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Marcum aims to stabilize back end of rotation

Indians starter limits Seattle to 2 runs on 5 hits to earn win

SEATTLE -- The fifth spot in the Indians' rotation has not only been a revolving door this season. It has been a black hole for the team, creating the kind of inconsistency that can threaten a club's hopes for contending deep into the summer.

Cleveland hopes it has found a solution in veteran Shaun Marcum after Saturday's 4-3 win.

While Marcum was not at his sharpest, he leaned on his veteran experience and gave the Indians a gritty performance. The right-hander worked into the sixth inning and played damage control against a Seattle team that kept threatening to break through.

"It was a grind. It was definitely a mental grind," Marcum said. "I think I was cussing at myself pretty much the whole game. But, to be able to go out there and give these guys a chance to score some runs, and give us a chance to win, is the most important thing."

More important would be the ability to do that every five days.

The top four arms in Cleveland's rotation -- Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer and Danny Salazar -- have combined to go 18-12 with a 3.57 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 4.65 strikeout-to-walk ratio and 8.1 hits allowed per nine innings. That foursome is the main reason why many prognosticators projected special things for the Tribe before this season began.

The fifth spot has been a different story.

Before the season even began, Cleveland lost right-handers Gavin Floyd (fractured right elbow) and Josh Tomlin (right shoulder surgery) to injuries. The four other pitchers (TJ House, Zach McAllister, Bruce Chen and Marcum) who have logged at least one start have combined to go 2-6 with a 10.42 ERA, 2.21 WHIP, 1.65 strikeout-to-walk ratio and 15.2 hits allowed per nine innings.

The two wins belong to the 33-year-old Marcum, who spent the bulk of the past two seasons dealing with shoulder woes and making a comeback from thoracic outlet syndrome.

"He's an easy guy to pull for with everything he's been through," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "And he does such a good job, like fielding his position and holding runners. There's been a few walks that I think are maybe a little more uncharacteristic, but you can tell he knows what he's doing. As long as he's executing, he's OK."

Location was a bit of an issue on Saturday, but Marcum still limited the Mariners to two runs on five hits in his 5 1/3 innings. The right-hander issued three walks and struck out five, bowing out of the ballgame after 90 pitches. Both runs that Marcum surrendered came in the third inning, when Robinson Cano sent a pitch into the right-field seats for a two-run home run.

It was hardly an overwhelming performance, but it was a clear improvement over Marcum's last start, when he coughed up seven runs in 2 2/3 innings against Texas. Three starts ago, Marcum beat the White Sox behind 6 2/3 strong innings, during which he gave up just two runs, struck out six and walked none.

"I've just got to get back to work in between these starts," Marcum said, "and try to get on the same page where I'm repeating my delivery and locating the ball."

Marcum badly wants to shore up Cleveland's fifth spot, too.

"It would be huge, especially the way the other guys are throwing the ball," he said, "to just go out there and put up a quality start in that five hole. I think that's definitely very important. Hopefully I can go out and continue to do that."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast.
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