CLEVELAND -- Eric Wedge's latest pregame speech had the same result as his last. Wedge has tried anything and everything -- including two pregame pep talks in 10 days -- to knock his young team out of its long funk. But just like the first speech, which came at the beginning of the losing streak, his most recent talk couldn't turn around his team's month-long slide. While the Indians showed plenty of fight late, they couldn't muster any clutch hits early as they lost, 6-5, to the Tigers in front of 23,516 Thursday at Progressive Field. The loss was a historic one as the Indians fell for the 11th straight time, the club's longest such streak since 1931.
"Our guys made a good run at it," Wedge said. "We played better baseball tonight, still short, obviously, on the win side. But against one of the better pitchers in the league, we made him work." Justin Verlander had dominated the Indians -- and the rest of the league, for that matter -- all season. Carlos Carrasco, on the other hand, had struggled in each of his starts since being called up earlier this month, including his first start of the season against the Tigers in which he gave up six earned runs. But outside of a troublesome fourth inning, Carrasco pitched well and kept the Indians in the game. The Tribe had multiple chances to end its streak, avoid a sweep and, at least somewhat, vindicate its manager, who is arguably on thin ice. But the key hits that would have momentarily swept all the team's problems under the rug never came. "We squandered a few opportunities there that we should have done more with," Wedge said. The first of those opportunities came in the third. The Indians scored first when Trevor Crowe led off the third inning with a single and Andy Marte followed with a double. After Wyatt Toregas walked to load the bases, Michael Brantley hit a seeing-eye single off a 101-mph Verlander fastball to score Crowe and Marte and give the Indians a 2-0 lead. But with no outs and runners on second and third, the Indians were unable to land a potential knockout blow as Jamey Carroll struck out and Shin-Soo Choo and Travis Hafner flied out. That would prove costly as the Tigers got to Carrasco into the fourth. Carrasco allowed a walk and four singles before finally getting someone out. By that time, Detroit had scored four runs to go up, 4-2. "I lost my focus," Carrasco said. "It was a long inning." The Indians would threaten again in the sixth when Hafner singled and moved to second and Luis Valbuena walked with two outs. Both runners moved up a base after a Verlander wild pitch. But Crowe ended the threat when he grounded out. After the Tigers scored a run in the seventh and eighth, the Tribe had yet another shot to cut into the Tigers' lead. Hafner doubled in Choo to get the Indians within three, but later in the inning the Indians designated hitter was thrown out at the plate for the second out. Then, with runners on first and second, Marte lined out to second to end the threat. The inability to score earlier in the game came back to haunt the Indians when Choo hit a two-run home run to cut the deficit to 6-5. After Hafner singled, Jhonny Peralta hit a broken-bat liner that looked as if it might fall for a hit until Brandon Inge made a diving grab that shut the Indians down for good. "You have to credit Cleveland," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "Tough times for them, and Eric's guys kept playing. They kept playing their tails off, kept battling their tails off. I'll be glad to get the heck out of here." The Tribe is now just one loss away from the club record of 12 straight losses and has lost 20 of its past 23 games. "I felt like we had some good at-bats," Wedge said. "We were just short. Those runs they tacked on really mattered."
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.