The loss dropped the Indians (74-52) three games behind Minnesota in the AL Central with the Twins leading late in their game against the White Sox.
The Indians came into the game rated as one of the best defensive teams in the big leagues by Fangraphs. They did not play like it. Or at least Mercado didn’t.
In the sixth, with the score tied, 2-2, Joe Panik hit a routine fly ball to short left. Shortstop Francisco Lindor went out for the ball, but Mercado called him off. He reached for a one-handed grab, but the ball popped out of his glove and fell for his third error in three games since he was moved from center to left field.
The one-out error put Panik at second base and Shane Bieber in a mess. Pete Alonso, who won the All-Star Game Home Run Derby at Progressive Field and leads the NL with 40 homers, was at the plate. Bieber struck him out for what should have been the third out. But he still had to face Michael Conforto, who turned Bieber’s 1-2 pitch into a two-run homer to right for 4-2 lead.
It was all New York from that point on.
“Oscar did everything right but catch the ball,” said manager Terry Francona. “He called Frankie off. He didn’t look away. He just missed it. That’s going to happen.”
Said Mercado, “I just dropped it. It popped in and out of my glove. I don’t think anything really happened. I had it just like every other fly ball I’ve caught in my life. It just popped in and out of my glove.”
Bieber (12-6, 3.26) went six innings, allowed four runs, two earned. He struck out seven and walked one. Franmil Reyes replaced him as a pinch-hitter in the seventh.
“It was a matter of one pitch tonight,” said Bieber, referring to his 1-2 slider to Conforto. “I feel like that swung the whole momentum of the game. If I make a better pitch there, we probably have a different result.”
Bieber, who lost his second straight start in which he’s allowed two earned runs in six innings, said he should have been able to pick up Mercado after his error.
“He’s picked me up numerous times and I feel I should have been able to do that,” said Bieber. “I just didn’t get the pitch (to Conforto) where I wanted it.”
Cimber started the seventh against three right-handed hitters — Todd Frazier, Juan Lagares and pinch-hitter Rajai Davis, just called up from Class AAA before the game. Right-handers came into the game hitting .227 against Cimber, but Frazier singled and Lagares walked. Davis tried to advance the runners with a sacrifice bunt, but Cimber made a nice grab and throw to force Frazier at third.
But Amed Rosario, another right-handed hitter, singled to center to make it a 5-2. That was it for Cimber as Hunter Wood relieved, but the Indians couldn’t stop the Mets. Panik had an RBI single and Alonso doubled to the fence in center for an 8-2 lead. Cimber allowed three runs on two hits in one-third of an inning. In his last nine games, he’s allowed 10 earned runs and 12 hits in seven innings for a 12.86 ERA.
“This game can really bring you to your knees sometimes,” said Cimber. "You’ve just to keep moving forward and fight your way through it.
“The last couple of weeks I’ve been grinding a little bit. It’s something everybody goes through and it’s my turn now.”
Jason Kipnis gave Bieber and the Tribe a 1-0 lead off lefty Steve Matz (8-7, 4.18) in the second with a two-out homer into the second deck in right. It was his 13th homer of the season and second off a left-hander.
J.D. Davis answered Kipnis with a two-run homer in the bottom of the inning. The Indians tied the score at 2 in the fourth on an RBI single by Kipnis. Yasiel Puig reached on an error and Jose Ramirez singled to set up the score.
Matz allowed one earned run in 6 1/3 innings. He’s 6-0 with a 2.07 ERA in 12 games at home this year.
The Indians, 6-6 in interleague play, were facing the Mets in Queens for the first time since 2006.
Right-hander Adam Plutko (5-3, 4.67), coming off a win over the Yankees on Thursday, will face Marcus Stroman (7-11, 3.21) on Wednesday night at Citi Field. The game will start at 7:10 p.m. and be carried by SportsTime Ohio and WLKR 95.3 FM.