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03/21/12 6:40 PM ET

Troublesome fourth hurts Slowey in Tribe's loss

In fight for rotation, righty allows three-run shot in his final frame

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Brett Pill launched a game-changing home run off Indians starter Kevin Slowey, sending the Giants to a 5-3 victory over the Tribe on Wednesday and throwing another wrinkle into Cleveland's fifth-starter competition.

Slowey -- one of four pitchers battling for the lone vacancy on the Indians' starting staff -- breezed through three innings without much trouble before hitting a wall in the fourth inning. Pill's three-run homer was the most damaging blow, pushing Cleveland down, 4-0.

"In the fourth I kind of let my mechanics get away from me a little bit," Slowey said. "I obviously wasn't commanding down in the zone quite as well. The first three innings, I threw a lot of strikes. They came out swinging and I did a bad job kind of recognizing that and using that to my advantage. I continued to throw hittable strikes in there."

In four innings, Slowey walked three, struck out two, threw a wild pitch and was charged with four runs on five hits. The right-hander, who was acquired from the Rockies in an offseason trade, has a 6.75 ERA through four Cactus League games with a little more than two weeks until Opening Day.

Slowey is up against Jeanmar Gomez, David Huff and Zach McAllister for the fifth spot in Cleveland's rotation. Of the four, Gomez has thrown the best, piecing together 11 shutout innings through four Cactus League appearances.

"Obviously, Jeanmar is throwing great," Slowey said. "I don't think there's anybody who would tell you otherwise. As for the rest of us ... certainly each one of us is working towards that. But, if you look at the way Jeanmar's been throwing, it's tough not to say, man, that guy's really getting the job done."

San Francisco (12-6-3) first broke through against Slowey in the third inning, when shortstop Brandon Crawford singled and moved to second on a wild pitch. Chris Stewart followed by sending a pitch from Slowey into left field for an RBI single that put the Giants ahead, 1-0.

In the fourth inning, Slowey gave up a one-out single to Buster Posey before issuing a walk to Brandon Belt. That brought Pill to the plate, and he promptly crushed an offering from the Indians right-hander deep to left field for a three-run home run. Slowey walked two more hitters before escaping the fourth on an inning-ending double play.

The Indians (5-11-3) answered in the fourth inning on a long home run to straightaway center field from left fielder Shelley Duncan. The two-run shot off San Francisco southpaw Eric Surkamp was the fourth homer of the spring for Duncan, who is competing for Cleveland's starting job in left. Surkamp -- a top rotation candidate behind the big league staff -- gave up two runs on four hits in five innings.

"I got a little lazy in the first couple innings," Surkamp said. "I was leaving a lot of balls arm side and I gave up that home run. I made a mistake to him and he knocked it out. Something I have to eliminate is those pitches I leave out over the plate. After that it kind of got me locked in a little bit."

Jose Lopez delivered a two-out RBI single in the eighth, but the Indians left the bases loaded when Matt LaPorta bounced into an inning-ending fielder's choice.

Indians relievers Rafael Perez and Robinson Tejeda each turned in a scoreless inning in their return to game action for the Tribe. Perez, who had been battling a sore left shoulder, struck out two in his lone frame. Tejeda -- back on the hill after a bout with an injured right calf -- allowed one walk and a hit, but did not give up a run.

"We had one rough inning," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "But overall, we threw well. We pitched well and that's something that I'm looking forward to, because that's what we consider the strength of this ballclub -- our pitching. It's what has supported this ballclub the last two years. So I'm really looking forward to continuing to see good pitching."

Up next for Giants: The Giants head to Salt River Fields in Scottsdale, Ariz., on Thursday for a 7:10 p.m. PT game worthy of playing under the lights. Ace Tim Lincecum (2-0, 4.50) starts for the Giants, while veteran Jamie Moyer (1-0, 1.80) continues his bid to join the Rockies' rotation. Lincecum has amassed 69 wins in five seasons, while Moyer has 267 wins in 24 years.

Up next for Indians: Right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez will try to ease some minds when he takes the hill for the Tribe in a 4:05 p.m. ET tilt against a Padres split squad on Thursday in Peoria, Ariz., in a game that can be heard on an exclusive free webcast. Jimenez -- Cleveland's No. 2 starter -- saw his spring ERA climb to 9.31 after he yielded six runs on five hits with four walks in just 3 2/3 innings against the Reds on Saturday.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.