CLEVELAND -- When the Indians swept the Tigers May 22-24, their starting pitching was a big reason why.
The starters combined to allow only six runs in 19 innings during the three games, giving them a combined ERA of 2.84.
Unfortunately for the Indians, when they dropped the next two series, starting pitching was also a major factor.
Cleveland starters went 1-5 with a combined ERA of 11.89 against Chicago and Kansas City. Indians manager Manny Acta described it as all of his pitchers being bit by the same bug in the same week.
"It's part of the game," Acta said. "It's just like a hitter going through a bad week or a bad month. I can't expect every one of these guys to give us 30 quality starts. That's how it goes. Hopefully, things will turn around."
Santana still out, but getting closer to return
CLEVELAND -- Catcher Carlos Santana still wasn't back in the lineup Friday, a week after suffering a concussion against the White Sox, but he continues to move closer to a return.
Santana took batting practice in the cages Friday afternoon and also took some swings during the team's off-day on Thursday. Manager Manny Acta said Santana will catch a bullpen session on Saturday, as well as run the bases and take batting practice on the field before Saturday night's game against the Twins.
"Then he's going to be re-tested," Acta said. "The next step after that is, if everything is OK, it's getting approval from MLB to allow him to go out there and play."
While there's still no timetable for Santana's return, Acta is hopeful he'll have his starting catcher back next week.
"He's doing well," Acta said. "We've been optimistic that by next week we'll be able to have him in the lineup at some point."
Stitches removed, Marson good to go
CLEVELAND -- The Indians kept catcher Lou Marson out of the lineup for three days for fear a foul tip off his mask would knock loose the stitches in his mouth.
So to get him back behind the plate Friday night, they had Marson do the only logical thing: have the stitches removed.
"The stitches are out now and I should be good to go," Marson said. "It's still a little sore, but it's healing slowly. I should be fine."
Marson needed the three stitches after he was hit in the mouth by a Gavin Floyd curveball last Sunday in Chicago. Marson was also supposed to have a laser procedure on the team's off-day Thursday to remove some of the excess skin around the wound, but they pushed that back to a later date.
"They didn't do it just because I haven't healed yet," Marson said. "They're not going to do it until I heal."
Quote to note
"I try to do my job. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't work."
--Indians third baseman Jose Lopez after he grounded into a game-ending double play Wednesday against the Royals.
• The Indians didn't make a roster move on Thursday, but that doesn't mean one isn't coming soon. Cleveland still has shortstop Juan Diaz on the roster, even though starter Asdrubal Cabrera has returned from injury. "We haven't made any of those decisions," manager Manny Acta said when asked about calling up a right-handed hitter. "We're looking through different scenarios."
• Former Indians reliever Jairo Asencio, designated for assignment last week when starter Josh Tomlin came off the disabled list, was claimed by the Cubs on Friday. Asencio had a 5.96 ERA in 18 appearances for Cleveland this season.
• Starting pitcher Derek Lowe turned 39 on Friday. He last pitched on his birthday in 2006, when he pitched six innings of shutout baseball for the Dodgers and earned the win. He entered Friday's game with a 1-1 record when pitching on his birthday. Lowe also lost a 9-5 game with the Dodgers against the Cubs in 2005.
• Second baseman Jason Kipnis stole two bases on Wednesday against the Royals, giving him nine consecutive successful steal attempts dating back to April 24.
Justin Albers is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.