CLEVELAND (AP) — Derek Lowe was Cleveland’s best starter over the first two months of the season. The past three months, however, have been a very different story for the Indians’ veteran right-hander.
Lowe lost for the eighth time in his last 10 decisions on Wednesday night, allowing five runs and eight hits in six shaky innings in a 5-3 loss to the Detroit Tigers.
It was the Tigers’ first victory in five games at Progressive Field this year and just their second win over Cleveland in eight meetings.
“Derek started a little flat and had his pitches up in the strike zone, but to his credit, he kept fighting hard and gave us six good innings of work,” Indians manager Manny Acta said. “It’s just a matter of not being able to pitch ahead consistently, which continues to hurt him.”
Lowe (8-9) surrendered four earned runs, walked three and hit one batter with one strikeout. The 39-year-old Michigan native fell to 2-8 with a 7.59 ERA in his last 12 starts, allowing 89 hits and 54 earned runs in 64 innings.
“I’ve pitched worse than this, believe it or not, even though you guys didn’t see it,” said Lowe, who went 6-1 with a 2.05 ERA in eight starts prior to May 20. “I’ve struggled numerous times in my career, but by no means do you go out there and not think you’re going to get the job done.”
First baseman Casey Kotchman belted a two-run homer and designated hitter Travis Hafner had a solo shot for Cleveland, which only managed five hits and fell four games behind AL Central co-leaders Detroit and Chicago.
With the July 31 trade deadline fast approaching, it’s unclear whether Indians general manager Chris Antonetti will be a buyer or a seller. The Indians will have to beat Detroit ace Justin Verlander on Thursday to win the three-game series.
Cleveland’s players are also eyeing Aug. 11, when right-handed pitcher Roberto Hernandez’s suspension for age and identity fraud ends. Formerly known as Fausto Carmona, he could rejoin the rotation shortly thereafter, perhaps in Lowe’s spot.
“If you’re (third)-to-last in the American League in pitching, you don’t need any help,” Acta said sarcastically, then added, “Of course, we need pitching help. Everyone knows that. We’re working on it.”
While Lowe struggled, Tigers right-hander Max Scherzer (10-5) tossed seven strong innings to win for the first time in five career starts in Cleveland. He struck out eight and walked four, allowing three hits and two runs — both coming on Kotchman’s third-inning homer.
Following Kotchman’s blast to right-center field that cut Detroit’s lead to 3-2, Scherzer retired 13 of the final 15 batters he faced. The Tigers tacked on single runs in the fifth and sixth.
“I finished the game really well,” said Scherzer, who only needed five pitches to retire the Indians in order in the seventh. “I had a good fifth inning, a good sixth inning, and I got through the seventh. That helped keep the momentum on our side and I was able to get the game to the bullpen.”
Hafner homered off Jose Valverde with one out in the ninth to pull Cleveland within 5-3, but the Tigers’ closer rebounded to earn his 19th save in 23 chances.
Indians relievers Esmil Rogers, Cody Allen and Tony Sipp combined for five strikeouts in three scoreless frames.
Kotchman, Hafner, Shin-Soo Choo, Michael Brantley and Asdrubal Cabrera accounted for Cleveland’s five hits.
Cabrera also committed throwing errors on back-to-back plays in the second, helping the Tigers score twice to go up 3-0. Omar Infante reached base and scored on Cabrera’s first miscue, while Avila came home when Cabrera tossed a one-hopper into right field while trying to force out Infante.
Lowe walked the bases loaded in the fifth, but limited Detroit’s damage to one run. Prince Fielder’s sacrifice fly to center scored Jackson and extended the Tigers’ lead to 4-2.
NOTES: Asdrubal Cabrera made an Indians season-high three errors on June 17 against Pittsburgh. … Hernandez will make his first rehab start Thursday since returning to the United States, pitching for Lake County against West Michigan in a Single-A Midwest League game. Whitecaps catcher Patrick Leyland is the son of the Tigers manager. … Indians OF Aaron Cunningham was designated for assignment, clearing room on the 25-man roster for utility man Brent Lillibridge, who was acquired Tuesday from the Red Sox in exchange for minor league RHP Jose De La Torre. Tigers RHP Anibal Sanchez, who was obtained from Miami in a Monday trade, will throw a bullpen session Thursday and is scheduled to make his first AL start Saturday at Toronto. … The teams wrap up their three-game series Thursday at 7:05 p.m. as Verlander faces Zach McAllister.