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CLEVELAND -- All was quiet for most of the afternoon at Progressive Field on Sunday.
Cleveland closer Chris Perez, who blasted Indians fans twice in less than 24 hours for not showing more support for the team that leads the AL Central, wasn’t used in the 5-3 loss to the Miami Marlins.
Since the Indians don’t play Monday, Perez, unhappy that the Indians are last in the majors in average attendance, will have to wait until at least Tuesday night to know how fans will react to his strong words.
Perez first criticized the fans following Saturday’s 2-0 win in which he struck out the side in the ninth inning for his 13th save. He addressed the issue again before Sunday’s game, but didn’t back down from his words a day earlier, questioning why fans are not turning out and why some in the sparse crowds boo the home team.
Asked after the game about Perez’s opinions, Indians manager Manny Acta said, “Chris is a very emotional guy. He really cares. He wants to win badly a championship for the city of Cleveland. We all want people here, but that’s something we can’t control. I like our fan base. We have to understand the situation. It’s tough out there (economically) nowadays. We’ve had tough weather at the beginning of the season. Our fans will come.”
Indians starter Derek Lowe, who took the loss despite holding Miami to two runs in six innings, maintained he was unaware of Perez’s comments. He jokingly said, “Did he thank them? Did he say hi?” Turning serious, Lowe said, “Who am I to sit here and say you should come or shouldn’t come? My job is to play the game and that’s it. It’s not our place, at least in my opinion, to tell people to come or not to come.”
Of more immediate concern to Acta is the state of Cleveland’s offense, which was quiet all weekend, scoring seven runs.
“Both teams pitched pretty well,” Acta said. “It was about pitching the whole series. It’s not like either one of us has the Texas Rangers lineup. It was a well-played series. Unfortunately, we ended up losing two out of three.”
Josh Johnson twice worked out of jams to earn his second straight win. Johnson (2-3) allowed one run and five hits in seven innings. Heath Bell gave up an RBI double to Jose Lopez and a run-scoring groundout to Casey Kotchman in the ninth before nailing down his fifth save in nine chances.
Lowe (6-2) had his four-game winning streak snapped.
“I’ve seen Johnson pitch many good games,” Lowe said. “Today was no exception. He made quality pitches when he had to.”
The 38-year-old Lowe was coming off a 127-pitch shutout of Minnesota on Tuesday, when he gave up six hits and four walks without a strikeout.
“We knew he pitched that complete game with all those pitches last time out, so we tried to work the pitch count against him,” Miami first baseman Greg Dobbs said. “That’s not really the thing to do against him because he throws strikes. It usually doesn’t matter because he’s such a competitor 60 or 120 pitches is all the same to him. But we had some good at-bats and put across a couple runs against him. He’s having a really good year.”
Clinging to a 2-1 lead, Johnson twice got the Indians to hit key ground balls with two runners on. After the Indians scored in the fifth on an RBI single by Lopez, the right-hander got Shin-Soo Choo to ground to the right side, forcing out Lou Marson at second. Shortstop Jose Reyes could not throw to first for a double-play attempt as Marson stood in his way. The umpires ruled interference and called Choo out, too.
With runners on first and third in the seventh, Johnson got pinch-hitter Kotchman on a grounder to end the threat.
After scoring only three runs in the first two games, Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen made sure Miami put some pressure on Lowe. Reyes opened the game with a double and Guillen had Bryan Petersen bunt him over to third. Reyes then scored on a groundout by Hanley Ramirez.
Miami made it 2-0 in the third when Ramirez got a two-out single and hustled around the bases to score on a double by Dobbs.
Michael Brantley broke a 0-for-13 slump with a bloop single and stole second to fuel Cleveland’s fifth-inning rally.
Logan Morrison had an RBI double in the eighth against reliever Jeremy Accardo. Brett Hayes followed with a run-scoring single and Morrison scored on a groundout by Chris Coghlan to make it 5-1.
NOTES: Monday’s off-day is the Indians first since April 20. Cleveland has played 21 games in 20 days this month. ... The Indians open a three-game series with Detroit on Tuesday night, the first meeting between the AL Central rivals this season. ... 3B Jack Hannahan missed sixth straight game with a sore back. He isn’t sure if he will be available Tuesday. ... Cleveland is 11-12 at Progressive Field, the only team in the majors with a losing record at home.