CINCINNATI — The story should have been about C.C. Sabathia, who delivered nine shutout innings.
Instead, the overriding theme of Sunday’s game at Great American Ball Park was the Cleveland Indians’ inability to score even once against the pitching staff with the worst earned-run average (4.97) in the National League.
The Cincinnati Reds didn’t exactly short out the scoreboard with an overload of power, either, but they won, 1-0 in 12 innings.
How did Indians manager Eric Wedge handle the defeat?
“Without a doubt, this is our worst offensive performance and effort of the year — or as far back as I can remember,” he said. “You have to go up there with the right approach and be able to make adjustments, and I didn’t see that today.
“If that’s the way you’re going to hit at this level, they are going to shove it up your you know what.”
In all, the Indians singled six times and doubled once. They broke countless bats and seemed to have an endless capacity to hit weak grounders or soft infield pop flies.
“Sometimes runs are tough to come by,” said Casey Blake, whose first-inning double extended his hitting streak to 19 games. “I don’t know what the deal was today.
“Sometimes, you go up there and it’s a battle, whether it’s mental or physical. You swing at bad pitches, make bad choices.”
Blake didn’t exclude himself from the guilty.
“I was about as bad as I’ve been,” he said. “But I’m not going to hang my head. We have a long way to go. But should we have won? Definitely.”
When the pitcher is the best hitter on the team, something obviously is wrong. Sabathia singled twice in three at-bats to raise his career average to .297 (11-for-37) and was itching to bat in the 10th.
“I didn’t know how many pitches I’d thrown, but I knew I was done,” he said. “I was campaigning to hit.”
Sabathia hypothesized that it was easier for him to attack Reds pitchers than it was for the guys who get paid to hit.
“For me there’s no pressure,” he said. “I just look for something straight and swing as hard as I can.”
The Reds produced the winning run with a rather quiet rally. Chad Moeller doubled down the left-field line with one out in the 12th off Aaron Fultz, who walked Edwin Encarnacion intentionally.
One out later, with Matt Miller making his first appearance after being called up from Triple-A Buffalo on Saturday night, Alex Gonzalez slapped a bouncer through the middle for a single that scored Moeller.
The Tribe had a chance to score in the 12th, but Jason Michaels was thrown out at the plate by Josh Hamilton on Franklin Gutierrez’s fly to medium-shallow center.
Although Hamilton’s throw beat the runner, it appeared that Michaels’ foot reached the plate first, because David Ross tagged him high on the body.
“It was a close play,” Michaels said. “It could have gone either way, but obviously I thought I got in there.”
For seven innings, Aaron Harang baffled and befuddled the visiting Tribe from the north, giving up three hits, none after the third inning. Harang walked just two and struck out 10, including David Dellucci three times.
Dellucci had to leave the game in the eighth because of a migraine headache.
“I didn’t say anything to Eric,” he said. “But it finally got to the point that I was afraid if a ball was hit to me in the outfield, it would be hard for me to see it.”
Dellucci said he is prone to getting migraines and they can last up to six hours.
“I might get one once a month, but the last time was in spring training,” he said. “The hardest part is my vision gets blurry, and I lose a little depth perception.”
Sabathia did a masterful job of denying the Reds any chance to score. In throwing the equivalent of a complete game, he gave up only three widely spaced hits and one walk, striking out six.
After Adam Dunn ripped a one-out double in the fourth inning, Sabathia retired 14 batters in a row through the eighth. Only three runners reached second base against Sabathia, who threw 112 pitches, 79 strikes. He will take a streak of 18 scoreless innings into his next start.
“C.C. was out there all blood and guts,” Wedge said. “That’s why I left him out there. I can’t say enough about his effort.”
Wedge didn’t say that about any of his other hitters.
C.C. shines; bats fall flat