CLEVELAND — The best thing that can be said about the Indians’ homestand to open the second half of the season is that it was brief.
Looking pretty much like the team that owned the American League’s worst record at the All-Star break, the Indians dropped three of four games to the Mariners — the capper a 5-3 setback Sunday.
Following an off-day, Cleveland will begin a nine-game road trip Tuesday on a three-game losing streak and with nine losses in its last 13 games.
Though it was another lethargic loss for the lackluster Indians, this defeat had an agonizing finish.
After doing little offensively for the majority of the day, the Indians had a runner aboard in the ninth inning against Seattle closer David Aardsma and a slumping Victor Martinez coming to the plate with two outs.
Martinez hit a towering fly to right field that gave the 20,900 fans at Progressive Field and the Indians a brief glimmer of hope that was quashed when eight-time Gold Glove Award winner Ichiro Suzuki leaped at the wall to snare the drive.
Replays showed the ball would not have gotten over the wall, but it could have scored Shin-Soo Choo from first to cut the deficit to one.
“When he first hit it, I thought it was going to go,” said Indians manager Eric Wedge. “(Suzuki) made a great catch with the game on the line.”
“I hit it pretty good but it was too high,” said Martinez, who went 0-for-5 and had just two hits in the four-game set. “I was just hoping to get some help from the wind.”
Seven pitches into the game from Cleveland starter Aaron Laffey and the Indians were down 2-0 after a Suzuki leadoff single followed by Russell Branyan’s 23rd homer of the season.
Seattle scored again in the first on a single from another ex-Indian, Franklin Gutierrez, but Laffey found it from there, shutting out the Mariners the rest of the way. The left-hander wound up allowing the three runs on eight hits over six innings, retiring the last seven hitters he faced.
“After the three runs I wasn’t upset or anything like that,” Laffey said. “I was around the plate and they hit the ball. I just really went with what I had in the first inning. I was just maybe locating a tad bit better.”
“Obviously, he struggled coming out of the gate, but he righted himself and gave us a chance to win the game,” Wedge said of the left-hander, who made his second start since being activated following a month-plus stint on the disabled list with an oblique injury.
Ben Francisco snapped an 0-for-12 skid with a two-run homer off starter Erik Bedard to draw the Indians within a run in the second inning. But despite having runners aboard in four of the five innings Bedard worked, Cleveland mustered little.
With Bedard in the dugout and Seattle relievers on the mound, the Indians did next to nothing.
After second baseman Jose Lopez’s error on Martinez’s routine grounder allowed the Indians to score the tying run in the fifth, the Mariners’ relief core surrendered just two hits over the final 4 1/3 innings.
Meanwhile, Seattle tacked on against Cleveland’s bullpen, scoring once in the eighth off Rafael Betancourt and once in the ninth against closer Kerry Wood.
Gutierrez led off the eighth with a base hit and scored the go-ahead run on pinch hitter Jack Hannahan’s sacrifice fly, then drove in an insurance run in the ninth on a fielder’s-choice grounder that shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera failed to field cleanly, nixing the double play.
Outside of Lopez, the Mariners played well in the field, while the Indians were errorless but sloppy. Cabrera’s play, a dropped throw by second baseman Luis Valbuena in the eighth, a hit batter and four wild pitches stood out.
“They played real well defensively,” Wedge said. “We need to do a better job offensively, but we hit some balls hard and they made the plays.”
Cleveland, one of the majors’ highest-scoring teams, didn’t generate much offense over the four games against Seattle, which entered the series with the best pitching in the AL. The Indians scored 10 runs — six over the final three games — while batting a collective .225 (29-for-129).
- Who: Cleveland at Toronto
- When: Tuesday, 7:07 p.m.
- Where: Rogers Centre, Toronto
- Pitchers: Lee (5-9, 3.31 ERA) vs. Cecil (3-1, 5.40)
- TV/radio: SportsTime Ohio; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or email@example.com.