CLEVELAND -- Manager Manny Acta has never shied away from assigning blame to his hitters when a lack of offensive production leads to a loss. Acta could not fault the Indians' offense on Friday night.
Not after the outing turned in by the Red Sox's Clay Buchholz.
"The night belonged to Buchholz," Acta said. "He was terrific."
Buchholz confused the Indians' hitters more than overpowered them, but his was a dominant complete-game effort that sent the Tribe tumbling to a 3-2 loss at Progressive Field. Lefty Chris Seddon offered Cleveland an admirable performance, but it was hardly enough to overcome the quieted bats.
From an optimist's standpoint, this was the first loss in the past three games for an Indians club that seems to be finding its early-season formula for success. The other side would say Cleveland has dropped 12 of its past 14 games and -- after finally getting some decent starting pitching -- the offense has come up empty.
If the same occurs on Saturday, that could be the storyline.
Against Buchholz, Cleveland just did not have a chance.
Acta called it the best pitching performance turned in against the Indians this season. Shelley Duncan, who went 0-for-3 with a pair of flyouts and one groundout, agreed with his manager's assessment.
"Absolutely," Duncan said. "His cutter was phenomenal. His changeup was good -- it's always good. It's like you never got to a spot where you were confident what and where he was going to throw a ball. He had us on our heels the whole night. He was pretty filthy."
Buchholz finished with six strikeouts and no walks, scattering just two hits throughout his nine innings of brilliance. Acta lauded Buchholz for mixing up his pitches, changing speeds and keeping Cleveland's hitters guessing all night.
"He was mixing them and controlling them," Duncan said. "His cutter was really good -- really good. I've seen it before where you can pick up the spin on it. Tonight, it was pretty good."
Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera managed the only two hits against the lanky right-hander. Cabrera launched a solo home run -- his 13th blast of the season -- in the first inning and later added a leadoff double in the fourth. Following the shortstop's second hit, Buchholz set down the next three he faced to strand him at third base.
"Those were the only two pitches he missed tonight," Cabrera said.
The Tribe did get a run in the sixth inning, though it was largely due to a defensive disaster turned in by the Red Sox. Dustin Pedroia botched a grounder to second base off the bat of Jason Donald, who was allowed to head to third after shortstop Mike Aviles retrieved the ball and air-mailed it past first base and into the stands.
Ezequiel Carrera followed with a sacrifice fly that trimmed Boston's lead to 3-2.
It was a meager showing that sent Seddon to a hard-luck loss.
"Seddon did a good job," Acta said. "He threw the ball very well for us -- kept us in the game and gave us that quality start.
Seddon, who was recalled from Triple-A Columbus during the Tribe's recent 11-game losing streak, turned in six solid innings in his latest effort. It could very well be his last with Cleveland, considering sinkerballer Roberto Hernandez is expected to be activated from the restricted list at some point next week.
Hernandez made what is likely his final Minor League rehab outing on Friday night for Columbus, giving up just one run on four hits with five strikeouts and a walk over seven innings of work. Seddon might be facing a trip back to the Minors, or possibly a shift to a relief role with the Tribe, if Hernandez replaces him in the rotation.
"We're going to have to make a decision," Acta said. "Those are some of the things that we're going to discuss tonight."
If this was Seddon's swan song, he went out with a fine showing, holding the Red Sox to three runs (two earned) in his time on the hill.
"This time," Seddon said, "I was able to put pitches where I wanted to a little bit more."
After Seddon held Boston in check for three frames, the lefty issued a one-out walk to Aviles in the fourth. With a light rain falling, Seddon then attempted a pickoff attempt, but he threw wildly beyond first baseman Casey Kotchman. That opened the door for Aviles to sprint to third, and Pedroia brought him home with an RBI single.
In the sixth inning, the Red Sox plowed ahead with a two-run attack. Pedroia singled with one out and Cody Ross delivered a damaging blow with two away. Ross sent a 2-1 pitch from Seddon to straightaway center, where the ball carried over the edge of the stadium's 19-foot wall for a two-run blast, giving Boston a 3-1 lead.
With Buchholz locked in, Cleveland was unable to counter with much else.
"I got away with a couple of pitches," said Buchholz, who improved to 10-3. "I felt good. I was able to throw the cutter where I wanted to and the changeup was down all night. Everything's rolling right now for me."