DETROIT -- Derek Lowe can often come across as the class clown, but the veteran pitcher also knows when it is time to be serious. After his latest start for the Indians, Lowe did not offer up any one-liners and he certainly made no excuses.
For the second time in three outings, Lowe struggled. Now it is time to adjust.
"If you're going to pitch bad," Lowe said, "you better learn something from it."
On Thursday afternoon, the Tigers lit Lowe up early and often and sent the Indians away in the wake of a 7-5 loss at Comerica Park. All seven runs came off the sinkerballer in front of a host of his family and friends, and that damage proved too much for the Tribe's offense to overcome when all was said and done.
The defeat snapped a five-game winning streak over rival Detroit and kept Cleveland (30-26) in second place in the American League Central for another day. The Indians left the Motor City with their chins up due to the fact that they took two out of three in Detroit and mounted a respectable rally in the finale.
That only removed a little bit of the sting.
"It was a lot to overcome," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "But, hey, we'll move on. We're happy with the way we're playing right now."
Lowe, on the other hand, plans on sorting through what has been going wrong for him.
Three starts ago, when the 39-year-old righty took the hill in Chicago on May 26, he gave up four runs in the first inning and eight runs overall in 2 1/3 frames. The AL Central-leading White Sox pounded out 10 hits with a very aggressive approach that caught Lowe by surprise. It appears the Tigers may have taken a cue from that game.
"We ambushed them right from the start," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.
Lowe (7-4) surrendered four runs on five hits -- all singles -- and a wild pitch in the first inning against Detroit (26-31) in his latest loss. He got plenty of ground balls, but he also saw plenty find the required holes to push runs across. Within that first inning, Lowe said the Tigers attacked early in the count much like Chicago.
"They had the same approach as the White Sox," said Lowe, whose season ERA has climbed to 3.72 from 2.15 over his last three starts. "It doesn't matter how long you play the game, now's the time to make kind of an adjustment. Two of the last three teams have really been ultra-aggressive in the first inning.
"We've been throwing a lot of sinkers early in the count. I've left a few up and they've taken advantage of it. You have to constantly learn from it."
Lowe mixed in more breaking balls and changeups early in counts as the game progressed, but he found more trouble in the fourth inning. Things began to unravel again for Lowe when he fell into a 3-0 count on Brennan Boesch, who capitalized by drilling the next pitch for a run-scoring double.
"I fell behind Boesch," Lowe said. "That was, for me, the biggest at-bat."
Slugger Miguel Cabrera followed by launching a pitch just out of the reach of a leaping Shin-Soo Choo at the wall in right field. The baseball carried over the wall, slipped by Choo's glove and struck a railing for a two-run home run that put the Indians behind, 7-1. It marked Cabrera's 13th blast of the season for Detroit.
"Cabrera, what can you say?" Acta said. "That was a sinker down and in and he inside-outs the ball, and still hits it out to right field."
In all, Lowe was charged with seven runs on nine hits in five innings. He struck out four and walked one in the 80-pitch effort.
The offense did all it could to swing the momentum back in Cleveland's favor.
The Indians managed three runs off Tigers lefty Casey Crosby (1-1) in his 5 1/3 innings. Jose Lopez plated one run in the fourth inning with an RBI double and later added a sacrifice fly as part of a two-run push in the sixth. Designated hitter Carlos Santana added a run-scoring groundout during that brief rally.
In the seventh inning, Lou Marson and Shin-Soo Choo connected for consecutive singles and Asdrubal Cabrera brought them both home with a double off reliever Phil Coke. Lopez later stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs, but Detroit center fielder Quintin Berry made a leaping catch near the warning track for a rally-ending out.
Lopez said the catch was impressive more than frustrating.
"It was a long way to go," Lopez said. "I hit it pretty good."
A few inches farther, and Lowe's outing might have become a secondary storyline.
Unfortunately for the Indians, the struggles of the rotation remain in the spotlight. Over the past 12 games, Indians starters have combined to post an 8.53 ERA, giving up 60 earned runs in 63 1/3 innings over that span. Cleveland has gone 4-8 in that stretch.
On his way into the clubhouse after his outing, Lowe picked up an orange cooler in the dugout and slammed it into the ground, sending crushed ice flying through the air. It was a clear sign that Lowe -- the effervescent joker -- was in no laughing mood.
"That was just because you gave up seven runs," Lowe said.
The trick now is to find a way to avoid doing it again.
"This is my first facing a lot of these teams in a long, long time," said Lowe, who moved from the National League to the AL over the winter. "Some teams, you may be able to throw a lot of sinkers early in the game. And there's going to be some teams that, now that you've faced them, you learn from it."