DETROIT -- These are frustrating days for the Indians and their usual source of energy. Nick Swisher is going through one of those spells where it seems he can't buy a hit no matter how hard he strikes a ball, and he can't have a conversation without getting his manager ejected.
Such was the case on Saturday night, when Cleveland's recent slide continued in the form of a 6-4 loss to Detroit at Comerica Park. Starter Carlos Carrasco struggled in his return to the rotation, Swisher's brutal slump continued and Terry Francona took an unexpectedly early exit following an on-field argument in the eighth inning.
Add it all up, and you get a sixth straight defeat for the reeling Tribe.
"When it rains, it pours," Swisher said. "We've got to just keep going out there and battling every day, man. This is a long season. Hopefully, we'll look back at this stretch in August and September and kind of laugh at it all. That's it, man. It just boils down to winning a ballgame. That's it."
It sounds so simple.
Yet for this team, which was riding high during an 18-4 run between April and May, things have become increasingly complicated as the season gets deeper into June. Cleveland has dropped 14 of its past 18 games, including the past four meetings with division-rival Detroit. With the latest loss, the Indians slipped below the break-even mark for the first time since May 2.
"It's frustrating. We want to win," utility man Ryan Raburn said. "Right now we're just not getting the big hits. We're just not winning. We just have to keep battling through it."
The Indians' two previous All-Stars (shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera and closer Chris Perez) are on the disabled list along with a pair of starters. One of those pitchers, right-hander Zach McAllister, was shelved on Saturday and could miss two to four weeks with a sprained middle finger. His replacement, Carrasco, faced three bases-loaded jams and served up six runs in the first three frames of his four-inning outing against Detroit.
Swisher -- signed to a four-year, $56 million contract over the winter -- went 0-for-4 and is now in an 0-for-24 slump. It's the second-longest hitless drought of his career, trailing only the 28-at-bat slide he endured with the Yankees last September. For the year he is batting .239.
There is an excess of adversity, and frustration has started to boil over.
Consider the moments before the home half of the eighth inning, when Swisher engaged home-plate umpire Andy Fletcher in conversation. Swisher claimed no intention of getting heated, but the discourse quickly intensified, convincing Francona (who had been tossed from Sunday's home game against the Rays) to intervene. Francona positioned himself between Fletcher and Swisher and was ejected after an angry exchange.
"When I saw Andy get a little more animated, I got out there," Francona said. "I had no intention of getting thrown out of the game. I just wanted to get in between he and Swish. The way Andy approached me, I thought he lost his composure. I don't think I had any chance of staying in that game. Spit was coming out of his mouth, and [he was] gesturing and everything."
Swisher did not plan for things to go the way they did.
"I just went out there trying to have a nice little conversation," he said. "I had a couple of questions about some things. Then the finger-pointing started, and that's when the conversation started to escalate. That was it. And then the next thing you know, I was getting blocked out [by Francona]."
Things just have not been going Cleveland's way.
Carrasco fell right in line in that regard.
With two outs and the bases full in the second inning, Tigers slugger Prince Fielder sent a pitch from Carrasco to the nook in the wall in deep right-center. That cleared the bases and, combined with an RBI single from Andy Dirks earlier in the inning, pushed Cleveland behind, 4-1. In the third, Avisail Garcia sent home a run with the bases loaded with a run-scoring groundout, and Dirks added another RBI single to put Detroit up, 6-1.
"At this level, when you miss your spots, they're going to hit you," Carrasco said. "That's what I did today. I missed a couple of spots with my fastball and my breaking stuff, so they got me."
Carrasco, who was 2-0 with a 3.21 ERA in 10 outings at Triple-A prior to his promotion, exited after being charged with six runs on 10 hits in just four innings. He ended with one strikeout and three walks in the 87-pitch effort, during which he routinely hit around 95-96 mph with his fastball.
"His stuff is electric," Francona said. "But there's still some learning to do, because he didn't pitch in. If he lets them get their arms extended, then it takes away some of the effectiveness of his breaking ball, because they're not respecting in. When he learns to start throwing that fastball in, he's going to be something special."
The Indians (30-31) struck quickly against Tigers starter Rick Porcello, who settled down after his initial stumble. Michael Bourn led off the game with a double to left field and scored on a base hit to left from Jason Kipnis, giving the Indians a short-lived one-run lead in a span of four pitches. From there, Porcello set down the next 12 hitters.
Cleveland added an unearned run in the fifth inning off Porcello, who gave up only three hits in his six innings. Raburn added a two-run homer off Tigers reliever Luke Putkonen in the seventh inning, but as has been the case of late, the comeback bid fell short.
"We've just got to win, man," Swisher said. "A lot of us aren't feeling too good right now. It's a frustrating time, man. It's a super frustrating time for everybody. We've just got to go out there and find a way to win a game. Start with one game, and it'll snowball into something good."