CLEVELAND -- Derek Lowe did Sunday afternoon what he's done all season -- he gave the Indians a chance.
Lowe didn't have his best stuff against the Marlins, but he exited the game with his team down only one run.
The Indians' bats remained cold, though, and the bullpen gave up three costly runs late as Cleveland fell, 5-3, in the final game of a three-game Interleague series at Progressive Field. The Indians scored only seven total runs in the series, and they dropped two out of three to the Marlins.
Cleveland rallied to score two runs in the bottom of the ninth and brought the potential game-tying run to the plate in the form of Shin-Soo Choo. But the Cleveland leadoff hitter flew out to left field to end the game.
Lowe, who took the loss and dropped to 6-2 on the season, struggled early. He allowed two runs in the first three innings, but settled in quickly after that. After giving up an RBI double to Greg Dobbs in the third, Lowe retired nine Miami batters in a row. He allowed two runs over six innings in all, and he gave up only one hit in his final three innings of work.
"We tried to work that pitch count up a little bit," Dobbs said. "He's such a competitor, it doesn't matter if he's throwing 120 pitches or 60 pitches. He's having a heck of a year."
As good as Lowe was, Marlins starter Josh Johnson was better. The Indians couldn't seem to solve Johnson, who entered the game with an uncharacteristically high 5.36 ERA. Cleveland had only five hits -- and just one extra-base knock -- in seven innings against the right-hander.
"He attacked the strike zone," Indians manager Manny Acta said of Johnson. "Earlier in the game, our approach wasn't the best. We were a little bit over-aggressive, and he got the best of us. Even though he's not all the way back to his old self, that's still pretty good stuff."
Still, the Indians had a chance to take a lead against Johnson in the seventh inning. With Carlos Santana on first, Johnny Damon sent a fly ball deep down the right-field line. He stopped near first base as Giancarlo Stanton made the catch on the warning track.
Damon is still without a home run as a member of the Indians.
"I hit it good, hit it straight up," Damon said. "It definitely had a chance, but the wind didn't help at all.
"It's a funny game. When things are going bad like they are for me at the plate, that kind of stuff tends to happen."
After a Jose Lopez double, pinch-hitter Casey Kotchman had another chance to put the Indians ahead. He got ahead of Johnson 3-0, but grounded out to third on a full count.
That's when the game started to get away from Cleveland. Acta went to reliever Jeremy Accardo in the eighth, and the Marlins hit him hard. Accardo allowed two runs on two hits in the inning as his ERA ballooned to 6.75 on the season.
The Indians used relievers Joe Smith and Vinnie Pestano during Saturday's game, and Acta didn't want to use them again with his team trailing in the series finale.
"If you put your best guys in when you're ahead, when you're tied, and also when you're trailing," Acta said, "they're all going to have Tommy John surgery by the end of the season. We just can't do that every single day. Some of those guys are going to have to step up."
The middle of the Indians order continued to struggle as their two, three, four and five-place hitters went a combined 1-for-15 with four strikeouts in the game.
Lopez, hitting eighth, continued his recent production by going 3 for 4 with two doubles and two RBIs. Lopez has reached base in 10 of his last 20 plate appearances. He's been starting at third base in place of the injured Jack Hannahan for the last seven games.
"He's an offensive player," Acta said of Lopez. "He's a valuable guy, and he showed that again."
The Indians will get an off-day Monday after playing 21 games over the last 20 days. They open a three-game set with the division-rival Tigers at Progressive Field on Tuesday.
Justin Albers is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.