SEATTLE -- Indians manager Manny Acta had a message for his team on Wednesday afternoon. The club he is watching on the field right now is playing too tight, trying to fix the Tribe's problems with one pitch or a single swing.
The pressure the players are putting on themselves seems to be increasing at the same pace as Cleveland's hole in the standings. Following a 3-1 loss to the Mariners, one that sent the Tribe to an eighth straight defeat in one of the worst months in franchise history, Acta called for his ballclub to relax.
After all, the consequences of a collapse often reach the manager's office before the clubhouse.
"It's never been done in the history of the game where 25 guys get released," Acta said. "They should relax. If one guy is going to go, it's going to be me, not them. So relax and play the game. They're trying too hard."
It was a candid moment from Acta in the wake of an emotional loss.
Rookie Zach McAllister gave Cleveland six strong innings, but the offense could not get much going and a critical turn in the eighth sent the Indians to a discouraging sweep at Safeco Field. Now, for the second time in the past few weeks, the team is heading home on the heels of a forgettable road trip.
On their previous road trip, the Indians went 0-9 en route to an 11-game losing streak that fell one defeat shy of equaling the franchise record for sustained futility. On the latest trek, Cleveland went 1-8 through Anaheim, Oakland and Seattle, dropping to 4-21 dating back to July 27.
This is the first time since 1987 that the Indians have suffered a pair of losing streaks reaching eight games in a single season.
Prior to these past 25 games, Cleveland sat within 3 1/2 games of first place in the American League Central. The Indians (54-70) are now in a position where they are trying to avoid slipping to the worst record in the league.
"I don't know what exactly the problem is," Indians right fielder Shin-Soo Choo said. "But I can't believe it's happened."
One of the main problems has been the rotation, which has gone 4-15 with a 7.23 ERA over the last 25 games. That said, the 24-year-old McAllister has been a bright spot within Cleveland's overall starting woes, having pitched into the sixth inning in 14 of his 15 outings for the Tribe this season.
McAllister maintained his consistency against Seattle, holding the Mariners to one run -- courtesy of a solo shot from Michael Saunders -- on three hits in his six frames on the hill. Due to a lack of run support, though, the big right-hander was forced to settle for a no-decision.
"I'm very happy with the way this guy has thrown the ball and competed for us," Acta said. "Going forward, with how valuable pitching is, as we all know, and the issue that it has presented to us this year, he looks like he could be a very important part of what we're trying to do here.
"He has been our most consistent guy over the last two months."
Unfortunately, that has only served as a silver lining within this slump.
In Wednesday's series finale, Cleveland went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position, falling short at multiple turns. The Indians' lone breakthrough against Seattle came in the form of an infield chopper off the bat of Casey Kotchman that scored Choo, pulling the game into a 1-1 deadlock.
The Tribe's breaking point came in the eighth, when Kyle Seager got things rolling for the Mariners with a one-out double. On the play, Choo gloved the ball in right and came up firing to second base, where Tribe shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera made a high tag but felt he had Seager caught.
"In that moment, I thought he was out," Cabrera said. "But the replay showed he was safe."
Second-base umpire Ed Hickox ruled as much, prompting a yell of disbelief from Cabrera and an argument on the field from Acta. After Acta got heated with Hickox, the manager was ejected for the second time this season. Replays showed that Seager's left hand got to the base before Cabrera tagged him on the chest.
"From where I was, I thought that he tagged him," Acta said. "I'm just getting sick and tired of hearing about the high tag. That's the excuse you hear all the time. Sometimes you get a high tag before the guy gets to the base. Of course, after I came in here, Ed was right. I looked at the replay. The guy was safe."
Seattle capitalized on the critical call later in the inning, when Eric Thames delivered a two-run double off reliever Vinnie Pestano to put the Mariners ahead, 3-1.
That was the dagger at the end of another disappointing trip.
"I expect better," Acta said. "Things just escalated out of order during the road trip. We just got outscored the whole road trip again. I just think we're better than that. It's extremely hard, especially with the way we went out there and pitched."
Acta hopes his players heed his message.
"It comes down to relaxing," he said. "Things can't get any worse right now, so we might as well play the game right, go hard and have some fun. It's easier said than done, but they heard it again."