Indians can’t overcome 9-run debacle
CLEVELAND — If there had been a life preserver somewhere near the Cleveland Indians’ dugout, Cliff Lee certainly could have used it.
Instead, the Indians threw out Fernando Cabrera.
The Chicago White Sox feasted on the weak underbelly of the Indians’ bullpen, turning Cabrera’s one-third on an inning into a virtual pinball machine in the decisive sixth inning of Monday’s 11-10 loss at Jacobs Field.
That the Indians clawed all the way back from a nine-run deficit and put the tying run on second base in the bottom of the ninth was of cold consolation.
The game was essentially won and lost in the sixth.
“The shame is that we were unable to take advantage of the way we fought, but that’s baseball,” said Indians manager Eric Wedge. “To come back the way we did, that’s the definition of character in professional sports.”
Lee appeared to be lost in a sea of baserunners, fielding blunders, walks and pitches when Wedge, fresh off signing his three-year extension, handed a 5-2 deficit to Cabrera in the top of the sixth.
The 25-year-old power right-hander made just 16 pitches. In his first seven, he allowed an RBI sacrifice fly to Tadihito Iguchi, followed by a two-run double to former Indians icon Jim Thome, a 406-foot mammoth home run to Paul Konerko and a line-dive single to A.J. Pierzynski.
When Jermaine Dye and Rob Mackowiak promptly laced back-to-back doubles, Wedge emerged from of the dugout steps to a game blown open and long out of reach.
But for all the horrors at the hand of Cabrera, it obscures an equally troubling trend: the Indians continue to get inconsistent pitching from their starters. Lee allowed nine hits and seven earned runs over 5 1/3 largely inefficient innings.
Wedge noted that the sixth inning began with Lee jumping ahead of Pierzynski and Dye with 0-2 counts, but the lefty was unable to finish off either batter.
“It seemed like the breaks weren’t going my way,” said Lee, who fell to 5-6 on the year. “They had something like five broken-bat hits off me. A lot of those balls had eyes.”
More alarming is this: since July 1, the Indians’ triumvirate of ace C.C. Sabathia, Lee and Jake Westbrook – the foundation for the team’s starting staff at the beginning of the season – have made six starts, combining for a 0-5 record, 33 earned runs and a 9.19 ERA in 32 1/3 innings.
The Indians lead the major leagues in come-from-behind wins with 27 and they very nearly pulled off their most memorable one to date.
Trailing 11-5 entering the bottom of the eighth inning, Ryan Garko, Jason Michaels and Franklin Gutierrez loaded the bases with consecutive singles. Casey Blake hit an RBI gapper and Travis Hafner followed with a two-run single, as the Indians scored five runs to close within 11-10.
White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen held off the urge to bring in closer Bobby Jenks and saved him for the ninth. Guillen was rewarded for his patience. Left-hander Boone Logan retired Jhonny Peralta on a harmless groundout to second.
Jenks — who has the third-most saves over the last 18 months in baseball with 65, trailing only Trevor Hoffman of the San Diego Padres and Francisco Rodriguez of the Anaheim Angels — was dominant in his one inning of relief.
The hard-throwing right-hander induced Garko into a weak roller to first base and blew away pinch-hitter Trot Nixon. When Gutierrez singled and stole second base, Jenks forced Josh Barfield to lunge at a high fastball, which was popped harmlessly behind home plate and into Pierzynski’s glove.
One of the brighter spots for the Indians was the performance of right fielder Gutierrez, who went 4-for-5 with a home run, a double, three RBIs, two runs and two stolen bases.
Casey Blake snapped out of an 0-for-12 slump with a triple in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Easily the best play of the night — indeed, one of the best plays of the year — occurred when the game looked out of reach. Konerko blasted a shot off Indians reliever Jensen Lewis in the seventh inning into left center field for what appeared to be an easy double. But Grady Sizemore sprinted over from center and leaped at the wall, reaching over the highest point of the video screen, for the catch. Though replays seemed to show the ball bounced off the wall first.
Still, it provided the Tribe’s only relief of the night.
Contact Pete Alpern at 329-7137 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHO: Cleveland vs. Chicago
WHERE: Jacobs Field
PITCHERS: Byrd (7-4, 3.85 ERA) vs. Garland (7-6, 3.85)
TV/RADIO: SportsTime Ohio; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM
Chicago’s A.J. Pierzynski scores on Rob Mackowiak’s single as Indians catcher Victor Martinez can’t come up with the baseball during the decisive sixth inning Monday at Jacobs Field. The White Sox scored nine times in the sixth.