CLEVELAND -- The Indians were not expected to lead the league in home runs this season, but the team's current power outage has persisted to the point of even defying the usual explanation. It is hard to cite the up-and-down nature of baseball's regular-season marathon for this ongoing drought.
Cleveland could have used a home run on Saturday, when the Tribe's lineup was handcuffed by right-hander Dan Haren in a 2-1 loss to the Angels that spoiled a strong effort from Jeanmar Gomez.
The Indians will take runs any way they can get them right now, but the persistent lack of power has quickly become a problem.
Indians manager Manny Acta did not sound overly concerned.
"We're going to hit another one -- believe me," Acta said. "Then, we're going to go some games and not hit any. That's the way the game goes. When you have such a long season, everything comes in cycles."
The current cycle includes a gap of nearly three decades.
The Indians (10-9) have not cleared a fence in 10 games, marking the longest power outage for the franchise since it went 14 games without a home run from April 10-27, 1983. To put that in perspective, only eight players on Cleveland's 25-man roster were born prior to that date.
Tribe center fielder Michael Brantley is not among that group.
"I can't tell you why we're not hitting them -- I don't know that," Brantley said. "But, at the same time, if we put up good quality at-bats, they'll come again."
Of course, Brantley might have been the wrong person to ask about the issue. He serves as Cleveland's leadoff man and his primary area of concern is getting on base. Brantley did just that in the first inning against Haren by slicing a pitch down the left-field line for a leadoff double. Unfazed, Haren set down the next three Tribe hitters in order.
And so it went all afternoon for the Indians.
Haren (1-1) and Gomez (1-1) locked horns in a pitcher's duel for the first six innings before the Indians starter bowed out of the ballgame. Haren stayed on the hill through eight innings, cutting his way through Cleveland's lineup to the tune of one run allowed on four hits with eight strikeouts. Haren then handed the ball over to newly-anointed closer Scott Downs, who collected the save.
The Angels' only offensive breakthroughs came against Gomez, who scattered five hits and piled up a career-high seven strikeouts. In the first inning, Kendrys Morales used an RBI single off the right-hander to plate Howard Kendrick. Los Angeles then ran to a 2-0 lead, courtesy of a solo home run from Torii Hunter in the fourth.
Beyond that, Gomez impressed in his first start following a five-game suspension for his part in the April 14 skirmish with the Royals.
"He gave us an outstanding outing," Acta said. "He went toe to toe with Haren and gave us an opportunity. Unfortunately, we couldn't execute or do anything against Dan. We had a few opportunities and didn't move the guy over to third or didn't get the big hit. He's a guy that, if you don't get him early, once he gets in a rhythm he's very tough."
Over the past two games, starters Jered Weaver and Haren have teamed for 15 strikeouts and just one run allowed across 14 combined innings of work. Cleveland pulled off a walk-off win over the Angels (7-14) on Friday night, but the club did not have any late-inning miracles up its sleeve on Saturday, in a game that started after a rain delay of 2 hours and 27 minutes.
Acta was quick to credit the Angels' pitching -- as opposed to faulting his offense.
"You've got to give it to those guys that we've been seeing," Acta said. "Back-to-back guys that are probably No. 1 starters on any other team. They're together. These guys have got a very good pitching staff. We've been seeing some good pitching."
In Sunday's finale, the Indians will face righty Ervin Santana.
All he did last season was no-hit the Tribe.
Santana has, however, gotten off to a rocky start this year. Heading into Sunday's contest, the right-hander has surrendered a Major League-high 10 home runs on the season. That could be good news for the Indians, whose homerless streak has now stretched to 93 innings and 334 at-bats.
The Tribe's last home run came via Carlos Santana in the fifth inning against Seattle on April 17.
Cleveland's current slide comes after the club launched at least one long ball (16 total) in each of its first nine games.
"That's how the game goes," Acta said with a shrug. "It evens out."