CLEVELAND — Just when it appeared the Indians could do no wrong, they went out and did no right Sunday at Jacobs Field.
Riding a season-long win streak and looking to finish off a perfect homestand by completing a three-game sweep of the White Sox, the Indians instead did everything possible to ensure that it wouldn’t happen.
They didn’t hit, allowing beleaguered Sox starter Jose Contreras, one of the league’s most ineffective starting pitchers all year, to stifle them. They didn’t pitch, with Jake Westbrook, who had been producing masterpieces as of late, allowing a season-high 11 hits. And in the end, they didn’t win, getting shut out 8-0 to snap their eight-game winning streak.
“It was a weird game,” said Indians manager Eric Wedge, whose team lost for just the fourth time in 17 games and still leads the Central Division by 51/2 games over second-place Detroit. “It was just an off day out there today in nearly every capacity.”
In fact, according to third baseman Casey Blake, the only positive sight to see from an Indians’ perspective was the occasional fly-by from one of the jets performing at the nearby Cleveland National Air Show.
“It was a great air show, though,” said Blake, who combined with his teammates to produce just five hits on the day, going 0-for-4 and striking out three times. “That was about the only good thing today.”
Westbrook’s sinker didn’t sink, which led to the inevitable, even against the last-place White Sox, who snapped an 11-game losing skid on the road with their first win in six tries overall.
Chicago, which generated 18 hits off Cleveland pitching, scored four times (three earned runs) off Westbrook through five innings, with the right-hander walking three and striking out six.
“I didn’t pitch well today,” said Westbrook, who lost for just the second time in his last eight outings. “Things didn’t go our way at all. I’d make a good pitch and they’d get a hit. I’d make a bad pitch and they’d get a hit. It wasn’t a good day all around.”
And it was clear early that it wouldn’t be.
Fooling few through the first two innings, Westbrook allowed seven of his hits, while the Sox built an early lead with three in the second — two on a single from former Indian Jim Thome. Westbrook either allowed a hit (six times) or struck out the first nine batters he faced.
It was a quiet series for Thome, who still owns Cleveland’s all-time home run record. He started at designated hitter all three games, going 2-for-13 with three RBIs and two strikeouts and is hitting .235 with five home runs and 24 RBIs in his career against the Indians.
Westbrook gave way to Cliff Lee, who made his first big league appearance out of the bullpen after being promoted from Triple-A Buffalo on Saturday. Lee, a member of the Indians’ rotation the past three seasons, allowed a run in the sixth on an A.J. Pierzynski single that extended Chicago’s lead to 5-0.
The White Sox added a run in the eighth with a solo homer from Darin Erstad off Tom Mastny, then tacked on two in the ninth off newly promoted right-hander Mike Koplove.
Indians pitchers weren’t at their best, but Cleveland’s offense didn’t help the cause.
Against Contreras, who entered the game with a 7-16 record and 6.13 ERA, the Indians produced just four hits, none through the first three innings. Contreras walked a season-high six batters — four through the first three innings — but Cleveland was never able to capitalize, leaving five on base in the third and fourth.
Travis Hafner flew to right with runners on first and second in the third and Trot Nixon hit into an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded in the fourth.
“He was pretty good today,” Wedge said of Contreras, who entered the outing limiting the Indians to a .228 average during his four-plus-year career. “It seems like we’re either on or off against that guy, nothing in between. We helped him out a little bit.”
Cleveland’s offense went back to sleep after the fourth, producing just three hits and moving one runner to third over the final five innings.
The Indians got little from their top four hitters — Grady Sizemore, Asdrubal Cabrera, Hafner and Victor Martinez — who combined to go 2-for-12 with three of the team’s seven strikeouts. Martinez was hitless in three official at-bats, ending his 10-game hitting streak.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7137 or email@example.com.
WHO: Cleveland at Minnesota
TIME: 2:10 p.m.
WHERE: Metrodome, Minneapolis
PITCHERS: Sabathia (15-7, 3.37 ERA) vs. Santana (14-10, 3.06)
TV/RADIO: Channel 3; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM