Indians fade with bullpen in the Bronx

Indians fade with bullpen in the Bronx

NEW YORK -- This is Tony Sipp's first visit to the so-called city that never sleeps. But he wasn't about to lose any sleep over the ugly way his scoreless-inning streak came to an end in the Bronx.

The law of averages caught up with Sipp and ran over him and the Indians, who fell, 8-2, in the opener of a four-game series at Yankee Stadium on Friday night.

Sipp hadn't allowed a run in 15 1/3 innings over 15 appearances, a stretch dating back to April 21. That all changed with Robinson Cano's second-deck grand slam off Sipp's slider that turned a close game in the Bronx into "game over."

"In baseball, anything can happen any day," Sipp said with a shrug. "Games like this bring you back to reality that anything can happen. I don't know if I was due. It's just baseball."

But pardon the Indians if they feel they're due for a winning streak.

Or at least some consistency and advantageous hitting from their offense.

The Indians have had neither this season. The bats are largely to blame for their 17-29 start. They were certainly to blame in this loss, just as much as Sipp was for running that slider over the middle of the plate. Because even on a night when Fausto Carmona wasn't at his sharpest, the Tribe had little to offer in terms of support against right-hander Phil Hughes.

Carmona gave the Indians six innings in which he allowed four runs on seven hits with three walks and three strikeouts. He issued first-pitch strikes to just 12 of the 27 batters he faced, but he hung in there.

"I thought Fausto battled really well," manager Manny Acta said. "You can't complain about the effort he gave us."

The Indians could have complained about a close call at first base in the second that came back to bite them. Cano supposedly legged out an infield single to open the bottom of the inning. Replays, however, showed shortstop Jason Donald's throw hit first baseman Russell Branyan's glove a step before Cano landed on the bag.

First-base umpire C.B. Bucknor's call would loom large moments later, when Nick Swisher smacked a two-run homer off the right-field foul pole to make it 2-0.

"I don't think [the call] affected [Carmona] at all," Acta said. "He kept his composure."

And Carmona kept pitching without suitable backing from the bats. Through six innings, all the Indians mustered against Hughes was Jhonny Peralta's RBI double in the fourth.

"[Hughes] had a good fastball," Peralta said. "He was really good with his cutter. That was his best pitch. We didn't hit him too good tonight. We're not scoring a lot of runs right now."

That was certainly an understatement, and the Tribe's offensive struggles underscore the need of the pitching staff to provide ace-type material on a nightly basis.

Carmona didn't have that kind of material in this one. And his command issues would hurt him in the bottom of the sixth.

Carmona needed 31 pitches to get through the sixth inning. He walked Mark Teixeira to open the inning, and that's never a good start. He then gave up back-to-back singles to Cano and Swisher to load the bases. A four-pitch walk to Juan Miranda brought home one run; a sacrifice fly off the bat of Brett Gardner scored another. It was 4-1.

Still, it clearly could have been much worse. And because Carmona didn't let the inning completely get away from him, the Indians were able to make a game of it in the seventh. Branyan's leadoff shot off Hughes made it 4-2 to keep hope alive.

That was it against Hughes, however. He allowed just the two runs on five hits with a walk and eight strikeouts over seven innings.

"Seventy percent of his pitches were strikes by the time he reached the 100-pitch count," Acta said of Hughes. "That was pretty impressive. He elevated the ball and went after our hitters, and he stranded runners when he needed to."

Sipp was nowhere near as effective. He didn't retire a batter in the seventh, his impressive run ending in dramatic fashion.

The inning began with Derek Jeter's leadoff infield single. It continued with Curtis Granderson's double. And Sipp walked Teixeira to load the bases.

"The only pitch I didn't execute was the 0-2 pitch to Granderson," Sipp said. "I tried to go away and left it over. He has those long arms."

With the bases loaded, Sipp's first pitch to Cano was a slider that stayed over the middle of the plate, and Cano belted it for the grand slam that sealed the deal.

As Sipp said, that's baseball. That was the first home run he's surrendered since Opening Day, and given the number of times he's held up his end of the bargain in the early going this season, you give him the benefit of the doubt.

But the Indians, as a unit, have certainly left the viewer with plenty of reason for concern this season and particularly these past two weeks.

"You just have to show up every day and play hard," Acta said. "We're not counting [the losses]. You guys are. You're the only ones that will be reminding them of our record. There are over 100 games to play."

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.