SAN FRANCISCO -- In one way, the Indians' offense did Fausto Carmona a favor on Sunday night. Cleveland's lineup labored to such an extreme extent that the starter's recent struggles are on the backburner, for the time being.
Hitting is officially the team's biggest concern.
In front of a national television audience, the Tribe's depleted offense looked overwhelmed and overmatched by Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner. Carmona pitched well enough, but his solid rebound effort was overshadowed in a 3-1 Interleague loss that sealed a three-game brooming by the Bay.
"We're not a scoring machine right now," said Indians manager Manny Acta.
The Indians (40-36) knew they had their work cut out for them when they embarked on this nine-game swing through San Francisco, Arizona and Cincinnati. Playing under National League rules, the heart of the Tribe's lineup is void of its slugging designated hitter, Travis Hafner.
Compounding matters, right-fielder Shin-Soo Choo suffered a displaced fracture of his left thumb after being hit by a pitch from Giants lefty Jonathan Sanchez on Friday night. Choo joined first baseman Matt LaPorta (right ankle) on the disabled list and is likely facing surgery and six to 10 weeks on the shelf.
The Indians, however, are hardly the only team to run into such obstacles.
"No excuses," said catcher Lou Marson.
During the three-game sweep at the hands of the reigning world champions, the Indians had more errors in the field (six) than runs scored (four). Starters Carlos Carrasco, Justin Masterson and Carmona combined for a 1.74 ERA, but San Francisco's 2.7 runs per game was damage enough.
Acta did what he could to find a silver lining.
"It's encouraging in a way," Acta said. "If you're going to get back into the winning column, and put together any type of good streak again, pitching is what it's all about. So we're encouraged by the way our starters pitched over here."
The Indians' lineup finished 2-for-22 with runners in scoring position over the series and was 0-for-8 with runners on third base. The team's 0-for-7 showing with runners in scoring position on Sunday extended its drought under such circumstances to 0-for-18.
"The way we are right now," Acta said, "we have to play just about perfect baseball. When we get those opportunities, we have to take advantage of it, and we didn't."
Bumgarner reaped the benefits.
In his previous start for San Francisco (44-34), Bumgarner allowed eight consecutive hits to the Twins en route to an eight-run implosion in the first inning. The lefty only got one out before being sent to the showers. Cleveland appeared to be the cure for whatever was ailing the young southpaw.
Bumgarner (4-9) scattered six hits and limited the Tribe to just one run over seven innings, in which he piled up a career-high 11 strikeouts. On the evening, Giants pitchers combined for 16 strikeouts, marking the most in a nine-inning game against the Indians since Sept. 16, 2006.
"It's tough to forget about a start like that," said Bumgarner, referring to his previous effort. "I tried to put it behind me as best I could."
Bumgarner's lone blemish came on a controversial call on the field, too.
After Michael Brantley led off the sixth inning with a walk, Orlando Cabrera pulled a pitch from Bumgarner down the third-base line. Home-plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt was knocked out of the game in the second inning after taking a foul ball off his facemask, so second-base ump Jerry Layne moved behind the plate. With Brantley on first, third-base umpire Bob Davidson was in the middle of the diamond in the event of a play at second, so the third-base line did not have an umpire. The ball appeared to bounce just to the left of the chalk line behind the bag, but Layne ruled it fair and Cabrera wound up with a double. One batter later, Asdrubal Cabrera used a groundout to bring Brantley home.
That snapped a 19-inning scoreless drought for the Indians, but it was hardly enough to overcome the little damage San Francisco managed against Carmona. Chris Stewart came through with a two-run double in the second inning and Aubrey Huff added an RBI single in the third to put the Giants ahead for good.
Carmona (4-10), who became the first big leaguer to reach a double-digit loss total this season, was left with mixed emotions. The big sinkerballer had gone 1-6 with a 9.24 ERA in his previous seven turns, but he bounced back with a quality start against San Francisco.
"I'm happy, because I pitched much better," Carmona said. "But I'm a little sad, because we're losing. I want my team winning. I kept the game close and you saw what happened. I can't control that. I can only control my pitches."
Carmona allowed three runs over six admirable innings, snapping an eight-start stretch in which he gave up four runs or more. It marked the first time since May 8 that Carmona yielded three runs or fewer, but a shutout was required in order to find the win column.
"He wasn't bad today," Marson said. "Obviously, we didn't do our jobs offensively. We've got to score some more runs as a team."
Acta still firmly believes his team will do precisely that.
"Of course," Acta said. "I'm a positive guy. It is going to get better. It has to get better. The guys that are struggling right now are better hitters than that, so they are going to get better."