Missed opportunities haunt Tribe in loss

Missed opportunities haunt Tribe in loss

CLEVELAND -- The Indians were finally able to score runs early on Sunday.

But much like it has done so far in the second half, the offense fizzled out.

Victor Martinez looked to put a charge in the Indians' offense in the ninth inning, but Ichiro Suzuki made a game-saving catch as the Tribe lost, 5-3, on Sunday in front of 20,900 at Progressive Field. Aaron Laffey pitched well, but was the third victim in as many days of a power outage by Cleveland's offense.

A win in the series opener along with a new-look lineup had given the Indians hope of another second-half surge. But instead, the Tribe dropped three of four games to the Mariners and sits in the same position it was in the first half of the season -- last place.

The Indians left 10 runners on base Sunday and 27 for the series. They hit just .234 as a team against the Mariners and scored just 10 runs.

"We have to do better offensively, no doubt about it," manager Eric Wedge said. "I believe in these guys and the lineup we're putting out there. But we need to do a better job. We've got to do a better job of taking advantage of pitches when we get them to hit."

Laffey was making just his second start since coming off the disabled on July 8. But he navigated his way through a tough first inning to get his first quality start since April 26.

He pitched six innings, allowing three runs on eight hits to go with three strikeouts and two walks. But it was all for not, as he didn't factor in the decision.

"He struggled coming out of the gate, but he righted himself after that," Wedge said. "He gave us a chance to win the ballgame."

But it didn't appear that way at first, as Seattle jumped on Laffey early.

Ichiro Suzuki led off the game with a single and then Russell Branyan hit his 23rd home run of the year to give the Mariners a quick 2-0 lead. Later in the inning, designated hitter Chris Shelton doubled and then scored on a Franklin Gutierrez single to push the lead to 3-0.

But Laffey would settle down and not give up a run the rest of the way.

"In the first inning, I really wasn't that bad," Laffey said. "I stuck with the same thing, but located just a little bit better and got down on my sinker a little bit more."

And for the first time in the past three games, the Indians were able to battle back off a Mariners starter. Felix Hernandez and Jarrod Washburn were able to breeze past the Tribe on Friday and Saturday, but Erik Bedard had no such luck Sunday.

In the second inning, Jhonny Peralta walked and later scored on Ben Francisco's seventh homer of the season to get Cleveland within one at 3-2. It was the Indians' first home run in the second half and broke an 0-for-12 streak for Francisco.

They would tie the game in the fifth inning when Grady Sizemore walked and then advanced to second on Asdrubal Cabrera's sacrifice bunt. Victor Martinez then hit a slow grounder to second, but Jose Lopez let it go under his glove and into right field, giving Sizemore the chance to tie the game at 3.

The Indians knocked Bedard out of the game after just 4 2/3 innings. But once again, when it mattered most, the Tribe was unable to capitalize.

Cleveland let its biggest opportunity slip away in the sixth. The Indians loaded the bases with two outs against reliever Miguel Batista. But Cabrera grounded out to second to end the threat.

Unlike the Indians, the Mariners took advantage of their opportunities.

Gutierrez led off the eighth inning with a single off Rafael Betancourt and then stole second -- his seventh of the season. After catcher Rob Johnson walked and left fielder Ryan Langerhans sacrificed both runners over, pinch-hitter Jack Hannahan hit a sacrifice fly to Shin-Soo Choo to put Seattle up, 4-3.

After the Mariners added a run in the ninth, the Indians would get one more chance in their half of the inning. With two outs and Choo on first base, Martinez hit a ball that sent Suzuki backpeddling. With his back against the wall, Suzuki leaped and grabbed the ball just before it hit the yellow line on the right-field wall.

Had Suzuki not made the play, the ball most likely wouldn't have gone out, but it would have kept the Indians' chances alive.

"I hit the ball pretty decent," Martinez said. "I knew I hit it straight up, I was just hoping to get some help from the wind."

But Martinez would get no such help as the Indians dropped their third straight and their 22nd in the past 30 games.

Matt O'Donnell is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.