CLEVELAND — Derek Lowe’s bid for the American League’s comeback player of the year has hit a major snag.
The veteran right-hander got off to a banner start in his debut season for the Indians, but it’s been pretty much all downhill since — Lowe’s latest debacle spearheading a 10-2 blowout loss to the Orioles in the series opener Friday night at Progressive Field.
Lowe (8-8, 5.04 ERA) gave the Indians little chance in what was his worst outing of the year, allowing nine earned runs on seven hits and five walks over just three -plus innings. He surrendered five of Baltimore’s seven doubles, while allowing both of the Orioles’ home runs — one to former Indian Jim Thome.
“It was a rough day for us,” said manager Manny Acta, whose team trailed 9-1 after four innings. “Derek wasn’t able to command his sinker. He couldn’t even throw 50 percent of his pitches for strikes (82 pitches, 37 strikes). When you see a sinker-ball pitcher giving up that many fly balls, you know he’s in trouble.”
“The game speaks for itself,” Lowe said. “It was an embarrassing game. I really have nothing to say. It was an embarrassing outing.”
Lowe, 39, was the best Cleveland had out of the rotation to start the season, with his 2.15 ERA after nine starts leading the American League. Since then — 2-6 with an 8.31 ERA over his last 10 outings — he has looked more like the pitcher that appeared headed for retirement last year in Atlanta.
“This couldn’t be any more different than the way I started,” Lowe said. “I have a lot of work to do. You can’t put your head in the sand and say, ‘Things will work out.’”
Acta said he is concerned by any inconsistencies on his team, but wasn’t willing to admit that Lowe’s recent slide is worrisome.
“It’s been command of his sinker whenever he struggles,” Acta said. “We signed Derek to go out there every five days and give us innings. For the most part, he’s done that. He’s going to have some good ones. He’s going to have some bad ones.”
Had Lowe pitched better, there was still no guarantee of a win, with Cleveland’s inconsistent offense scuffling to score runs again.
The Indians managed just two runs through 6 2/3 innings against Orioles starter Miguel Gonzalez, who allowed seven hits and struck out five.
“We couldn’t do anything offensively, but that was a really big hole to dig out of,” Acta said.
Cleveland matched Baltimore’s run in the opening inning on Asdrubal Cabrera’s solo shot, but wasted the opportunity for more after loading the bases with two outs and failing to score more when Johnny Damon grounded to first.
Baltimore went on to score nine unanswered runs.
Thome, who was making his first appearance at Progressive Field since playing for the Indians at the end of last season, had a big night in front of his former fans.
Cleveland’s home run king fell a triple shy of the cycle, going 3-for-5, with his solo homer to lead off the fourth inning giving him 610 for his career and moving him past Sammy Sosa into seventh place on the all-time list.
The loss left the Indians three games out of first place in the Central Division, with the second-place Tigers closing to within a half game of the White Sox.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.