SEATTLE -- Nick Swisher did not look back. The Indians designated hitter put his head down and sprinted from first to third base, hoping that the play developing behind him would result in Cleveland having runners on the corners with a chance at a comeback on Friday night.
What Swisher did not see was Seattle first baseman Logan Morrison booting the two-out grounder sent his way by Indians center fielder Michael Bourn. Morrison's blunder sent the baseball bouncing into the infield grass, but in the direction of third base. The first baseman recovered the ball and fired it across the diamond, where Swisher was easily thrown out at third to end the seventh inning.
"I just think that's an aggressive mistake," Swisher said after the Indians' 3-2 loss to the Mariners. "In that situation, I'm running on the play. Never in a million years did I think he was going to be coming to third base with that ball. Then, after watching the replay, he booted it and then kicked it."
The baserunning gaffe loomed large given the tightly contested nature of the defeat for the Tribe. In the opener of this three-game set at Safeco Field, starter Trevor Bauer gave the Indians a solid outing, but the low offensive output spoiled some solid pitching and defense on the part of the Tribe.
"We just weren't able to score," Indians manager Terry Francona said.
Cleveland (38-41) looked to have an opening in the seventh, when Swisher ended a drought of 46 plate appearances without a walk by drawing a free pass against Seattle reliever Danny Farquhar. The Indians had been subdued across the first six frames, which included five solid innings turned in by Mariners starter Chris Young.
Swisher entered the evening with a .196 average, was dropped to the lineup's eighth spot for the first time since 2011 and had gone hitless in his first two at-bats in the game. Drawing a walk was a step forward for the struggling designated hitter and Morrison's fielding gaffe was a chance to put Cleveland one step closer to knotting the score.
Francona said Swisher's mistake was not seeing the misplayed ball and holding up at second.
"Swish was running hard," said the manager, "but had his head down."
During Young's time on the mound, Cleveland's lone breakthrough came courtesy of a bases-loaded, sacrifice fly from Michael Brantley with one out in the third inning. The Indians' push in that inning went no further and Young set things up nicely for Seattle's stellar bullpen, which finished the job to send Bauer to his fouth loss of the season.
"I don't really think I've done a good job myself," said Bauer, who has a 4.39 ERA in nine outings. "That's what's most frustrating. I feel like I can do a much better job."
Over 6 1/3 innings, Bauer relinquished three runs on nine hits against the Mariners (43-37), who have won nine of their past 12 games.
In the fourth, Bauer was the beneficiary of an impressive double play -- one initiated by Brantley in left-center field. The left fielder made a leaping grab at the wall to rob Mariners catcher Mike Zunino of an extra-base hit, and then Brantley relayed the ball to shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, who doubled up Morrison at first for the second out.
For Brantley, it marked his ninth outfield assist, putting him one behind Oakland's Yoenis Cespedes for the Major League lead.
"You almost start expecting him to make plays like that, because he does it so often," Bauer said of Brantley. "I think it'd be easy to overlook exactly how difficult that play is and what a good play it was. It was a big play to keep us in it at that point."
Unfortunately for Cleveland, Bauer followed that twin killing by allowing the next three batters to reach base. Michael Saunders capped off that rally with an RBI single that put the Indians behind, 2-1. Seattle then added an unlikely insurance run in the bottom of the seventh.
With one out, Chavez -- with no home runs in his previous 265 plate appearances -- lifted a 1-1 offering from Bauer deep to right field for a solo shot that put the Indians in a 3-1 hole. The blast marked Chavez's first since May 30 last season and brought an end to Bauer's part in the evening.
"It was down and out of the zone," Bauer said of the cutter. "That's not a guy I'm really expecting to do much damage. Shoot, that was his first home run this year."
That homer proved important, considering Cleveland's final comeback attempt.
Facing closer Fernando Rodney in the ninth inning, Swisher got a bit of redemption by pulling an 0-2 offering into right field for a one-out single. Two batters later, Bourn delivered an RBI single to right to score Swisher from second, pulling the Indians to within one run. Rodney then retired Cabrera to collect his 22nd save of the season
"We kind of battled back right there," Swisher said. "Huge hit by Bourny in the ninth -- just not enough. But, it's all right. We're going in the right direction. We're moving and everybody seems to be getting their game back again."