Indians do just enough to end skid
Cleveland a run better than Pirates in pivotal seventh inning
PITTSBURGH -- The team the Indians faced on Friday was mired in a season-worst slump, having dropped 11 straight games. It was last in its division, the excitement of the 28,478 fans in its ballpark generated mostly by the recent promotions of its most decorated prospects.
But still, Indians manager Manny Acta noted, the Pirates had only two fewer wins than his Indians, so they must have been playing well at some point.
- 134 wins
- 118 wins
That point came in the seventh inning on Friday. But the Indians, stuck in a smaller losing streak, played just a little bit better in that same frame. They now have three more wins than the Pirates, their four-run seventh just enough to withstand their opponents' three-run charge in the same inning.
The Indians' 4-3 win at PNC Park snapped a four-game slide, sent the Pirates to their season-worst 12th straight loss -- their longest losing streak under manager John Russell -- and started off a nine-game, three-city road trip on a positive note.
"It's like boxing: If you don't hit the other guy, they're going to hit you," Acta said of the game's first six innings, all of which were scoreless. "So the thing that I'm thinking is, 'Man, if we don't score, they're going to score any minute, so we better get something going here.' "
Fausto Carmona did his part through the first six innings, striking out seven while surrendering just two hits and facing the minimum three batters in every frame but the second, when he faced four.
But the first three men Carmona faced in the seventh reached base before Ryan Church snapped a 2-for-37 funk with a three-run double to cut the lead to 4-3 and force Carmona's exit. Rafael Perez and Frank Herrmann combined to retire the next three batters, leaving Church, the tying run, stranded at third.
The Indians' relievers have allowed an American League-best 20.2 percent of their inherited runners to score. After Chris Perez and Kerry Wood closed the door on the Pirates in the eighth and ninth innings, the bullpen's ERA over the last 12 games was lowered to 2.31.
"All the credit goes to our bullpen," Acta said. "They were fantastic today."
Playing in his seventh career Major League game, catcher Carlos Santana reached base four times for the Indians, who had three players record two hits apiece.
Santana's RBI double capped the seventh-inning burst that saw Jason Donald, Trevor Crowe and Shin-Soo Choo each hit RBI singles to chase Pirates ace Paul Maholm, who tossed 104 pitches over 6 2/3 innings. Charged with all four runs, the southpaw struck out five and gave up seven hits.
"[I] didn't run out of gas," Maholm said. "Ground balls found some holes. It didn't go my way. Right now it's rough for us. We've got to go out there and take a game. We can't go out there and expect things to fall our way right now."
"I would throw the exact same pitches tomorrow as I did today. Would I rather execute them a little bit better? Yeah."
Carmona threw just 85 pitches but ran into the same trouble when the Pirates finally came to bat in the seventh. Still, the right-hander managed to make it 12 starts out of 14 without allowing more than three runs, building off his complete-game, three-hit gem against the Nationals just six days earlier.
"Once we scored those four runs I thought, 'It's over. The way he was throwing the ball, as dominant as he has been and as close as this game has been, and now we got a four-run lead -- over. We're going to cruise from here,' " Acta said. "But you've got to give [the Pirates] credit. They put some good at-bats together against him."
Playing in his third career game, Pedro Alvarez had the chance to extend the night by recording his first Major League hit. But Wood sat him down with a 76-mph curveball that punched the glove of Santana, the Indians' prized rookie, to keep Alvarez hitless and his team reeling.
Matt Fortuna is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.