December 21, 2014

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Sowers’ struggles continue

TIGERS 9, INDIANS 2

CLEVELAND — Another struggling Indians starter took the mound Sunday and received the same result as the first one.
Jeremy Sowers actually trumped the subpar performance of rotation mate Cliff Lee a night earlier, offering up another stinker of his own in a 9-2 loss to the Tigers, which gave Detroit a split of the four-game series after Cleveland took the first two.
Like Lee, who was bombed for five runs Saturday, Sowers didn’t last five innings, pitching just four while allowing the same amount of runs as his teammate on seven hits.
In 11 starts this season, Sowers is 1-6 with a 6.63 ERA — 1-5 with an 8.80 ERA over his last six starts. Lee, 2-3 with a 6.35 ERA in seven starts, has posted a 10.53 ERA in his last three outings.
“We need to get them going,” said Indians manager Eric Wedge of his two struggling starters who have accounted for nearly half of their team’s losses. “They need to give us a chance to win the ballgame. They’ve both obviously had some success here. We need to work hard to get them back on track.
“I know both of them are capable of giving us quality starts, but ultimately, they have to bow their neck and do it.”
Since Lee missed the first month of the season with an abdominal injury, Sowers string of futility has been longer. A projected phenom after an impressive rookie season last year, the 23-year-old left-hander has allowed four or more runs in six of his starts, including five of his last six.
It’s enough to leave a young pitcher shaken.
“Confidence is spotty, sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad,” Sowers said. “I feel like I have a good idea of what (is wrong). I understand it’s been a while. Things don’t happen overnight.
“I’ve probably never had this bad of a slump my whole life, so it’s a little new territory.”
Sowers had little time to catch his breath in the series finale, allowing a home run to the third batter he faced, Gary Sheffield, who hit a two-run shot an estimated 389 feet into the bleachers in left.
The Tigers scored another run in the second inning before putting Sowers away in the fourth with two more — the first on Craig Monroe’s second double.
“He’s still not making pitches consistently like he has to,” Wedge said. “Obviously we have an idea of what he needs to do to be successful. It’s just a matter of him going out and doing it.”
“I’d be lying if I said today wasn’t a setback to getting back to my normal self,” said Sowers, who went 7-4 with a 3.57 ERA in 14 starts for the Indians last year. “Stuff-wise, I was not very pleased with what I brought out there.”
Pitching was much greener on the Tigers’ side of the fence.
After a two-run first spearheaded by Victor Martinez’s 12th home run of the year, the Indians did next to nothing against Detroit starter Jeremy Bonderman, who allowed just one hit after the opening inning.
Martinez has hit six of his homers against the Tigers, driving in 13 runs against the defending American League champions, who pulled within 2 1/2 games of Cleveland’s lead in the Central Division.
Bonderman, who hasn’t lost in 10 starts this season, allowed just the first-inning runs on four hits, striking out six through 6 2/3 innings.
“Bonderman was real good today,” Wedge said. “He had that slider working.”
Cleveland managed just seven hits for the game, four in the sixth and seventh innings, when the Indians put runners on second and third with one out, but failed to score in either frame.
The loss tarnished the Indians’ perfect mark in series at home, giving them a tie to go with eight series wins. They still own the majors’ best home record at 19-6, but lost consecutive games at home for the first time this season.
The defeat also completed a stretch of 20 games in 20 days for the Indians, who are off today after going 13-7 over the lengthy span.
“This is good timing for the off-day,” Wedge said. “They’ve worked hard. I’ve been pleased with the way they played.”
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7137 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com.

NEXT UP
WHO: Cleveland vs. Kansas City
WHEN: Tuesday, 7:05 p.m.
WHERE: Jacobs Field
PITCHERS: Sabathia (8-1, 3.78 ERA) vs. De La Rosa (4-5, 4.97)
TV/RADIO: SportsTime Ohio; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM