CLEVELAND -- Indians manager Manny Acta has tried different things to try and jump-start his offense this season. He moved Shin-Soo Choo from the middle of the order into the lead-off spot in May. He recently flopped Asdrubal Cabrera and Jason Kipnis in the order, and he's tried different combinations at the bottom.
Ultimately, though, there's only so much Acta can do. Eventually, the players have to start producing.
The Indians offense continued to struggle in key situations in Saturday's 9-2 loss to the Pirates in the second game of a three-game Interleague series at Progressive Field.
Cleveland (33-31) was 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position, and is now 2-for-33 in such situations over the last four games.
It was such a struggle for the Indians that not even center fielder Michael Brantley could record a hit. Brantley went 0-for-3 in the game, ending his hitting streak at 22 games. The streak was the longest in the Majors this season.
"The issue has been the bottom of the lineup is scuffling," Acta said. "The top of our lineup and the middle of our lineup are hanging in there. They're the ones getting on base. Unfortunately, the majority of the time when [guys at the bottom of the order] come up to the plate, they've been scuffling.
"That's what it is. Our lineup right now -- we're battling. That's all we can do. Half of them are doing a good job, and the other half is just trying to find a way."
The entire Indians lineup struggled against Pittsburgh starter A.J. Burnett, especially in the biggest moments. Cleveland got solo home runs from Asdrubal Cabrera in the first and Casey Kotchman in the fifth, but could never scratch across another run. Cleveland had only six hits in the game, and only four after the first inning.
Cleveland's best opportunity to steal the momentum came in the sixth, after starter Ubaldo Jimenez had given up a two-run homer in the top half of the inning. Trailing 4-2, Cabrera and Kipnis led off with back-to-back singles, but remained at first and second as Carlos Santana popped out and Brantley flew out. After Johnny Damon worked a walk to load the bases with two outs, Shelley Duncan flew out to end the threat.
"We just didn't get the big hits," Duncan said.
That's a line that is becoming all-to-familiar to the Indians. In the last eight games, Cleveland has gone a combined 7-for-60 in RBI situations. The Indians' 0-for-8 performance on Saturday marked the second time in their last three games they have failed to record a single hit with runners in scoring position (0-for-10 Thursday at Cincinnati).
"We're going through one of those times during the year where some guys might be dragging a little bit," said Duncan, who went 0-for-3 and is hitting only .163 (16-for-98) since the Indians signed Damon on April 17. "Everyone is really trying to grind it out. It's in June or July where you're trying to get that second wind and get things going again. Some guys might be forcing it and sometimes when you force it it just makes things worse.
"If we keep swinging, we'll get out of it."
The Indians' lack of offense spoiled a solid outing by Jimenez. The right-hander didn't have his best stuff, but he kept Cleveland close for his six innings on the mound. Jimenez gave up two home runs, including the critical two-run blast to Casey McGehee in the sixth, but he gave up only four runs. Jimenez struck out six and walked only two.
"It was a hanging slider," Jimenez said of the pitch McGehee homered on. "It was supposed to be down and away. I left it right down the strike zone. I only made one mistake, and they made me pay for it."
After the Indians wasted their offensive opportunity in the sixth, the bullpen let the game get away. Pittsburgh tacked on a run in the seventh off Tony Sipp and four more in the ninth off Nick Hagadone. The Pirates hit four home runs, including two by third baseman Pedro Alvarez.
"They bombed us away, basically," Acta said. "Killed us with the long ball."
Still, though, the Indians had their chances to keep the game close. As has been the case lately, they failed to produce.
"We're just missing those big momentum swings," Duncan said. "They'll come."
Justin Albers is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.