By CHRIS ASSENHEIMER
CLEVELAND â€” The Indiansâ€™ longest winning streak since 2002 came to an end at the hands of the American Leagueâ€™s worst team â€” the Seattle Mariners.
In an ironic twist to an already strange season, the Indians saw their 10-game winning streak halted in a 3-2 loss to the Mariners, a club that entered the night 31 games out of first place and 33 games under .500.
Cleveland was a victory away from matching its longest winning streak since 1982, but instead lost for just the fourth time in its last 20 tries in a game that was delayed 55 minutes at the start by rain.
Offense was at a minimum for both teams, which combined for 17 hits with few of them making an impact.
The Indians had an excuse, facing Seattle ace Felix Hernandez, who came in with a mediocre 8-8 record, but a quality 3.28 ERA and a powerful arm that has been marked for stardom since he broke into the big leagues in 2005.
Hernandez limited the Indians to two runs through six innings, with Clevelandâ€™s inability to produce with runners in scoring position helping him to victory No. 9.
The Indians went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position against Hernandez â€” 0-for-10 overall â€” grounding into two inning-ending double plays against the right-hander in the situation.
â€œThat was the difference in the ballgame,â€ said Indians manager Eric Wedge. â€œWe were one hit away too many times.
â€œYou felt like somebody was going to do something. Thatâ€™s the way things have been going, but we just werenâ€™t able to finish off innings.â€
Jeremy Sowersâ€™ start was a brief one, with the left-hander lasting just five innings, while allowing three runs on seven hits.
Sowers (2-7, 5.92) surrendered all of his runs within the first three innings and all of them on RBI from Mariners left fielder Raul Ibanez. Ibanez put Seattle in front with a single in the opening inning, then gave the Mariners a 3-1 lead with a two-run home run in the third.
â€œJeremy battled,â€ Wedge said. â€œThey made him work, but he gave us a chance to win the ballgame.â€
The Indians cashed in for single runs in consecutive innings (third and fourth), with a Jamey Carroll ground out plating the first and Shin-Soo Choo producing Clevelandâ€™s only RBI hit with a double that scored Victor Martinez from first.
The Indians put the leadoff batter aboard in the eighth when David Dellucci singled off Mariners reliever Roy Corcoran, but the rally was spoiled when Jhonny Peralta followed by bouncing into a double play. Cleveland produced consecutive singles from Martinez and Choo after the double play before Franklin Gutierrez flew out to right to end the threat.
The Indians went in order in the ninth against Seattle closer J.J. Putz, who struck out the first two batters he faced â€” Kelly Shoppach and pinch hitter Ben Francisco.
Martinez was activated before the game, returning to the lineup for the first time since June 11 after recovering from elbow surgery.
Starting at first base, Martinez went 1-for-3, reaching base twice on a walk and a single to left in his final at-bat.
â€œHe looked good,â€ Wedge said of Martinez, who is not expected to play today. â€œHe swung the bat decent. It was a good first night for him.â€
Assenheimer may be reached at email@example.com or 440-329-7137.