The Indians’ organization likes to talk about the fact the team is 16-6 in series openers this year. Funny, but you don’t hear a lot about the fact they are 9-13 in second games.
Saturday afternoon saw the team’s record in such contests dip to that level, as the Pittsburgh Pirates bounced back from Friday’s defeat with a 9-2 win at Progressive Field, breaking a four-game losing streak.
The rubber game of the series will be played at 1:05 today (STO, WYBL, WTAM). In case you are wondering, the Tribe is 8-10 in third games of a series and 0-2 in fourth games, although they are 5-4 in rubber contests.
With Saturday’s loss, the Indians (33-31) were one game behind the Chicago White Sox in the AL Central Division race, pending the White Sox’s game late Saturday night in Los Angeles against the Dodgers.
The Pirates, who entered averaging 3.2 runs per game, used four home runs and a 12-hit attack to subdue the Indians.
“Well, they bombed us away, basically,” manager Manny Acta said. “Killed us with the long ball.”
Casey McGehee’s two-run homer to left field in the sixth inning put the Pirates (33-31) in the lead for good. McGehee unloaded off Ubaldo Jimenez (6-5, 5.00 ERA) one pitch after Garrett Jones led off the frame with a single. The blast came moments after Casey Kotchman had tied the contest at two with a solo shot off A. J. Burnett (7-2, 3.52) in the fifth.
McGehee made it a four-RBI day by adding a two-run bloop single off Nick Hagadone in the ninth inning. Pedro Alvarez (3 RBI) turned that into a four-run rally by blasting Hagadone’s next offering deep into the right-center-field seats for his second home run of the day.
McGehee isn’t generally well-known among American League fans, and had done little this season prior to Saturday (.235-2-10 in 132 at-bats). However, he had had two good years in Milwaukee, including a 2010 campaign in which he hit 23 homers and drove un 104 runs, before slipping badly last year and being traded to the Pirates for ex-Indian Jose Veras in the off-season.
“I felt that Ubaldo pitched well,” Acta said. “(He was) one pitch away from a very good start. He hung that slider to McGehee there, and that pretty much turned the game around. But he pitched well.
“He threw the ball well — good fastball. Just the offspeed stuff was a little bit up.”
“I don’t think (my outing) was bad,” Jimenez said. “I only made one mistake, and they made me pay for it.
“It was a hanging slider. It was supposed to be down and away. I left it right down in the strike zone.”
Alex Presley had added a solo homer to right against Tony Sipp in the seventh to make it 5-2 and continue the left-hander’s stretch of futility.
Burnett lasted 62⁄3 innings, with six hits and four walks allowed and the only runs against him coming on a pair of solo homers. Jared Hughes came on to get the final out of the seventh after the Indians had put men on the corners with two outs. Hughes went on to work the eighth.
Burnett is now 6-0, 2.17 in his last six starts.
“Burnett just attacked the strike zone and had an easy day at work,” Acta said.
“He’s a guy who’s always had a good arm, and throughout the years he has become a pitcher instead of a thrower. He’s got a two-seam fastball that runs away pretty good. He uses both sides of the plate. He’s got the hard breaking ball in the low-80s that just gets underneath the barrel of the bat, and a changeup that he uses, too.”
Asdrubal Cabrera and Jason Kipnis started the sixth with hits, but Burnett retired Carlos Santana on a popout and Michael Brantley on a flyout.
Johnny Damon drew a four-pitch walk, marking the 1,000th base on balls of his career, to load the bases, but Shelley Duncan swung at the first pitch and popped out.
“That was a huge inning for us,” Acta said. “We felt like we had a chance to get back into the game and maybe take the lead.”
Cabrera put the Tribe on the board with a solo homer into the right-field seats in the first inning. But for the second straight time, the Tribe collected just six hits.
“The issue is the bottom of the lineup is scuffling,” Acta said.
Alvarez, who is hitting .196 but with 10 home runs, tied it with a line-drive homer to right in the second.
Pittsburgh (33-31) took a 2-1 advantage when Jones hit a broken-bat RBI single to right in the third. It was the Pirates’ third straight one-out safety.
Joe Smith and also worked for the Tribe.
Doug Slaten finished for Pittsburgh.
Brantley went hitless in four trips to the plate, ending his season major-league high 22-game hitting streak.
Goldman is a freelance writer from South Euclid.