CLEVELAND – It was an all-around sorry effort from an all-around sorry team Saturday night at Progressive Field.
Getting little pitching, little offense and little defense, the Indians extended their big time losing streak to six games via a 6-4 loss to the Reds in front of a boisterous crowd of 25,531 fans — many of whom were either in attendance to watch contending Cincinnati or the postgame fireworks display.
Cleveland, a season-high 11 games under .500 and a season-high 10 games out of first place in the Central Division, rallied for two runs in the ninth inning, but it was far too little and late.
“We put ourselves in too big of a hole over the first few innings,” said manager Manny Acta, whose team managed just two runs on four hits over the first seven innings. “Fausto (Carmona) had trouble keeping the ball down and those hitters made him pay. We didn’t play very good defense behind him, either.
“The way we’re playing right now, we need to play pretty close to perfect baseball.”
Not even close.
Carmona, a highlight for most of the season was a lowlight on this occasion, allowing five runs (three earned) on seven hits, in what was his worst performance of the year.
The right-hander allowed two runs in the opening inning, then when it appeared he had worked his way into a groove, surrendered two more in the fourth on a home run to Laynce Nix that put Cincinnati in front 4-0.
“I had a little trouble with location and I was up a little bit today,” said Carmona, whose two-seam fastball had little sink against a talented Reds lineup that has scored 13 runs over the first two games of the Battle of Ohio series. “I think the trouble for me was missing that first pitch for a strike.”
Carmona’s defense didn’t help him any, either, committing three errors, with all of them contributing to runs.
Not surprisingly, Reds starter Johnny Cueto had a much easier time handling Cleveland hitters.
The right-hander shut the Indians out on three hits over the first five innings before allowing his only runs on a two-run home run from Travis Hafner, who went deep for just the fourth time in 36 games.
Cleveland’s uprising in the ninth inning served only to delay the inevitable.
The Indians loaded the bases with Trevor Crowe coming through on a two-run single to left-center, leaving runners on first and third with one out.
Cleveland had the right men at the plate to reverse the outcome in Shin-Soo Choo and Austin Kearns, two of its hottest hitters, but Choo took a called third strike after fouling off a number of 2-2 and 3-2 pitches from Reds closer Francisco Cordero, and Kearns flied out to left on the first pitch he saw to end the game.
Choo thought he had drawn a walk before home plate umpire Angel Campos rung him up.
“It was pretty close but it was a strike. We saw it on video,” Acta said. “That’s what we wanted, our best hitter at the plate. We got it, but Francisco made the pitch and got him.”
Not that anybody thinks the Indians are division title contenders at this point in the season, but since realignment in 1994, the number of teams that overcame a 10-game deficit to win the division is less than 10 percent.
Cincinnati goes for the sweep today, which would improve the Reds’ record against the Indians to 12-3 since 2008. The Reds have won 11 of their last 14 games.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or firstname.lastname@example.org.