CLEVELAND -- A winning streak, consisting of even a few games, would not cure all that has ailed the Indians over the past month, but it could go a long way toward restoring some of the energy that has been sucked out of the team's clubhouse.
It has been so long, the Tribe might need to be reminded what a winning streak is when it finally happens again.
On Sunday afternoon, the Indians were handed a 4-2 loss by the Yankees, marking the eighth consecutive series in which the Tribe has not come out on top. Ubaldo Jimenez gave Cleveland a decent outing but could not prevent the club's 23rd loss in its past 28 games.
The Indians have won back-to-back contests just twice over the last 45 games.
"We can't be talking about stringing wins together," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "We need to take it one at a time and win one before you can string two, three or four. Before we get to three, we need to win one again."
The struggling Indians have not experienced a winning streak -- that is, a string of at least three victories in a row -- since July 3-5. To locate a four-game run within Cleveland's game log, you need to go back to June 18-22. At the conclusion of that streak, the Indians were in first place in the American League Central.
Those were the days.
The Indians have gone 18-40 since then and now sit in fourth place in the division, trailing the first-place White Sox by 16 games. It has been a drastic slide mostly caused by Cleveland's inconsistent starting pitching, but the offense has been a main culprit of late.
"We need to be consistent with [our pitching]," Acta said. "We know that our offense is not one that's going to come out and outslug people on an everyday basis."
The Indians do, however, believe their offense is better than Sunday's 1-for-11 showing with runners in scoring position. Cleveland put its leadoff man aboard in each of the first three innings against Yankees righty Freddy Garcia and came up empty. In the third, the Tribe loaded the bases with two outs and could not come through with a run.
"I thought Freddy pitched pretty well," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He gave us an opportunity to win. That's what we want."
Carlos Santana, who flied out with the bases loaded in the third inning, gained a chance at redemption in the fifth.
Garcia again loaded the bases with two outs by yielding a double to Jason Kipnis, hitting Asdrubal Cabrera with a pitch and walking Shin-Soo Choo. Santana then settled into the batter's box and delivered a two-run single to center field, cutting the Yankees' lead to 3-2 and sending Garcia to the showers after just 4 2/3 innings.
That was all the scoring Cleveland came up with, and it was hardly enough.
Over the past seven games, the Indians have scored 11 runs and hit .118 (6-for-51) with runners in scoring position. Cleveland has scored three runs or fewer in each of those games, with two runs or fewer in five of those contests.
"Offensively, we just didn't execute very well early in the game," Acta said. "We had a couple of opportunities with runners at second with no outs, and we didn't end up taking advantage of it. We kind of let Freddy off the hook a couple of times."
The Yankees got things rolling against Jimenez (9-13) in the second inning with a leadoff single from Eric Chavez. The righty then issued a walk to Raul Ibanez and followed by surrendering a run-scoring single to Ichiro Suzuki.
New York (74-53) added two more runs before the end of the frame -- Derek Jeter knocked in one with a groundout and Nick Swisher followed suit with a base hit -- putting Cleveland (55-72) in an early 3-0 hole.
"The first two innings, I felt like I didn't have anything," Jimenez said. "My fastball, I wasn't throwing it for a strike, or the breaking balls. But after the second inning, the last three innings, I was able to get back in a groove."
Jimenez bowed out after five frames, during which he was charged with the three runs on eight hits, and Cleveland's bullpen was unable to keep the deficit to one run. Lefty Tony Sipp entered the game in the sixth and promptly gave up a home run to Curtis Granderson, pushing the Yankees to a 4-2 advantage.
The blast was the 33rd of the season for New York's center fielder.
"We pitched decent," Acta said. "That makes it easier to take than when you're trailing by a ton of runs. That sucks the energy out of everybody."
This prolonged stretch of losing has had the same effect on the Indians.