CLEVELAND — For nearly two weeks, the Cleveland Indians strung together timely hits, quality starts and win after win after win, racking up 10 straight.
And then they ran into the Seattle Mariners. Of all teams.
Felix Hernandez stopped baseball’s hottest team, Raul Ibanez homered and drove in three runs and the lowly Mariners — the AL’s worst team — beat Cleveland 3-2 on Friday night, ending the Indians’ longest winning streak since 2002.
“We were one hit away too many times,” Indians manager Eric Wedge said. “We definitely had our opportunities. We just didn’t finish innings off.”
Hernandez (9-8) allowed two runs and six hits in six innings to win for the first time in six road starts. He came up with the big pitch when he needed it as the Indians went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position against the right-hander.
Fresh off winning six straight on the road, Cleveland opened a six-game homestand with its first loss since Aug. 16. The Indians, who also lost 10 straight earlier this season, have not won 11 in a row since 1982.
Not even the return of Victor Martinez from the disabled list could keep the Indians’ winning streak alive against the Mariners, who at 51-83 sit at the bottom of the AL West. The two-time All-Star catcher, who underwent elbow surgery in June, was activated before the game. He went 1-for-3 with a walk while playing first base.
It’s not that the Indians didn’t have their chances. They hit into three double plays — two by Jhonny Peralta — and stranded the tying run at third in the eighth despite getting three hits in the inning.
“I can see why they won 10 straight,” Mariners manager Jim Riggleman said. “We had one of the best young pitchers in the game on the mound and he had to fight through every inning. They made life miserable for him.”
Seattle closer J.J. Putz, who had blown four of his previous six save chances, worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his 10th save.
One of baseball’s best hitters in August, Ibanez put the Mariners ahead 3-0 in the third off Jeremy Sowers (2-7) with his 22nd homer of the season.
Yuniesky Betancourt singled with one out and Ibanez followed with a shot into the left-field bleachers, giving him seven homers, 29 RBI and a .388 (40-for-103) average this month.
“I don’t really think about it,” Ibanez said of his gaudy August stats. “You play so many games, they all run together. I don’t give it that much thought. I go out and prepare the same way every day.”
The Indians got runners to second and third with none out in the third, but managed to score just once off Hernandez on Jamey Carroll’s RBI groundout. The right-hander struck out David Dellucci and retired Peralta on a foul pop to avoid further damage.
Cleveland pulled to 3-2 in the fourth on Shin Soo-Choo’s RBI double with none out, but Hernandez again worked out of trouble. First, Choo was thrown out trying to steal third. Hernandez then fanned Franklin Gutierrez and Kelly Shoppach.
“I didn’t even know we had won 10 in a row until the other day,” Shoppach said. “We’ll sit on this one for about 30 minutes, see our families and come out and do it again tomorrow.”
Ibanez’s run-scoring single in the first made it 1-0. Ichiro Suzuki led off with a single and moved up on a fielder’s choice. He stole third, and on Sowers’ next pitch, Ibanez dropped a base hit into right.
Notes: Seattle has won four of five and is now 14-25 since the
All-Star break. … Suzuki’s steal of third in the first inning gave him 40 stolen bases for the third time in his career. Only Julio Cruz (5) has had more 40-steal seasons for Seattle. … Wedge said he’s “curious” to see baseball’s new instant-replay system. “I’m in favor of anything that makes the game better,” he said. … Martinez hit 25 homers last season but has yet to connect in 2008. Now that he’s back in the majors, he wouldn’t mind clearing the fences. “I won’t try to, but I’d like to,” he said. “Whatever happens, happens.” Martinez hit one homer during a rehab stint at Double-A Akron. “There it is,” he recalled saying. “Finally.” … Riggelman said RHP Carlos Silva (biceps tendinitis) will start Monday in Texas. Silva hasn’t pitched since Aug. 15 and hasn’t won since June 28. … The start was delayed 55 minutes by rain.