CLEVELAND — The Indians are sleepwalking, and if they don’t wake up soon, the idea of contending for their first playoff trip since 2007 will be a fleeting notion.
Another lethargic effort ended in another predictable loss for Cleveland, which dropped its sixth straight game, 6-4, to the Tigers on Saturday at Comerica Park.
The Indians trailed big for much of the game before a two-run home run from former Tiger Ryan Raburn drew them closer. But in the end, it was another loss for a team that’s not hitting or pitching well enough to change the downhill course.
“We gotta win, that’s it,” said Indians first baseman Nick Swisher, who went 0-for-4 to extend the second-longest skid of his career to 0-for-24. “A lot of guys aren’t feeling real good right now. It’s a frustrating time.”
To say the least.
It was the season-high 10th straight loss for the Indians, who after serving as one as the majors’ hottest teams over an extended stretch — 18-4 — are now one of the coldest, losing 14 of the last 18 games.
Cleveland trails first-place Detroit by 4 1/2 games in the Central Division standings, with the Tigers going for the sweep today.
“We’re still playing hard and we’re still playing good ball,” Raburn said. “We just can’t seem to score more runs than the other team, basically. Right now, we’re just not getting big hits and we’re not winning.”
The Indians started hot against Detroit starter Rick Porcello, scoring two batters into the game after a Michael Bourn leadoff double followed by an RBI single from Jason Kipnis. But the opportunities dried up against the Tigers’ right-hander, who allowed just one earned run on three hits, while striking out seven over six innings. Porcello retired 12 straight after the Kipnis base hit.
“When they got the lead, it looked like he settled down and started using more of his pitches,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said of Porcello, who entered the day owning a 5.21 in 11 games (10 starts). “He became a confident pitcher.”
The Tigers got the lead thanks to another brief and ineffective spot start from right-hander Carlos Carrasco, who was recalled from Triple-A Columbus to take the roster spot of an injured Zach McAllister.
Carrasco’s second spot start went better than his first, but it still wasn’t nearly good enough. He allowed six runs on 10 hits over just four innings.
“His stuff is electric, but there’s still more learning to do,” Francona said. “He didn’t pitch in. When he learns how to do that, he’s going to be something special.”
Carrasco, who was able to pitch because he is appealing an eight-game suspension for hitting the Yankees’ Kevin Youkilis with a pitch in his season debut April 9, said the previous incident didn’t alter his approach.
“I didn’t worry about that,” said Carrasco, who had the bases loaded in three of the four innings he worked. “At this level, when you miss with your fastball, they’re going to make you pay. I tried to hit my spots. I tried to be perfect with every pitch. I have to be more aggressive than that.”
Cleveland’s frustration appeared to reach the surface when Francona was ejected after coming to the aid of Swisher, who had words with home plate umpire Andy Fletcher during the middle of the eighth inning.
Swisher said he just wanted to talk to Fletcher, blaming the umpire for becoming animated and causing the incident.
“I just tried to have a nice little conversation,” Swisher said. “Then, the finger pointing started and that’s when things escalated.”
Francona joined the fray and drew his second ejection of the season.
“I had no intention of getting thrown out of that game,” Francona said. “The way Andy approached me, I thought he lost his composure. I didn’t have any chance to stay in that game … spit coming out of his mouth and all the gesturing. I don’t know how I could have stayed in that game.”
The Indians now need to take the fight to the opponents.
“We’re competing,” said Francona, whose club has been outscored 26-2 within the first three innings during its six-game skid. “The results just aren’t there right now. We’re playing from behind and that’s a tough way to play. But if that’s what you’re going to do, you have to keep fighting.”
“Hopefully we can look back at this stretch in August or September and laugh about it,” Swisher said.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or email@example.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.