CLEVELAND -- Momentum only travels so far. Just as an apple falling from a tree will inevitably strike ground with a thud, a team riding a wave of energy will eventually hit a snag.
The Indians' momentum evaporated pretty quickly on Tuesday.
The shine from Shin-Soo Choo's walk-off, three-run homer in the first tilt of Tuesday's doubleheader faded as soon as the Mariners pounced on Tribe starter Zach McAllister for a pair of five-run innings in the nightcap. A resilient Indians squad battled back, but fell short in a 12-7 loss that dampened the buzz from the heroics hours earlier.
"We got exactly what we didn't need -- another non-quality, short outing," Indians manager Manny Acta said.
The doubleheader split -- compounded by the Tigers' 2-1 win against the Rays -- positions the Indians a season-high six games out of first place in the American League Central. The Tribe is in a flat-out freefall, following a three-game sweep at the hands of Detroit over the weekend and two losses to Seattle in three contests to begin a critical 11-game homestead.
"I'm not counting, myself. I'm just trying to win ballgames," Acta said. "Wake me up when we're completely out of it and mathematically eliminated. If we're not in first place, let me know."
Seattle was uncharacteristically scorching at the plate. The Mariners equaled a season-high with 17 hits, nine off McAllister, who was optioned back to Triple-A Columbus following a forgettable outing.
Making his second career start, McAllister was roughed up for 10 runs (eight earned) in just 3 1/3 innings.
"He couldn't pitch ahead," Acta said. "He couldn't make quality pitches and his secondary stuff just didn't play up, and they hit him around."
The Mariners' onslaught commenced in the third inning. When Franklin Gutierrez bounced an RBI double down the left-field line, left fielder Ezequiel Carrera mishandled the ball, allowing a second run to score. Dustin Ackley followed with an RBI single before Mike Carp capped the five-run frame with a towering 438-foot homer to right field.
Seattle placed another five-spot on the scoreboard in the fourth, with four base hits sandwiching an intentional walk to Ichiro Suzuki. Then, with two outs, Wily Mo Pena shot a fly ball to the warning track in center field, where the ball bounced in and out of Kosuke Fukudome's mitt. That allowed the final two runs of the inning to score, boosting the Mariners' advantage to 10-2.
"I just wasn't able to make the pitches where I needed to tonight," McAllister said. "I just got in some jams and wasn't able to make pitches when I needed to."
As they've demonstrated on a regular basis throughout the season -- and did again in Game 1 on Tuesday -- the Indians rarely cave in easily. They scored twice in the fourth and twice more in the sixth to carve Seattle's lead to 11-6. It proved too deep of a hole to climb out of, however.
"They're fighting," Acta said. "They continue to put up good at-bats and fight until the end. We just didn't pitch the way we've been pitching for the whole season."
For the Indians to keep clinging to their playoff hopes, they'll need to maintain that never-say-die attitude over the last six weeks of the regular season.
"We've been doing it all year, coming back, starting with the first game of the year against Chicago, getting down, 14-0, and fighting back," said third baseman Jack Hannahan, who collected a career high four hits. "It tells you a lot about this team. We never feel like we're down and out. Guys have been stepping up."
In his Major League debut, Seattle starter Anthony Vasquez allowed six runs (five earned) in 5 1/3 innings, but kept the Indians off balance with a bevy of breaking balls ranging from 67 mph to 75 mph. The slew of slow stuff made his ho-hum, mid-80s fastball appear much quicker. Choo fell to one knee after lunging at a 74-mph changeup on a fifth-inning punchout.
Choo did tag a third-inning curveball to right field for his second homer of the day. This one, however, carried much less significance than did his long ball four hours earlier.
The Indians weren't able to savor the aftertaste of their ninth-inning afternoon magic. Now they face the sour reality that, even after a long day, an even longer road lies ahead if the Tribe is to hang in the division race.
"It was a long day, just to get a split," Acta said.
Zack Meisel is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.