A fourth-inning collision at home plate gave Toronto's bench a jolt, prompting the Blue Jays to storm the field in defense of their catcher. The confrontation poured some life into both clubs, but it was the Indians who managed a late-inning rally that sent the Jays to their lockers with heads down and spirits dashed.
Cleveland's final blow came in the eighth, when Grady Sizemore sent a pitch from Toronto reliever Jason Frasor bouncing into the stands in right-center field for a ground-rule double. That scored the game's decisive run, and sealed a 6-5 loss for the Blue Jays, who have been swept at The Jake in three of the last four seasons.
"A big hit here or there, a shut-down inning here or there, and we win these games that are tight," said Toronto manager John Gibbons, whose squad is 3-7 in one-run games this year. "We're not getting blown out. [The losses] are tough. They hurt, but you can't let up. You have to show up tomorrow and keep pounding away. Eventually, it goes your way."
Things briefly turned in Toronto's favor with two outs in the fourth inning, when the Jays (13-15) were ahead, 4-3. Sizemore lined a pitch to center off right-hander Dustin McGowan, and the ball bounced off the glove of Toronto's Alex Rios for an error.
That sent Josh Barfield sprinting around the bases from first and toward home plate for the Indians (16-8). Rios retrieved the ball from the grass and threw to shortstop John McDonald, who then relayed it toward home, where catcher Jason Phillips prepared for impact.
Phillips blocked the plate, and managed to maintain control of the baseball during a hard collision with Barfield. The final out of the frame was in the books, but when Phillips stood up, he turned toward Barfield and yelled at the baserunner -- comments the catcher admitted weren't family-friendly.
David Dellucci, who was on deck for Cleveland, stormed over to the catcher and pushed him as he barked in defense of his teammate. McGowan, who allowed five runs in five innings, ushered Barfield away from the fracas while the benches and bullpens for both teams spilled onto the field.
"I haven't been run over in a while. I just got excited and said a few things -- nothing at him," Phillips explained. "My stuff was behind him. He knocked my glasses off, and my helmet. So, as soon as I went around him to get it, that's when Dellucci, he was just sticking up for his teammate.
"He thought I meant more than I did and it kind of looked that way. It was in the heat of the moment, and it got out of hand there for a little bit. It was a clean play, and hard baseball."
The umpires quickly put an end to any potential brawl, and no one involved in the minor conflict was ejected. Gibbons didn't have any qualms with what took place.
"That's just two teams trying to win. It's an emotional game -- nothing wrong with that," Gibbons said. "That's just part of the game. The umpires did the right thing, leaving everybody in there."
In the fifth, a fired-up Dellucci made an impressive diving catch on a would-be hit by Toronto's Adam Lind, and the Cleveland left fielder led off the bottom half of the frame with a double off McGowan. The Indians went on to tag McGowan -- called up to fill in for injured left-hander Gustavo Chacin -- for two more runs that inning, putting Toronto behind, 5-4.
"That's how we're going to play the game," Dellucci said. "We're going to play the game hard, we're going to play it respectfully and if somebody gets in our face, we're not going to stand it. We're going to do something about it and I expect everyone else on this team to act that way."
With one out in the sixth, Phillips strolled into the batter's box to a chorus of boos from the crowd. He then stroked an offering from Indians starter Cliff Lee down the left-field line for a double to score Lyle Overbay, knotting the score at 5. While standing on second base, Phillips explained his actions to Barfield.
"I guess he thought it was a cheap shot or something," Barfield said. "But it's part of the game. He said he just got caught up in the moment. There's no bad blood or anything."
Sizemore sent another drive to center field in the eighth, but this blast was well beyond Rios' reach. After retiring two quick outs, Frasor (1-1) gave up consecutive singles to Cleveland's Mike Rouse and Barfield. Sizemore followed with double to the gap in right-center field, putting the Tribe ahead for good.
"It's been very discouraging," said a somber Frasor, who has allowed seven runs in his last 2 1/3 innings. "It's been a long week. What can you do? Nothing I can do now but keep pounding the zone."
And try to put Cleveland in the rear-view mirror as soon as possible.
The Blue Jays are just 1-11 at Jacobs Field over the past three years, and they haven't won on the road vs. the Tribe since 2005. Then again, Toronto is 3-13 over that same time period at its next destination: Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
"It'll be good to get out of town, I'll tell you that," Gibbons said. "Now we go to Texas. That place hasn't been real friendly to us either."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.