It had been over two weeks since the Cleveland Indians lost back-to-back games, but nearly two months have passed since they’ve experienced a skid longer than that.
Looking to avoid their first three-game losing streak since late June, the Indians hope to salvage the finale of their three-game series against the Seattle Mariners on Sunday at Progressive Field.
Cleveland (65-69) entered its current series having won a season-high 10 straight. The Mariners (52-83), however, have stopped that momentum, winning Friday’s opener 3-2 and pulling out a 4-3, 10-inning victory Saturday.
Shin-Soo Choo’s two-run homer helped the Indians forge a 2-2 tie in the ninth, but Raul Ibanez singled in the go-ahead run in the 10th to send Cleveland to a second straight loss for the first time since Aug. 13-14 against Baltimore.
The defeat was particularly frustrating for Indians manager Eric Wedge, who was ejected in the top of the 10th after arguing that Seattle baserunner Adrian Beltre interfered with a double-play ball. Beltre’s club added an insurance run soon after Wedge was sent off.
“(Beltre) stopped, put his hand up and intentionally hit the baseball,” Wedge told the Indians’ official Web site. “If that’s the case, it’s an automatic double play. And that’s what it should have been.”
Cleveland won’t have much time to dwell on the controversy as it seeks to avoid its longest losing streak since its season-high 10-game slide from June 28-July 9. It will also try to prevent its first three-game sweep by the Mariners since April 22-24, 2003 in Seattle.
To do that, the Indians must find a way to contain Ibanez, who is batting .398 (43-for-108) with seven homers and 30 RBIs in 27 games this month.
“Raul Ibanez is probably one of the most underrated players in the game,” said Indians reliever Jensen Lewis, who suffered Saturday’s loss.
Ibanez is 17-for-43 (.395) with three homers and nine RBIs during an 11-game hitting streak versus the Indians.
Making his third start for the Indians on Monday, the left-hander gave up three runs - two homers - and seven hits over 6 1-3 innings at Detroit, leaving without a decision.
Jackson will be facing a Seattle team that owns the AL’s worst record, but has won six of its last eight games.
“Nobody quit,” Mariners manager Jim Riggleman said after his team’s latest victory. “Guys went out there and kept competing.”
Riggleman hands the ball to converted reliever Ryan Rowland-Smith (3-2, 3.73), who gave up two runs and five hits over seven innings in a 3-2 home win over Minnesota on Tuesday - his first victory in six overall starts.
“To go pitch like he has now, to come back from the minor leagues as a starter, that will be a real boost if he can continue anything like this,” Riggleman said.
The left-hander has no record and a 1.69 ERA in three career relief appearances against the Indians.
Cleveland catcher Victor Martinez, who returned to the lineup Friday after missing two months because of elbow surgery, didn’t start Saturday. However, Wedge said Martinez would either play first base or be the designated hitter Sunday.