DETROIT — The Indians have undergone a number of changes over the past two-plus weeks, but one thing has remained constant.
They keep on losing.
A new venue in Detroit did little to remedy Cleveland’s ills, as the Indians dropped a 7-5 decision in the opener of a three-game series Friday night at Comerica Park.
It was the fifth straight loss for Cleveland. After going 18-4 over a red-hot stretch, the Indians have lost 13 of 17 games. They lost their ninth consecutive game on the road to fall
3½ games behind the first-place Tigers in the Central Division.
At 30-30, Cleveland, which held down first place for a brief spell during its hot streak, does not own a winning record for the first time since May 5.
“I know we’re a lot better than this,” said first baseman Nick Swisher, who endured a forgettable night. He went 0-for-4, grounded out to end the game as the potential tying run and committed two errors. “I don’t think it’s really getting to many guys, but it’s tough. No one likes to lose. We’ve got to find a way to get through this.”
The Indians got a brief and ineffective outing from starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez, who allowed five runs (three earned) on seven hits and two walks over just three-plus innings.
Jimenez (4-4, 5.03 ERA) was in the midst of an effective stretch that saw him allow more than two runs in just one of his last seven starts.
The right-hander struck out two of the four batters he faced in the opening inning before Detroit struck for three runs in the second to pave the way for Jimenez’s early exit.
“The second inning, he pitched away from some contact,” manager Terry Francona said. “We gave them some opportunities, but he wasn’t aggressive enough in to open up the plate.”
“In the first inning, I felt really good,” Jimenez said. “In the second inning, everything just went the other way. I threw like 40-some pitches. I was pressing too hard to get the next guy out. I was fatigued.”
Cleveland entered the night with three wins in the last five games against Tigers starter Justin Verlander, but didn’t fare as well against the former Cy Young Award winner and MVP this time around.
The right-hander shut out the Indians on just a hit through the first four innings, with Cleveland finally showing signs of life in the fifth.
With five of the first six batters getting hits to start the inning, the Indians closed to within 5-3 and had runners on second and third with one out. But Verlander kept the runners and the two-run lead intact by getting Swisher to pop up and Michael Brantley to fly to center.
“He has another gear,” Francona said of Verlander, who allowed three runs on seven hits, while striking out six over seven innings. “Whatever pitches he has, you can almost multiply. That makes it all the more impressive that we were able to get that many hits.”
Down 7-3 in the ninth, Cleveland didn’t go quietly, with Jason Giambi and Drew Stubbs hitting solo home runs off closer Jose Valverde.
The Indians had a runner on first in Jason Kipnis, who kept the rally alive with a two-out single, but Swisher chopped one to second to end the game.
The Indians are in the midst of their worst stretch of the season and they are without injured All-Stars Chris Perez (closer) and Asdrubal Cabrera (shortstop). But Francona is keeping the faith.
“I always believe,” he said. “We’re going to figure this out. In the meantime, you hate to lose and it’s so personal. But we’ll figure it out. You’ve got to fight through it. That’s the only way to go.
“It’s our responsibility to try to make things go our way — not hope.”
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.