up your guys, get outs, and not let the runs score. I was not able to do that today."
The loss spoiled another solid start by McAllister, who allowed his first hit of the game with one out in the fifth inning. The right-hander had his offspeed pitches working, as he struck out seven hitters over the first four innings, and eight overall. McAllister allowed four runs -- all unearned -- on four hits in 5 2/3 innings.
The bullpen was solid behind McAllister until the ninth. Pestano escaped potential danger in the eighth when he struck out Jennings with two runners on. Jennings fouled off a number of tough pitches during the 11-pitch battle, but Pestano got the best of him.
Perez was not able to do the same in a similar situation in the ninth. But after the first half he had, it was hard for the Indians to be disappointed because of one outing.
"I'll take my chances again getting into the ninth inning with Chris on the mound," Acta said. This guy has been fantastic for us."
Justin Albers is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.