CLEVELAND -- Strong starting pitching can mask a lot of things, including a sputtering offense. It doesn't mask it forever though as it finally caught up to the Indians on Sunday.
The Tribe was held to two hits as they dropped the series finale 4-1 to Baltimore at Progressive Field. It is the third time this season that the Indians have had two or fewer hits, which matches their total from last season.
During the five-game homestand, where the Indians went 3-2, the rotation posted a 2.46 ERA as they allowed only five earned runs in 33 innings with 32 strikeouts and five walks. The offense though was woeful with a .198 batting average.
Only once on the homestand did the Indians score more than four runs and there were four where they scored two or fewer.
"We hit some balls hard, just not consistently," manager Terry Francona said. "We've played a lot of low scoring games and it had that feeling today. That's why we went to the bullpen early."
The Indians only hits came in the fourth. Carlos Santana had a one-out double and then scored on a bloop single to center by Jason Kipnis.
How bad of a homestand was it for the offense? Michael Brantley was 4 for 20, Kipnis 4 for 22, Jose Ramirez 2 for 12, Yan Gomes 3 for 17 and Lonnie Chisenhall 2 for 11.
During August, the Indians have batted .235, which is 10th in the American League. The pitching staff though has the third-best ERA at 2.70. Both sides have to get clicking soon especially with a nine-game favorable stretch that features three at Minnesota, three against Houston and three at Chicago. If the Indians don't win at least six, it's hard to imagine them getting over the hump and making a late push, considering 13 of the final 29 games are against Detroit and Kansas City. At 62-61, the Indians are five games back for the final Wild Card spot.
One of the positives out of Sunday's game was another decent outing by Danny Salazar. In five innings, the right-hander allowed four hits while striking out four and walking one. With two outs in the sixth, it appeared as if Scott Atchison was going to get Salazar out of the inning, but J.J. Hardy had an RBI single up the middle and a Chris Davis double scored the go-ahead run.
"His pitch count was fairly high but I thought he threw the ball well," Francona said.