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CLE@SEA: Donald makes sliding over-the-head catch

SEATTLE -- Indians manager Manny Acta did not want to fault his lineup for the latest trip to the loss column. After all, it was the offense -- specifically, an overwhelming outpouring of offense -- that had carried Cleveland so far on this road trip.

No, the Tribe's 4-1 defeat at the hands of the Mariners on Wednesday night at Safeco Field was not about what the lineup could not do. It was more about what Seattle left-hander Jason Vargas did against an Indians offense that had been so potent in recent days.

"Vargas was the story," Acta said.

Indeed, he was. Of course, there was a little more to the story than that.

There was also the uncharacteristically inefficient outing from Indians sinkerballer Derek Lowe that put Cleveland in a quick hole, and also one glaring missed opportunity for Cleveland's bats in the sixth inning. It was an unfortunate combination that added up to the end of a four-game winning streak and the first road loss of the season for the Tribe.

Heading into Wednesday's meeting, the Indians (5-5) had averaged more than 10 runs per game over the last four contests against Kansas City and Seattle. It was a pace impossible to sustain, but running into Vargas on a night he had everything working did nothing to help the situation for Cleveland's hitters.

"He held us in check the whole night," Acta said. "He changed speeds to both sides of the plate. He just did a very good job."

The Indians' lone breakthrough against Vargas (2-1) came in the third, when center fielder Aaron Cunningham led off with a double that bounced off the top of the wall in left field. Acta requested a review -- hoping it might have been a home run -- but replays confirmed the initial ruling and Cunningham remained at second base.

Cleveland still found a way to bring Cunningham across the plate -- a sacrifice bunt from Jason Donald and a sac fly from Jason Kipnis did the trick -- but that was the extent of the club's offensive showing against Vargas. The lefty struck out seven, scattered four hits and walked three in seven solid innings of work for Seattle (7-6).

"I was able to locate my fastball early in the game, kind of put them on the offensive," Vargas said. "After I was able to get through the lineup a couple times, I think it kind of forced them to swing the bats."

It was a different story altogether for Lowe.

Eight pitches into the game, Mariners leadoff man Chone Figgins -- he of just 57 home runs in more than 5,100 career plate appearances -- launched a home run to right field. Two batters later, Ichiro Suzuki followed suit, belting a 1-0 offering into the right-field seats for another solo blast off Lowe that handed Seattle a swift 2-0 lead.

By the time the 38-year-old Lowe (2-1) left the ballgame with two outs in the fifth inning, he had piled up 113 pitches, allowed eight hits and issued six walks. Amazingly, the right-hander limited the Mariners to just four runs, which was an admirable effort on an evening when his sinker went flat and his command went awry.

"To give up six hits on top of the two home runs," Lowe said, "and six walks, and they only scored two runs? Try that. That's not easy. But, yeah, it was just a lot of non-competitive pitches. I think I was on about Plan G by the time I got taken out of the game. I tried so many things.

"There were times where you could've easily made a pitch and got out of an inning, but it just wasn't going to happen."

On the other side of the spectrum, Vargas did escape unscathed when it mattered most.

In the sixth inning, Vargas squeezed a base hit to Carlos Santana between a pair of walks to load the bases with one out. It was a prime scoring chance for the Tribe, which had a big inning consisting of at least five runs at least once in each of the past four games. That streak was the first of its kind for Cleveland since May 1921.

This time around, Vargas struck out Shelley Duncan and then induced an inning-ending groundout off Jose Lopez's bat to free himself from the jam.

Cleveland went hitless the rest of the way.

"That was our opportunity," Acta said. "Vargas, you've got to give him credit."

The Indians are not going to lose any sleep over the loss, though.

"We've still had a very successful road trip," Lowe said. "That's what makes games like this easier. You just forget about it and move on."

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