April 17, 2014

Medina
Mostly sunny
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Verlander gets best of Tribe

Chris Assenheimer

The Gazette

DETROIT — The Indians have undergone a number of changes over the past two-plus weeks, but one thing has remained constant.

They keep losing.

A new venue in Detroit did little to remedy Cleveland’s ills, as the Indians dropped a 7-5 decision in the opener of a three-game series Friday night at Comerica Park.

It was the fifth straight loss for Cleveland, which after going 18-4 over a red-hot stretch has lost 13 of its last 17. The Indians lost their ninth consecutive game on the road to fall 3½ behind the first-place Tigers in the Central Division standings.

At 30-30, Cleveland, which held down first place for a brief spell during its hot streak, does not own a winning record for the first time since May 5.

“I know we’re a lot better than this,” said first baseman Nick Swisher, who went 0-for-4, grounded out to end the game representing the tying run and committed two errors. “I don’t think it’s really getting to many guys, but it’s tough. No one likes to lose. We’ve got to find a way to get through this.”

The Indians got a brief and ineffective outing from starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez, who allowed five runs (three earned) on seven hits and two walks over just three-plus innings.

Jimenez (4-4, 5.03 ERA) was in the midst of an effective stretch that saw him allow more than two runs in just one of his last seven previous starts.

The right-hander struck out two of the four batters he faced in the opening inning before Detroit struck for three runs in the second.

“The second inning, he pitched away from some contact,” Indians manager Terry Francona said of his No. 2 starter. “We gave them some opportunities, but he wasn’t aggressive enough in to open up the plate.”

“In the first inning, I felt really good,” Jimenez said. “In the second inning, everything just went the other way. I threw like 40-some pitches. I was pressing too hard to get the next guy out. I was fatigued.”

Cleveland entered the night with three wins in the last five games against Tigers starter Justin Verlander, but didn’t fare as well against the former Cy Young Award and MVP winner this time around.

The right-hander shut out the Indians on just a hit through the first four innings, with Cleveland finally showing signs of life in the fifth.

With five of the first six batters reaching on hits to start the inning, the Indians closed to 5-3 and had runners on second and third with one out. But Verlander kept the runners and the two-run lead intact by getting Swisher to pop up and Michael Brantley to fly to center.

“He has another gear,” Francona said of Verlander, who allowed three runs on seven hits while striking out six over seven innings. “Whatever pitches he has, you can almost multiply. That makes it all the more impressive that we were able to get that many hits.”

Down 7-3 in the ninth, Cleveland didn’t go quietly, with Jason Giambi and Drew Stubbs each hitting solo home runs off Detroit closer Jose Valverde. The Indians had a runner on first in Jason Kipnis, who kept the rally alive with a two-out single, but Swisher chopped one to second to end the game.

The Indians are in the midst of their worst stretch of the season, and they are without injured All-Stars Chris Perez (closer) and Asdrubal Cabrera (shortstop).

Francona is keeping the faith.

“I always believe,” he said. “In the meantime, you hate to lose, but we’ll keep fighting. We’ll figure it out.”

Signing

The Indians signed veteran right-handed reliever J.C. Romero to a minor-league contract. Romero, a 14-year veteran with 680 career big-league appearances, will report to Triple-A Columbus, but he could be promoted soon, with Cleveland’s bullpen scuffling and without injured closer Chris Perez.

Romero, 37, has spent the entire season at Triple-A Syracuse, the minor-league affiliate of the Washington Nationals. He went 0-1 with a 2.84 ERA in 13 games before opting out of his minor-league deal with the Nats and electing for free agency.

Romero is best known by Indians fans for his days as a key member of Central Division rival Minnesota’s bullpen. He was drafted by the Twins in 1997 and spent the first six seasons of his big-league career with Minnesota.

The Indians signed Romero to a minor-league contract last year, but he never appeared for them. He made 16 appearances with the Cardinals and Orioles in 2012, posting a 9.00 ERA.

Draft days

The Indians selected eight players during the second day (rounds three through 10) of the MLB draft Friday.

With its third-round pick (79th overall), Cleveland took RHP Dace Kime, a 6-foot-5, 220-pound right-hander out of the University of Louisville. Kime, a Defiance High School graduate, was drafted by the Pirates out of high school in 2010, but did not sign. Kime hit a home run in a Galion Division II Regional semifinal loss to Highland in 2007.

The Indians also selected LHP Kyle Crockett (fourth round, University of Virginia); LHP Sean Brady (fifth round, Baker High, Fla.); RHP Casey Shane (sixth round, Centennial High, Texas); LHP Kenny Matthews (seventh round, Riverside City College, Calif.); RHP Trevor Frank (eighth round, University of California Riverside); LHP Thomas Pannone (ninth round, College of Southern Nevada); and infielder Ross Kivett (10th round, Kansas State University). Kivett is a Broadview Heights native and St. Edward graduate.

Contact Chris Assenheimer at (440) 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroncilet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.