DETROIT -- Fausto Carmona felt it was as good as he's pitched all year. Disturbingly, it wasn't good enough. Carmona's 77-pitch, complete-game effort in the opener of a pivotal three-game set with the Tigers on Tuesday night was marred -- not just by the two big hits he served up, but by the lone hit his Indians teammates supported him with in a 2-1 loss at Comerica Park.
This was Carmona rising to the challenge in an atmosphere of increased implications. And this was a Tribe offense remaining in a rut that has greatly compromised the club's efforts to create separation in the American League Central standings. The Indians' lead stands at a paltry half-game after this defeat. "The lack of hitting is just kind of lingering around," third baseman Casey Blake said. "There's not a good, positive aura or energy." Any positive energy created by the recent exploits of the Indians' dual No. 1 pitchers -- Carmona and C.C. Sabathia -- has been sapped by the bats. Sabathia has logged a 2.11 ERA over his last six starts and come out with a 1-2 mark in those games; Carmona has put together a 2.19 ERA over his last five outings and gone 1-4. The two pitchers have more in common than the lack of support. They also are equally skilled in hiding any mounting frustration from reporters. "I feel fine," Carmona said through first-base coach Luis Rivera, acting as an interpreter. "There's nothing I can do about it. I don't feel good that we didn't get the win, but I don't get discouraged." The Indians looked plenty discouraged in their efforts to stage an attack against rookie Jair Jurrjens, making his second big league start after his call up from Double-A Erie last week. Jurrjens was even more effective than he had been in an impressive debut against the Tribe at Jacobs Field. This time around, he held them hitless for the game's first 5 1/3 innings. "He did a better job mixing his pitches," Indians manager Eric Wedge said. "We had a few pitches we let him get away with. You can't do that when a guy is pitching the way he's pitching." The Tribe was off to a rough start when Kenny Lofton, who drew a walk to open the ballgame, was doubled off the bag at first after Grady Sizemore flew out to center. Travis Hafner lined out on a hard-hit ball in the second, and Victor Martinez did likewise in the fifth. Otherwise, the Indians went down quickly and quietly against the Curacao native. Early on, Carmona was equally, if not more, dominant. He had a perfect game going through four innings, getting eight groundball outs in that span. But in the fifth, Carmona's night hit its only rough patch, and it was a costly one. He slightly elevated two sinkers -- one to Magglio Ordonez, the other to Carlos Guillen -- and both were pounded into the right-field seats for solo home runs. "The ball Ordonez hit was a good pitch," Carmona said. "He's a good hitter. The ball to Guillen, I left that one up." Scour Carmona's outing, and the only other ounce of drama you'll encounter came in the sixth, when Curtis Granderson doubled to the gap in right-center field. But Granderson got doubled off the bag at second when Placido Polanco flew out. Of Carmona's 77 pitches over eight innings, only 18 were balls. For the second time in a week, he was masterful in holding a potent Tigers lineup to a pair of runs. "He went the whole way," Wedge said. "He gave up a couple big balls, but he was fantastic." Wedge could scarcely say the same about his team's offense, which managed only Jhonny Peralta's line-drive solo shot off Jurrjens in the sixth. This game marked the first time in the Indians' 107-year history that a home run was the club's only hit. It was the second time the Tribe has been one-hit this year -- the other being a 2-1 win over the White Sox on April 15. The fact that one-hitters against pitchers who were on Double-A bus rides a week and a half ago is within the realm of possibility just points to how rough things have been on the offensive end for the Tribe these days. "Everybody's going out of their way to try to get us going," Wedge said. "That's because they care, and this team has a lot of heart. But you've got to let your talent lead and make sure it stays ahead of your heart, sometimes. You've got to slow things down and not rush through it." With a total of four hits between them, the Indians and Tigers rushed right through this game, which clocked in at 1 hour, 59 minutes. When Jurrjens came out with two outs and a runner on in the seventh, the Tribe's fortunes didn't change a bit. Joel Zumaya made his return from the disabled list to retire Ryan Garko for the final out. Fernando Rodney retired the side in the eighth, and Todd Jones did the same in the ninth. That put to rest the 13th game the Indians have been held to a pair of runs or fewer out of the last 26. "This has been going on for quite a while," Blake said. And it's a pain Carmona knows all too well.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.