CLEVELAND -- Indians manager Terry Francona does not go overboard when it comes to calling a team meeting. Francona picks his spots to gather his players for a group session, understanding that only so much can be accomplished within the confines of a closed clubhouse.
Following a 5-0 loss to the Blue Jays on Saturday afternoon, Francona decided it was the right time to speak to his team. Toronto lefty Mark Buehrle handcuffed the Tribe's lineup, Cleveland endured a sloppy first inning in the field and the Indians limped to their seventh loss in a nine-game span.
Frustration has started to infiltrate Progressive Field.
"Sure. There's a lot of it," Francona said. "The good part from where I sit is that I know they will fight through it. We really believe in this group a lot. It's not always easy and fun, but we believe in them. That's what I hang my hat on every day; we will figure it out."
To this point in the season, it is fair to say the Indians have fallen short of expectations.
It is still early in the calendar, but Cleveland's rotation has been inconsistent, the defense has piled up an uncharacteristic amount of errors and the club's situational hitting (.208 overall with runners in scoring position) has been lacking. That combination of missteps has saddled the Tribe with a 7-10 record.
The club has hardly resembled the group that rattled off 92 wins last season en route to the American League Wild Card Game. That postseason affair was held at Progressive Field, which featured plenty of boos from a discouraged crowd during Saturday's tilt against Toronto.
"I think we're just kind of playing a little sloppy right now," Indians starter Corey Kluber said. "I don't think we're really playing the game we need to play. We're walking too many guys as a staff. When the offense goes out and scores, we're not really doing a good job picking them up and going back out and having a shutdown inning.
"Our defense hasn't been great. We're not really moving runners over, or doing the little things that we need to do to be a good team. I think [Francona] says it a lot, we're not the kind of team that can just roll out of bed and win games. We need to play the game the right way. We're just not quite doing enough of that consistently right now, and it's costing us some games."
Indians first baseman Nick Swisher, who went 0-for-4 and is batting .174 on the season, was quick to note that Cleveland opened last season with a 5-10 record. To Swisher's point, the Indians had an identical 7-10 record through 17 games before heating up later in the summer.
"We feel good," Swisher said. "It's not time to jump off the bridge just yet. We feel good about where we are. We haven't gotten that huge hit when we've needed it. But hey, that's going to happen sometimes. I feel like we're facing some good pitchers right now. We have to go out there and do a better job."
Buehrle improved to 4-0 with a 0.64 ERA on the season by blanking the Indians over seven-plus innings, ending with three strikeouts, three walks and four scattered singles. No Cleveland baserunner advanced beyond second in the loss and the Indians finished the afternoon 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position, making the club 0-for-14 in such situations in the past two games.
Buehrle collected 12 outs via ground balls on the day.
"He gets the lead and he kind of puts you in a rocking chair," Francona said. "A little fastball, cuts it in to keep you honest, expands the plate and takes something off of it. Throws a lot of changeups. You hit a ball hard to someone, you get a guy on and he'll get you to roll over. He's really good at that.
"He's obviously feeling pretty good about himself. He's throwing the ball real well right now."
The Blue Jays struck for three runs in the first two innings against Kluber, who was charged with five runs (four earned) on nine hits in 6 2/3 innings.
In the first, Melky Cabrera tripled to right (outfielder David Murphy stumbled at the wall on the play) and then scored on a bloop single from Jose Bautista, who lofted a pitch just beyond Swisher's grasp in shallow right field. Bautista then advanced to second on a passed ball and came around to score when Dioner Navarro laced a pitch from Kluber off Swisher's glove for a single.
Navarro came through again in the seventh, delivering a two-run single to center field off Kluber. Prior to that breakthrough, the Cleveland right-hander issued a two-out walk to Bautista and surrendered a double off the wall in left field to Edwin Encarnacion. Both runners came around to score.
"There were some unfortunate things in the first inning that happened," Kluber said. "Aside from a few walks on my part that led to a couple runs also, I think for the most part I did a good job of settling down and kind of holding them there until those last few hitters. I just didn't execute pitches very well."
It was undoubtedly a frustrating day for the Indians.
Swisher does not expect it to last for long.
"This team fights. We grind and we fight," Swisher said. "We're going to come back and grind it out tomorrow. Lace them up and tomorrow is all we're worried about. We can't win seven in a row. We have to start off by winning one."