Tribe bats give Sabathia no support in 1-0 loss
CLEVELAND — C.C. Sabathia did nearly everything in his power to get the Indians a victory Tuesday night.
Unfortunately for Cleveland’s ace, the Indians were powerless against Daisuke Matsuzaka and the Boston Red Sox.
With Dice-K rolling to his 12th victory of the season, the Red Sox won at Jacobs Field for the second straight night, this time 1-0.
The Indians lost an opportunity to gain ground on first-place Detroit in the Central Division standings, losing for the fifth time in nine games.
The Red Sox won their fifth straight to equal their longest winning streak of the year, beating Cleveland for the 12th time in 17 games at Jacobs Field since 2002.
A bloop single from third baseman Mike Lowell in the fourth inning was the difference in a hard-luck loss for Sabathia, who had designs on picking up a major league-leading 14th victory, but instead suffered his third defeat in four starts.
“One mistake in a game like this and it will kill you,” said Sabathia, who allowed the run on five hits, while striking out seven in seven innings.
The mistake Sabathia was modestly referring to was the 1-2 change-up he threw Lowell. But he might as well have been talking about the play rookie left fielder Ben Francisco made on the ball with two outs and runners on first and second.
Francisco’s first reaction was to break back on the popup off the end of Lowell’s bat, making him too late to make the diving catch and allowing Kevin Youkilis to score the only run of the game. It was a catch that should have been made.
“It was a tough read,” said Cleveland manager Eric Wedge. “It was a big swing off the end of the bat.”
Sabathia (13-5, 3.70) was understandably disappointed with the outcome, but not with how he pitched, especially after entering his 22nd start on the heels of three consecutive subpar efforts.
“It definitely felt good, because the last three weren’t how my season’s been going,” said Sabathia, who credited better command of his fastball for the turnaround. “It just felt good to be back out there throwing strikes and pitching well again.”
Sabathia no doubt would have received a better fate had he not been matched up with Matsuzaka, who shut out the Indians on four hits through seven innings to improve to 12-7 with a 3.79 ERA.
Cleveland fared much better during its first meeting with Dice-K at Fenway Park on May 30, when they ended the right-hander’s six-game winning streak as Matsuzaka allowed a season-high 12 hits.
“He looked better,” Wedge said. “He was more crisp with his pitches. He had it going on today.”
Still, Matsuzaka wasn’t as dominant as advertised.
The Indians put runners aboard in five of the seven innings he worked, but went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position, failing to produce the big hit — something that has plagued Cleveland as of late.
The Indians’ best scoring opportunity presented itself early, following a leadoff single from Grady Sizemore in the first inning.
Sizemore stole second but was cut down at third on a fielder’s choice grounder from Casey Blake. The Indians had two aboard when Jhonny Peralta ended the inning by flailing at an outside offering from Matsuzaka on a 1-2 pitch.
“We just missed some (pitches),” said Cleveland second baseman Josh Barfield. “There were probably four to five balls hit to the track. If we square those up a little more, that’s four or five runs right there.
“Right up to the last pitch, it seemed like we were just one swing away.”
The odds were stacked against the Indians in the ninth inning against Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon. Just one team — Oakland on May 1 — has beaten the Red Sox with Boston taking a lead into the ninth.
The Indians didn’t come close to becoming the second, going down in order, with Papelbon striking out Trot Nixon and Francisco to end the game.
Once again, there was an overwhelming contingent of Boston fans, who celebrated lustily. It didn’t sit well with Sabathia.
“Honestly it does (bother me),” he said. “This is a big homestand. It’s a little embarrassing to know this is a great city for fans. I was around for all the sellouts.
“They’re screaming ‘You’ when Youkilis comes up to bat. That’s not Cleveland. It’s a little disappointing.”
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7137 or email@example.com.
WHO: Cleveland vs. Boston
WHERE: Jacobs Field
PITCHERS: Carmona (12-4, 3.52) vs. Beckett (13-3, 3.41)
TV/RADIO: STO; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM
Daisuke Matsuzaka walks off the field after getting Casey Blake to fly out to end the seventh inning Tuesday.