November 21, 2014

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Bullpen struggles, Tribe loses series against Marlins

CLEVELAND — Chris Perez never took the mound at Progressive Field, but there was still reason for Indians fans to boo Sunday in the series finale of Cleveland’s first interleague series.

Veteran starting pitcher Derek Lowe worked another quality outing for the Indians, but he was on his own, with little support from his offense and bullpen in a 5-3 loss to the Marlins.

Lowe allowed just two runs over six innings, but the right-hander was done in by a quality outing from his counterpart, Josh Johnson, who limited a scuffling Cleveland offense to just a run on five hits over seven innings.

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The Indians were still within striking distance through seven innings, but for one of the few times this season, their relief corps let them down. Up 2-1, Miami scored three times off Nick Hagadone and Jeremy Accardo in the eighth inning to build enough of a cushion to withstand a ninth-inning charge from Cleveland.

“We just cracked first out of the bullpen,” said manager Manny Acta, whose team saw its lead in the Central Division shrink to 2 1/2 games over second-place Chicago. “A couple of walks there just came back to haunt us. That’s something that we need to improve upon going forward. I think we’re top three in the league (in walks) right now. That’ll catch up to you, so we need to improve in that department, especially in high leverage situations like that.”

Lowe (6-2, 2.15 ERA) allowed single runs in the first and third innings but finished strong, retiring 10 of the last 12 batters he faced. It was Lowe’s sixth straight quality start.

“It’s been every five days pretty much for him giving us a chance to win,” Acta said.

Unfortunately, Johnson, who has struggled to return to form after missing most of last season with a shoulder injury, was up to the task in his ninth start of the season, and first since getting his first win.

The right-hander breezed through Cleveland’s lineup at the outset, retiring 12 of 14 hitters, while allowing just a hit over the first four innings.

“Josh Johnson, I’ve seen him pitch many quality games, and today was no exception,” Lowe said. “He made quality pitches when he had to and they won the series.”

“We couldn’t do much offensively,” said Acta, whose team managed just three hits over the first six innings. “Early in the game, our approach against Johnson wasn’t the best one. I thought we were overaggressive and he got the best of us.”

The Indians rallied for two runs in the ninth, one on an RBI double from Jose Lopez, who drove in two on the day, going 3-for-4 as the only Cleveland player with a multihit game.

Pitching dominated the three-game interleague series. The two teams combined to score just 15 runs, with the Indians accounting for seven of them.

“You knew looking at the (starting pitching) matchups that runs were going to be hard to come by,” said Lowe, who suffered his first loss of the season in five starts at Progressive Field. “It always comes down to the same cliches. They got the big hit when they had to and made the big pitch.”

Next up

  • Who: Cleveland vs. Detroit
  • When: Tuesday, 7:05 p.m.
  • Where: Progressive Field
  • Pitchers: Jimenez (4-3, 5.09 ERA) vs. Porcello (3-3, 5.12)
  • TV/radio: SportsTime Ohio; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM

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

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