NEW YORK -- Austin Romine hit a hard chopper back up the middle, where the ball struck Indians starter Justin Masterson in the side before dropping to the grass. Masterson hustled off the mound and retrieved the baseball, but the Yankees' catcher raced up the first-base line to reach safely.
It was that kind of night for the Indians. Bruised, and beaten.
Cleveland rolled into the Bronx on Monday and was dealt a 7-4 loss at Yankee Stadium that felt more lopsided than the final score indicated. Masterson surrendered seven runs in a subpar showing, shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera was lost to a right leg injury, and the Indians lost for the 10th time in the past 14 games.
"It's a no-excuse type attitude, man," Indians first baseman Nick Swisher said. "We're not going to point fingers. We've got to pick each other up."
This was not the start Cleveland hoped for when it embarked on this nine-game, three-city venture through New York, Detroit and Texas.
The Indians (30-27) believe that can contend for a place in the postseason, and this trek will go a long way in testing the team's mettle. The Yankees, Tigers and Rangers currently represent three of the American League's top teams and a kind of gauntlet for the Indians, who are now without a planned starting pitcher, an All-Star closer and their two-time All-Star shortstop.
One loss on the field is unlikely to cost Cleveland its season.
The Tribe is also more confident this year that a loss on the roster will not initiate a tailspin.
"That's what makes this team so good," Masterson said. "We've been in a stretch right now where we haven't played as well as we'd like to, but ... I think what makes this team good, and what will in the end win it out for us, is the fact that we do have good depth."
Masterson exited after allowing nine hits, including a seventh-inning homer to former Indians slugger Travis Hafner, in 6 1/3 innings for the Cleveland.
The Yankees (32-25) first broke through against Masterson in the third inning, when the right-hander loaded the bases with a pair of base hits followed by a walk to Brett Gardner. With no outs, Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano chopped a pitch to first baseman Swisher, who quickly relayed the ball to catcher Carlos Santana for a critical forceout at the plate.
Masterson (8-4) was one pitch away from an escape act.
Instead, Mark Teixeira saw to it that the next pitch swung the momentum toward the Yankees. New York's first baseman -- in his fourth game off the disabled list -- ripped a misplaced sinker from Masterson over the right-field wall on a line and into the first row for a grand slam. Teixeira's first blast of the season (his eighth career grand slam) pushed Cleveland behind, 4-1.
"He made a really good pitch to Cano," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "It looked like we have a chance to get out of it, and then he left a first-pitch fastball that let Teixeira get his arms extended. That's a big blow."
The Indians did what they could to rally against Yankees lefty Andy Pettitte in the fifth inning. Drew Stubbs broke free from an 0-for-17 funk with a leadoff double to right field and later scored on a sacrifice fly to shallow center (caught by Cano) from Mike Aviles. Later in the frame, Santana pulled a pitch down the left-field line -- too hard for third baseman David Adams to handle -- for a two-run double that pulled the game into a 4-4 deadlock.
Pettitte departed after allowing four runs on seven hits in 4 2/3 innings for the Yankees.
"I thought we actually did a pretty good job against him," Francona said. "That's one of the last guys you want to give the lead, just because of the way he does pitch, and being a veteran. He can expand the zone. He can add and subtract. He can cut it. I thought we did a really good job of getting back into the game."
Within the Tribe's push, Cabrera grounded out to Cano and suffered a strained right quad while running up the first-base line. Cabrera, who had been playing through quad soreness since late April, tweaked his leg and nearly tripped before reaching the bag. In obvious pain, Cabrera was helped off the field by Francona and head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff.
Cabrera -- likely headed to the disabled list -- will head to Cleveland on Tuesday to undergo an MRI exam.
"Everybody knows what Cabby brings to the table," said utility man Mike Aviles, who will man shortstop while Cabrera is out. "It's definitely unfortunate when something like that happens. The good thing about this team is we have some depth, so hopefully he's not out too long and we can continue to keep our depth."
In the home half of the sixth, Romine's shot off Masterson's side ignited a game-changing rally for New York.
Romine reached with his unlikely two-out single and then stole second base to put a pair of runners in scoring position for Gardner. The Yankees' center fielder then drilled a pitch from Masterson into center field for a two-run single. On the play, Romine sprinted home from second base and Cleveland appeared to have a play at the plate.
Masterson cut off the throw from center fielder Michael Bourn, allowing Romine to score and giving New York a 6-4 advantage.
"I was frustrated about a hanging slider [to Gardner]," Masterson said. "And then I made an idiotic play to boot after that, which is not typically what I do. That's just the good Lord keeping you nice and humble once you get too excited about yourself. By no means were we very excited about ourselves tonight."