Indians drop opener as Huff leaves early
Marte, Choo drive in two each in losing effort
CLEVELAND -- Maybe a big home run could have bailed out David Huff on Friday night at Progressive Field. But those don't come around much on the Indians' home turf these days.The homers came for the Mariners, who knocked Huff out of the weekend series opener after just 3 1/3 innings and continued to hammer away at Tomo Ohka, sending the Tribe to a 9-4 loss in front of 28,503. They didn't come for the Indians, who have now gone 10 home games without a home run -- a dubious distinction not reached since 1991. "We've proven we can score runs without hitting home runs," manager Eric Wedge said. "We're in one of those [tough] stretches, obviously. The last thing you want is guys to go up there trying to hit home runs." No, what the Indians want is their starting pitchers to give them a better effort than Huff did in this one. The Tribe certainly could have used a little long-ball luck after the mess Huff left behind. Huff, the rookie left-hander pitching a day in advance of his 25th birthday, just didn't have it on this night, as he was roughed up for five runs on six hits with four walks in that short stretch. In his previous start against the Twins, Huff had limited the damage against him, despite the constant threat of baserunners. He showed flashes in which he might have similar success in this start, but the relentless Mariners attack eventually proved to be too much for him. "I didn't get the job done," Huff said. "I wasn't hitting my spots like I normally do." The Mariners began to get to Huff in the second, when Mike Sweeney and Russell Branyan drew consecutive walks, and Bill Hall came through with an RBI single, all before the first out was recorded. Huff got out of the inning without further damage, but more trouble was looming in the third. After the Indians tied the game at 1 with Andy Marte's RBI single off Luke French, the M's took over for good in the third when they put two on to set up Sweeney's RBI single and Hall's sacrifice fly. In the fourth, Huff gave up a solo shot to Josh Wilson and a double to Ichiro Suzuki before getting pulled. Wedge summoned Ohka for emergency long relief, and Ohka immediately served up an RBI single to former Indians outfielder Franklin Gutierrez and a two-run homer to Jose Lopez. That made it 7-1. Huff is a pitch-to-contact type, and sometimes it bites him more than others. In general, though, the number of hits off him is alarming. He's allowed 85 hits through 54 1/3 innings over his past 10 starts. He's allowed more hits than innings pitched in each of those starts. The Indians are going to cap Huff's innings around the 160 or 170 mark this season because of the injury trouble he had in 2007. But they don't think he's hit a wall. "He's still learning what he needs to do to be successful up here," Wedge said. Ohka was at least successful in stopping the M's from letting this game become a total laugher by putting up zeroes in the fifth and sixth. And that allowed the Indians to entertain faint hope of a comeback when they put two on to set up Shin-Soo Choo's RBI single in the fifth and when Matt LaPorta doubled to set up Marte's second RBI single in the sixth. With that, the Indians had cut their deficit down to 7-3, but they had also missed out on an opportunity to chop it even further. The Indians had two on with one out in the fifth after Choo's single, but Jhonny Peralta hit into an inning-ending double play. And when Ohka served up a solo shot to Branyan in the seventh, it was clear this game was probably out of reach for the Tribe. Choo's RBI double later in the inning made it 8-4, but closer Kerry Wood let the M's tack on another insurance run in the ninth. It was too much trouble for the bats to overcome. "We had some decent swings," Wedge said. "We just didn't put the big inning together." Where's the long ball when you need it? While the Indians were able to post 11 runs in a romp over the Angels on Thursday night without going deep, this is, by and large, an offense that leans heavily on the homer. It's also a team that needed a deeper, stronger effort from its starter to have any real shot of winning this ballgame. The Indians didn't get it from Huff.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.