"We don't even want to think about that," Indians starter Ubaldo Jimenez said. "We have to go out there every day, trying to execute, trying to hopefully get a win. You definitely don't want to put that in your mind that, 'Here we go again.'"
In the latest setback within a season that began with high hopes, Jimenez provided the Tribe with a solid start, but it proved insufficient. Cleveland's offense fell short and Michael Saunders powered Seattle's attack with a pair of home runs, sending the Indians to their 19th loss in their past 23 games.
Over that span, Cleveland (54-68) has tumbled out of the postseason picture and into fourth place in the American League Central. On this current trek through Anaheim, Oakland and Seattle, the Indians have gone 1-6 with a 6.00 team ERA.
Prior to Monday's game, the Indians held a players-only meeting, but the details of the gathering will "stay in the meeting," according to second baseman Jason Kipnis. What is clear is that Cleveland's players are sick and tired of losing and searching for ways to right a ship that began taking in water last month.
Kipnis was asked what needs to happen to stop this latest slump.
"Play better baseball," Kipnis said. "All aspects of the game. We've got to play better baseball. Offense, defense, pitching, everything. We've got to play better. It's not a lack of effort. It's not a lack of concentration. The team's out there trying, fighting.
"Things are just not falling in place right now."
Such was the case in the ninth inning, when Mariners closer Tom Wilhelmsen hung a curveball to Kipnis but still induced a game-ending double-play grounder with the bases loaded. Two batters earlier, Wilhelmsen fired a wild pitch with runners on second and third base and one out.
The baseball bounced off the backstop and flew back to catcher Miguel Olivo, swiftly ending any thought of having Cleveland's runners advance 90 feet apiece.
"When things are going bad, they're going bad," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "The guys couldn't even move. That's the way things are going right now."
The decisive blow on Monday came in the seventh, when Saunders crushed a slider from Indians lefty Tony Sipp into the right-field stands for a two-run home run. That shot, which came shortly after a leadoff walk issued by reliever Joe Smith, broke a 3-3 deadlock and helped the Mariners (59-64) pick up their sixth consecutive win.
"He's typically gotten me out with those sliders," Saunders said. "He ended up hanging one tonight."
The Indians scored quickly against Mariners starter Kevin Millwood.
Kipnis sent Millwood's fifth pitch of the evening deep to right field, where the ball bounced high off the foul pole for a leadoff home run that gave Cleveland a 1-0 lead. The blast ended a homerless drought of 48 games, 173 at-bats and 206 plate appearances for Kipnis, whose last home run came on June 17.
It marked Kipnis' 12th homer of the season and his first career leadoff shot.
Kipnis was not done tormenting Millwood, who allowed three runs in six frames.
In the fifth inning, with runners on first and second base, Kipnis sliced a pitch from the Seattle right-hander into left field for an RBI single that pulled the game into a 2-2 tie. For Kipnis, it was the first time he had at least two hits and two RBIs in a game since July 18. Asdrubal Cabrera followed with an RBI single to push the Tribe ahead, 3-2.
"It's still a useless night if we don't win," Kipnis said of his showing.
Jimenez was unable to hold the Indians' slim lead. In the sixth inning, the Tribe starter surrendered a two-out solo home run to Eric Thames that tied the contest, 3-3. Earlier in the game, Jimenez yielded a two-run blast to Saunders with two outs in the third to spot Seattle a short-lived 2-1 lead.
"Ubaldo did a very nice job for us," Acta said. "Unfortunately, he gave up that home run to Thames there to allow them to tie the ballgame. He was very aggressive early in the game with his fastball. He pitched well. He gave us an opportunity to win."
Jimenez piled up eight strikeouts against one walk, but he was charged with three runs on six hits in his 5 2/3 innings. Thames' homer sent Jimenez to a no-decision. Saunders' second shot of the evening effectively sent Cleveland to another loss.
"It's a team effort," Acta said. "The pitching as a whole, we're allowing over six runs per game [on the road trip]. It's really hard to expect our guys to score seven or eight every single night. It's a team. We win as a team and lose as a team.
"Right now, we're not doing anything right to win ballgames. Basically, that's what it is."