The Tribe dropped their third series in a row, losing the first two of three to division rival Kansas City. Fausto Carmona started off very rough, giving up three runs in the bottom of the first. He rebounded from there to give up only one run the next four innings but that’s where the Indians’ trouble for the first half of the season lie.
Their starting pitcher only went five innings, taxing an already frail bullpen. Carmona tossed 106 pitches in just five innings and was pulled. In this game, Rafael Betancourt and Masa Kobayashi were able to hurl three combined innings of scoreless baseball to keep the Tribe in the game. Unfortunately, it was the Indians’ offense that kept them out of it.
Royals starter Zack Greinke was good but not great, needing 104 pitches to get through five innings himself. The Indians helped him out by going 4-13 with RISP, with most of those hits in the ninth inning, and starting 12 men on base. Once again,u failure to get the clutch hit doomed the Tribe.
In game two, the Indians’ bats came up empty again. Tribe starter Carl Pavano improved on his opening performance of one IP with nine ER, and a six inning effort in which he yielded four ER. His only real fault was allowing two runs in the bottom of the fifth after the Tribe had tied the game at two in the top of the inning.
The Indians’ bullpen could not keep the Tribe in this game after Rafael Perez came on in the seventh inning with a 4-3 deficit. He looked shaky in that inning, but manager Eric Wedge sent him out in the eighth, and the game derailed. Perez promptly gave up a run to widen the gap to 5-3.
He then loaded the bases with one out, when Wedge finally pulled the plug and called on Vinnie Chulk, who promptly gave up a grand slam to Kansas City catcher John Buck. 9-3. Ballgame to the Royals.
The Indians managed to avoid the sweep with a 5-4 victory on Wednesday. Recently promoted Aaron Laffey was solid in his 2009 debut, giving up only two ER in 5 1/3 innings. He had a 2-0 lead going into the bottom of the sixth, but a fielding gaffe by Shin-Soo Choo put runners on second and third, instead of first and third.
By overthrowing the cut-off man, Choo turned a ground-ball double play into a run scoring out, and allowed the runner on second to eventually score and tie the game at two. He did redeem himself later in the game, nailing Mark Teahan at second, but when a team is scuffling, things like hitting the cut-off man are magnified ten-fold.
The Indians broke through for three runs in the sevent to take a 5-2 lead, but another managerial head scratcher by Wedge almost cost them the game again. Jensen Lewis worked out of a jam in the bottom of the sixth, getting the final out of the inning. He then worked a sketchy seventh inning, giving up a run to make the score 5-3.
For the bottom of the eighth, Wedge sent Lewis back into the game after struggling to get through the seventh. Just as he did the night before—sending a struggling Perez back in for a second inning.
However, this was Lewis’ third inning he was pitching, which is odd for any reliever who is not the long-man or mop-up guy. Teahan drilled his single that Choo threw him out at second, and Mike Jacobs immediately followed with a home run to make it 5-4. It SHOULD have been 5-5 if Teahan had not gotten greedy, but thanks to Choo redeeming himself, it was only 5-4.
Cue Rafael Betancourt v. 2007, for 2/3 of a hitless inning and, Kerry Wood for a seven pitch, perfect, 1-2-3 ninth for the save, and the Indians hung on to win 5-4 to move to a putrid 2-7 for 2009. It’s nice to have a legit, flame throwing closer. It may make the ninth inning anti-climactic, but it’s a nice change of pace.
So now the Indians shuffle off to New York for a four-game series with the Yankees to christen New Yankee Stadium. The only way the Tribe is going to get back into the swing of things is to start winning series. Three out of four would be ideal, but it is going to be tough, even with the Yankees starting slow.