Pitching, hitting falter for Indians in 9-2 loss
It was a bad day on all fronts for the Indians.
The Associated Press
It was a bad day on all fronts for the Indians.
Cleveland's pitchers allowed four home runs and its batters were hitless with runners in scoring position in Saturday's 9-2 loss to Pittsburgh.
Michael Brantley's 22-game hitting streak - the longest in the majors this season - came to a halt when he went 0 for 3 with a walk. The day ended with the chant of "Let's Go Bucs" reverberating around Progressive Field as several hundred Pittsburgh fans made the trip to see the inter-league rivalry.
"They bombed us away basically," manager Manny Acta said. "Killed us with the long ball. We have to turn the page and get ready to win (Sunday)."
It's been a rocky stretch for the Indians since they took four of six to begin a recent road trip. Cleveland has been outscored 33-13 in dropping four of five. The starting pitching and bullpen have both been hit hard while the offense has struggled in all situations. The Indians were 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position Saturday and are 2-for-33 in that category in the last four games.
"The bottom of the lineup has been scuffling," Acta said. "The top of the order and the middle of the lineup have been getting on base. We're battling. That's all we can do. Half of them are doing a good job and half of them are trying to find a way."
Acta would not comment on whether the team has interest in ex-Indians slugger Manny Ramirez, released by Oakland. He deferred to general manager Chris Antonetti, who replied in an email that club policy is not to comment on specific players. The Indians' lefty-laden lineup is hitting .217 against left-handed pitchers. Ramirez, 40, is a .335 career hitter against lefties, but hasn't played in the majors since early last season.
Ubaldo Jimenez (6-5) allowed four runs in six innings, including homers to Pedro Alvarez and Casey McGhee. The right-hander gave up the latter blast at the worst possible time. Casey Kotchman's solo homer in the fifth tied the game, but Jimenez started the sixth by allowing Garrett Jones' single. McGhee followed by hitting Jimenez's first pitch over the 19-foot high wall in left field to give the Pirates a lead they never relinquished.
Asdrubal Cabrera's solo homer in the first gave Cleveland the lead, but Alvarez tied it in the second. Jones' RBI single in the third put the Pirates ahead. Kotchman's homer seemed to give the Indians some momentum, but Jimenez gave that back immediately.
"The guys came back and tied the game," Jimenez said. "As a pitcher, you want to go out there and throw a zero. It's not going to happen every time. I threw a hanging slider (to McGhee) and he made me pay for it."
Jimenez gave up seven hits, struck out six walked two. The right-hander had allowed only two earned runs in two previous starts this month after struggling in May, when he had a 6.75 ERA six starts.
Alex Presley added a solo home run off Tony Sipp in the seventh while Alvarez hit his second homer of the game - a two-run shot off Nick Hagadone in a four-run ninth.
A.J. Burnett (7-2) became the first Pittsburgh pitcher since 1990 to win six straight starts. He gave up two runs in 6 2-3 innings. Burnett extended the best stretch by a Pirates pitcher since Doug Drabek won six in a row during his NL Cy Young Award-winning season.
"He had an easy day of work," Acta said. "We didn't even run his pitch count up. He got us the whole day. We couldn't do much."
The Indians squandered a chance in the sixth. Cabrera and Jason Kipnis started the inning with singles, but Carlos Santana, who is in a 6 for 49 slump, popped out and Brantley flied out. Johnny Damon walked on four pitches, but Shelley Duncan popped to short after swinging at the first pitch.
"That was a huge inning for us," Acta said. "We had an opportunity to get back into the game and maybe take the lead. We had two of our best guys come up and unfortunately we couldn't get it done."
Brantley walked in the first, grounded out in the fourth and flied to center in the sixth. He grounded out to second in his final at-bat in the eighth. Brantley batted .337 (29 for 86) with 16 RBIs during the streak.
"It was nice to see," Acta said. "He's in a good spot right now at the plate."
The last Pirates pitcher to win six straight decisions was rookie Zach Duke in 2005. He did it over eight starts to open his career 6-0.
Burnett had not been successful at Progressive Field. He came in 1-5 with a 6.75 ERA in six previous starts in Cleveland.
NOTES: Indians DH Travis Hafner, who had right knee surgery May 24, is hitting off a tee and said he hopes to start a rehab assignment "in two weeks". ... Damon's walk was the 1,000th of his career. He is 114th all-time. ... Cleveland is 4-7 in interleague play. ... The series between the Indians and Pirates, which began in 1997, is tied 16-16. The teams play for the final time this season Sunday when Jeanmar Gomez faces Brad Lincoln in a battle of right-handers.