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CLE@BOS: Kipnis homers in his fourth consecutive game

BOSTON -- This one hurt.

After watching Jacoby Ellsbury and the Red Sox celebrate a ninth-inning walk-off hit following a 95-minute rain delay on Tuesday, the Indians were forced to watch it all over again on Wednesday.

Carlos Carrasco held the Red Sox to just three runs (two earned) over seven innings, but the bullpen was outlasted for the second straight night, as Boston knocked off the Tribe, 4-3, dropping the Indians to .500 for the first time since April.

"It is tough, I'm not going to lie," said catcher Lou Marson. "Two tough ballgames the last couple of nights."

The Indians are now four games behind the first-place Tigers, their largest deficit of the season, but manager Manny Acta isn't worried just yet.

"Not with two months to play," Acta said. "I'll feel like it's getting away when we're four games out with three to play. How's that?"

With two righties due up before Ellsbury in the ninth, Acta turned to right-hander Joe Smith, who promptly retired Darnell McDonald and Marco Scutaro. Smith threw a first-pitch strike to the left-handed-hitting Ellsbury, who hammered the next pitch over the center-field wall.

"He's gotten us the last two nights; good for him," said Smith, who had held lefties to a .091 average before Wednesday's game. "It happens; it's baseball. I'll come back tomorrow and face him again and keep going after him again."

Though he hasn't won in six starts, Carrasco tossed his third quality start in four games. He was aggressive with his fastball, something that impressed Acta, but a mistake changeup to David Ortiz in the first inning cost him a pair of runs.

Aside from two more walks and scattered hits that led to a run in the fourth, Carrasco was solid through seven innings.

"He has a very good fastball and at times it gets away from him," Acta said. "Then he got the slider going, and he was really tough. We're very happy with the outing."

"I felt different today," said Carrasco, who will drop his appeal and start a six-game suspension on Thursday, a result of his throwing over the head of the Royals' Billy Butler on Friday. "I felt stronger and more comfortable."

While Acta was concerned for his young hitters facing the veteran knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, who was gunning for his 200th career win, rookie second baseman Jason Kipnis didn't seem worried. Kipnis was the only Indian to reach base three times, and his home run in the fourth inning marked the fourth time in as many games he's knocked one out of the park.

"It's nothing I could have predicted," Kipnis said of his streak. "It's nothing I could have guessed would happen, but I'm trying to come down on the ball more and take better swings."

Kipnis became the first member of the Tribe since Travis Hafner in 2006 to homer in four straight games, and just the first Indians rookie since Al Rosen in 1950 to collect a four-game homer streak.

"He's loose now," Acta said. "The first week or so has gone by, and right now he's at a pretty good groove at the plate. And that's good."

"I think that was a big key for me," Kipnis said. "I mean, shoot, after this series, when you've played against the Angels' pitching staff and the Red Sox's pitching staff, and you've played in Fenway in front of full crowds, I don't think you get much more of an intro to the big leagues than that right there."

Asdrubal Cabrera followed Kipnis with a base hit up the middle, and Hafner then pounded one into the ground, but the ball hopped over the head of Adrian Gonzalez at first base and rolled into right field for an RBI double.

Unfortunately, that was all the Tribe could muster off Wakefield, who completed 6 2/3 innings before Ezequiel Carrera smacked a double to right field to end Wakefield's night and tie the score at 3.

"I made one bad pitch to Carrera, and that was it," Wakefield said. "I was satisfied. I had good stuff again tonight and was able to limit them to just one big inning when they had the homer."

But for the second straight night, Boston's bullpen shut down Cleveland's bats. Randy Williams and Jonathan Papelbon combined to close out the final innings, and Tony Sipp played his part before Smith gave up the homer to Ellsbury. It was the first home run Smith has allowed all season.

"Sometimes you have to tip your cap," Acta said. "[Ellsbury] got two of or our best guys out of the 'pen [in Smith and Vinny Pestana the night before], and he's gotten a lot of people so far this year. That guy is having a tremendous season."

The Indians mustered just five hits on the night, though Kipnis' homer extended their streak to five games in which they have hit at least one home run. Carlos Santana, starting at first base, went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts, lowering his season average to .226.

Of the nine games between the Indians and Red Sox this season, six have been decided by two runs or fewer, including four one-run games.

"When you're playing a team like that, we need to play close to perfect," Acta said. "We'll be able to bounce back. It wasn't like it was an ugly, embarrassing ball game. So we can live with it. You go to bed, eat breakfast, and come back and play the game. That's what baseball is all about."

The Indians have now dropped 10 of their last 13 games

"They're two straight loses from walk-offs, but if you go back through most of the games, they're encouraging games for us," Kipnis said. "Compared to the homestand we just came off of, guys are playing better, playing better defense, playing better team baseball. I think finishing those games off is going to be the next step for us." Comments