CLEVELAND -- There are nights when small things make a big difference. Maybe it's a tactical decision that doesn't work out as planned, a two-out walk that leads to the decisive run or a patch of wet grass that leads to a stumble.
On Monday, for the Indians, it was all of the above.
"It was just one of those games," first baseman Nick Swisher said.
In the finale of a four-game set at Progressive Field, Cleveland battled hard against Max Scherzer, Detroit's perfect pitcher, but could not hold off the Tigers in a 4-2 loss in 10 innings. The loss was the third in the series for the Tribe, which has dropped nine of its 12 meetings with the Motor City club this season.
Cleveland had a consistent line of baserunners but could not push enough of them across the plate when it mattered most. That was a credit to Scherzer, who remains undefeated on the season, and Detroit's bullpen, but it was also the result of some missteps along the way for an Indians club that has lost five of its past six games.
"We threatened a lot," manager Terry Francona said. "Our big chance was obviously in the ninth."
In the ninth, the game was caught in a 2-2 deadlock. Cleveland's part in the tie came courtesy of a two-run single in the second inning by Lonnie Chisenhall, who yanked the first pitch he saw from Scherzer through the raindrops and into right field following a 20-minute weather delay. Detroit plated two runs off starter Scott Kazmir in his 5 2/3 innings to pull even.
Facing right-hander Bruce Rondon in the ninth, Mark Reynolds sent a pitch into left for a leadoff single. At that juncture, Tigers manager Jim Leyland handed the ball to lefty Drew Smyly to face the lefty-swinging Chisenhall. Smyly's first pitch skipped away from catcher Brayan Pena for a passed ball that allowed pinch-runner Drew Stubbs to sprint to second.
Francona could have called for a sacrifice bunt from Chisenhall but was holding out hope that his batter could pull a pitch to advance the runner, or that the fleet-footed Stubbs could steal third. Stubbs tried to get a good jump for the latter, but the rain-soaked infield posed a problem.
"Stubby was trying to run the whole way," Francona said. "He couldn't get his footing."
Chisenhall worked his way to a 3-1 count but flied out to center field. Rondon then retired Yan Gomes and Michael Bourn to escape unscathed.
There were missed chances early on as well for the Indians, who ended the evening 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position. They loaded the bases with two outs against Scherzer in the third and came up empty. They put the leadoff man aboard in the fourth, fifth and seventh innings, and missed as well.
Scherzer finished with 117 pitches -- his final offering a 97-mph heater that struck out Jason Kipnis -- and compiled seven strikeouts against three walks. He walked away with a no-decision, keeping his 13-0 record intact thanks to Matt Tuiasosopo's game-tying home run off Kazmir in the fourth inning.
"We made him work," Francona said of Scherzer. "We made him earn everything. To his credit, he's got a lot of weapons, man. He gets it up to 97 or 98 [mph] when he needs to. He can pitch at 93 or 94. He can drop the changeup, the slider. There's a lot of different speeds and a lot of different locations."
Bourn opened the seventh with a single but was quickly caught in a costly rundown between first and second on a missed hit-and-run with Asdrubal Cabrera at the plate. That was only one in a series of baserunning mistakes.
Another came in the eighth, when Swisher sent a pitch from Rondon rolling down the third-base line. Assuming it was a foul ball, Swisher stayed at the plate, turned his back and prepared for his next swing. The ball, however, went back into fair ground. Pena scooped it up, sprinted back to the plate and tagged a stunned Swisher for the out.
"That's just a lesson learned the hard way," Francona said. "Anybody in here that knows him, he plays his heart out. He just put his head down and was walking back the other way."
The tightly contested game found its breaking point in the 10th inning.
After getting two quick outs, reliever Matt Albers issued consecutive walks to sluggers Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, who were a combined 0-for-6 to that point. Victor Martinez followed with a laser shot to the wall in center field, and the ball dropped in for a two-run double that put the Indians behind for good, 4-2.
"I'm obviously trying to just make quality pitches and not really give in," Albers said. "I kind of left one ball over the plate, and that pretty much hurt us."
The Indians had one last push in them, though.
Swisher delivered a two-out single off Joaquin Benoit in the home half of the 10th and moved to second on defensive indifference. Michael Brantley then ripped a pitch from Benoit down the right-field line for a single that should have easily scored Swisher. Unfortunately for the Indians, Swisher slipped and fell while rounding third base and was forced to retreat.
Benoit followed with a strikeout of Mike Aviles to end the game.
It was that kind of night.
"We left a small village on the sacks tonight," Swisher said. "We've got to do a little better job than that. Hey, sometimes that's how baseball goes. I felt we got great pitching all around from our guys. That really kept us in that ballgame.
"For us, obviously, it's a frustrating loss."