CLEVELAND: Thankfully, few fans showed up at Progressive Field to watch, because the Indians’ 12-6 loss to the Mariners on Monday ranks among the more embarrassing games of the season. Maybe any season.
The visitors were forced to fly from Seattle to Cleveland to play the 4 p.m. makeup game then continue to Minneapolis, where they will play a three-game set with the Twins beginning tonight.
At least the Tribe made the trip worthwhile for the Mariners, though unintentionally. Certainly, David Huff couldn’t have enjoyed looking more like a coach throwing batting practice than a major-league starter.
Huff’s day included nine runs allowed (five earned) on seven hits and three walks.
“It was a very disappointing loss,” Indians manager Manny Acta said. “We gave David some runs to work with, but he had a rough day. And it was the wrong day with that doubleheader tomorrow [against the White Sox]. He just sucked the air right out of the team.”
Maybe not the whole team. Carlos Santana hit his fifth home run in his past seven games, lifting his total for the season to 26 and breaking the franchise record for home runs by a switch hitter. Victor Martinez, Santana’s favorite player as a kid, was the previous record holder.
“I’m very excited about that,” Santana said of the milestone. “I’m very happy, because I didn’t think I would hit 25 or 26 home runs.”
Going deep Monday had special significance for Santana beyond establishing a record.
“I hit the home run today for my mother,” he said. “It’s her birthday, and I try to hit a home run every year on her birthday.”
How often has he succeeded?
“This is three times in a row,” he said, excluding last year, when he was on the disabled list in September. “I hit one in Akron in 2009, and I hit one in 2008.”
At least one Tribe player was pleased with his own performance.
Lonnie Chisenhall’s error to start the third inning made four runs unearned for Huff. But that was hardly an excuse for the left-hander (who is presumably trying to show the club that he deserves a spot in next year’s rotation) to let six of the next eight batters reach base.
The offense staked Huff (2-6, 4.20 ERA) a lead in the first inning, but he gave up two runs in the second. When the Indians rallied for another run in the third to lead by two, Huff stumbled through the third inning — but not all the way — giving up seven more runs before Acta led him away.
“I left some balls up over the middle and they got hit pretty hard,” Huff said. “But I also got some pitches down, and they got some lucky hits. I’m very disappointed with myself. I think it was mostly stupid pitch selection.”
Acta had another explanation.
“David was not aggressive in the strike zone,” the manager said, referring not only to Monday’s outing but to Huff’s past four appearances. “He has to show he can get left-handers out. They’re hitting over .300 against him for his career.”
The three left-handed batters in the Seattle lineup were 5-for-10 against Huff, raising his average against lefties to .280 for the season.
Granted, Chad Durbin let in two of Huff’s runs, allowing a walk to Luis Rodriguez and the first grand slam for Mike Carp, the first two batters he faced.
In his past four starts, Huff is 0-4 with a 7.11 earned-run average. For some reason, when Huff pitches, the defense goes on sabbatical. In those same four starts, Huff has allowed 10 unearned runs. In nine big-league outings this season, Huff has given up 33 runs, 12 of them unearned.
The game was played in a light rain that got somewhat heavier after the last out of the seventh, when the umpires called for the field to be covered. The tarp did not come off, because the game was called after a 44-minute wait.
Seattle starter Charlie Furbush wasn’t much more effective than Huff. Then again, he was and he wasn’t.
It could be argued that he gave his team a chance to win, despite giving up six runs and 10 hits in five innings. Of course, that’s because Huff wasn’t much of an adversary.
Furbush (4-9, 5.22 ERA) was two totally different pitchers. In the first two innings, he gave up four runs. In the fifth, he gave up two more.
But the Indians did not forsake one of the things they do best: strike out. Furbush struck out eight in five innings, in one span striking out six in a row.
“I don’t want to take anything away from Furbush,” Acta said. “But those two teams rank one and two [in the league] in strikeouts. I think that had something to do with it.”
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at www.ohio.com/tribematters. Follow the Indians on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ABJ_Indians. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sports.abj.