CINCINNATI -- The only fault that falls on the shoulders of the Indians' bullpen is that the group transformed a tightly contested battle into a blowout loss on Tuesday night. Reds starter Johnny Cueto was strong enough to make any type of defeat hold up.
Cleveland's lineup looked hapless against Cueto during his complete-game performance, but that is how things can go when a team faces an elite arm. It was the late-inning collapse by the Tribe's bullpen that felt more troublesome in the wake of the 7-1 loss at Great American Ball Park.
"It was a pretty close ballgame," Indians manager Manny Acta said, "until they just blew it open against our bullpen."
Sipp surrendered a game-changing two-run home run to Reds slugger Joey Votto in the seventh and then Cincinnati piled on three runs against Accardo an inning later. It was more than enough cushion to send Cueto to the victory, and also sufficient in sealing a loss for Tribe starter Jeanmar Gomez after he gave up two runs (one earned) over five.
The woes of Sipp and Accardo seemed magnified, considering the Indians swung a trade earlier on Tuesday to acquire hard-throwing right-hander Esmil Rogers from the Rockies. Colorado will receive cash and Rogers will join the Indians in Cincinnati on Wednesday to fill a role within the team's relief corps.
When Rogers arrives, the Indians will need to remove someone from the active roster.
"He's going to be here tomorrow," Acta said after Tuesday's loss. "We're taking a chance to see if we can get him over here and take advantage of it. He's fairly young with a very good arm. We'll take a flier on him and see if we can make some adjustments with him and help him out."
Rogers, 26, has hardly enjoyed a banner season with the Rockies. Over 23 appearances, the righty posted an 8.06 ERA with a 2.10 WHIP. The Indians are intrigued, however, by the fact that Rogers has averaged over 96 mph with his fastball, which could give their bullpen a powerful arm.
"He will go into our Major League bullpen once he reports to the team," Indians general manager Chris Antonetti wrote in an e-mail. "With a well-above average fastball and quality slider, we feel he has the potential to be a valuable Major League reliever."
That means something has to give in the big league bullpen.
The most vulnerable candidates currently with the Tribe would seem to be rookie left-hander Scott Barnes, and perhaps Accardo or Sipp. Of those three, Sipp has played the largest role for the Indians over the past few seasons and he has spent the most time with the team this year.
That said, Sipp has also experienced consistent struggles this season. The lefty has a 6.65 ERA in 26 appearances for Cleveland, which has searched for ways to maximize his ability. Acta has tried to limit Sipp to facing left-handed hitters as much as possible, considering he had held them to a .163 average, entering Tuesday.
Right-handed batters boasted a .385 average against Sipp.
"We have to continue to try to find a way to get him going," Acta said. "Right now, it'll be just trying to match him up against lefties. ... This guy's been very good for us for three-plus years, so we need to find a way to get him going."
In the seventh inning, with the Reds clinging to a 2-1 lead, Acta handed the ball to Sipp to face the lefty-hitting Votto with one runner aboard. Sipp slipped into a 2-0 count and followed with an ill-fated slider. Votto licked his chops, unleashed his powerful swing and sent the ball hurtling over the left-field wall for a two-run blast.
It marked Votto's 11th homer of the season for the Reds.
"I was trying to just keep it down," Sipp said. "I left it up and he's a good hitter, so he hit it out."
Votto -- playing through a stomach bug -- has made a name by crushing such mistakes.
"Votto hits everybody," Acta said. "Tony's pretty effective against lefties, but he had to lay one right down the middle of the plate on 2-0 because of pitching behind. [Votto] made him pay for it."
That home run, combined with Cincinnati's three-run push in the eighth (aided by an RBI single from Votto), armed Cueto with the lead he needed to cruise to the win. After giving up one run in the first inning on an RBI single from Jason Kipnis, Cueto settled in and set Cleveland's hitters down.
Cueto logged 122 pitches, struck out seven and walked none over nine stellar innings.
"You tip your cap to Cueto," Acta said. "He's one of the best pitchers in the National League. We ran into him on a tough night."