July 31, 2014

Medina
Partly sunny
60°F

Back to losing: Indians fail to build on rare win, fall to Yankees

CLEVELAND — The Indians have mastered the art of the losing streak. Stringing wins together has been much tougher to handle.

Fresh off a victory that snapped a nine-game skid, Cleveland was back on the losing end Sunday, dropping a 4-2 decision to the Yankees in the rubber match of a three-game series at Progressive Field.

The Indians, who have endured nine- and 11-game skids over the past month to end any chance they had at contending, have not won two straight games over their past 45, and have not won a series since
July 26 — a day before Cleveland began the 11-game slide.

“We can’t be talking about stringing wins together,” said manager Manny Acta, whose club has lost 18 of its last 23 games. “Take one at a time and win one before you can string two, three or four. Before we get to three, we need to win one.”

The Indians were deprived of their second straight win thanks to a shaky beginning from starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez and limited offense against four New York pitchers.

As has been the case for the bulk of the year, Jimenez struggled out of the gate, allowing hits to two of the first three batters he faced before spotting the Yankees three runs in the second.

The right-hander has gone 23 consecutive starts without retiring the side in order in the opening inning.

“The first two innings, I felt like I didn’t have anything,” Jimenez said. “After that, I was able to get back into a groove. I did everything I could with what I had.”

Jimenez didn’t allow a run after the second, but only lasted five innings — his outing mirroring a season-long effort that has seen him post a 9-13 record and 5.58 ERA over 26 starts.

“The first thing I’m not happy about is that I haven’t been consistent,” Jimenez said. “That’s pretty much it.”

“He’s just been inconsistent, period,” Acta said. “As of late, he has competed better. One thing this guy has done, he’s been accountable, and he hasn’t stopped trying to work to get better.”

Though Carlos Santana drove in both of the Indians’ runs with a fifth-inning single, second baseman Jason Kipnis accounted for nearly half of his team’s hits, going 3-for-5 with a double and a career-high three stolen bases.

Santana’s hit was the only one with runners in scoring position for Cleveland, which went 1-for-11 in that department and failed to capitalize against Yankees starter Freddy Garcia.

Cleveland had runners aboard in four of the five innings Garcia worked, but scored in just one of them.

“Offensively, we just didn’t execute very well early in the game,” Acta said. “We kind of let Freddy off the hook a couple of times.”

Garcia didn’t get credit for the win, lasting just 4⅔ innings before turning it over to the bullpen, which allowed no runs on three hits over the final four innings.

Facing a near insurmountable deficit in the division, moral victories are all the Indians have left.

“We pitched decent, so it makes it easier to take than when you’re trailing by a ton of runs and it sucks the energy out of everybody,” Acta said.

Kipnis, who has stolen 26 bases, is the first Indian to steal three in a game since Grady Sizemore did so on Aug. 23, 2008. Kipnis joined a group of six Indians — Bobby Bonds (1979), Von Hayes (1982), Joe Carter (1986-88), Kenny Lofton (1996, ’98, 2000), Roberto Alomar (1999-2001) and Grady Sizemore (2007-08) — to record at least 10 homers, 60 RBIs and 25 steals in a season.

It was New York’s 50th win at Jacobs/Progressive Field, accounting for the most by an AL team that doesn’t play in the Central Division.

Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

TONIGHT

• WHO: Cleveland vs. Oakland
• TIME: 7:05
• WHERE: Progressive Field
• PITCHERS: Hernandez (0-2, 6.75 ERA) vs. Anderson (1-0, 1.29)
• TV/RADIO: SportsTime Ohio; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM