The Indians-Angels game had a little bit of everything that made you think that the Tribe might be ready to jump out of their early-season funk.
Victor Martinez returned. Jhonny Peralta's swing looking like in did in Winter Haven. Jamey Carroll showing Cleveland why Colorado loved his hand, heart and hustle. Fausto Carmona was dominant, albeit a bit wild. There were clutch hits in the 9th when it seemed all was lost.
But it all was for naught as the bullpen cost the Tribe a chance to get over the .500 mark.
Rafael Betancourt gave up a solo home run to former Twin Torii Hunter in the bottom of the eighth to give the Angels a 2-1 lead in a game where the Indians' offense had only a Jhonny Peralta solo shot in the fourth.
But against a wild and eventually hurt Francisco Rodriguez, the Angels closer, Travis Hafner earned a lead-off walk and Martinez delivered the tying run with a double down the right field line.
Peralta then brought home pinch runner David Dellucci with a double of his own but was thrown out trying to advance to third. After a Ryan Garko walk and Franklin Gutierrez single, Casey Blake delivered another single and the Tribe took the lead, 4-2.
Enter Joe Borowski.
Chone Figgins flew out to left and then “Iron Joe” imploded along with the Indians chances for victory. Borowski's poison pill is the walk. At least when the ball is put into play there's chance it will be hit at someone or it will be foul, but your defense had a chance to make a play.
But walks to Gary Matthews and Garrett Anderson were sandwiched around a Vladimir Guererro single. Then Torii Hunter delivered a walk-off grand slam for a 6-4 Angels’ victory, ruining Tuesday at 1:15 AM.
The Tribe had some growing pains last year, and they have had some similar issues in the first week of the season in 2008.
The "bad" Travis Hafner reappeared, Martinez's hamstring was injured and subsequently his offensive shut down, clutch hits disappeared, the defensive lapsed, and left field dropped off. All these things are treatable and not really surprising.
But the one thing that was always the Tribe's "rock" (no offense to your wife, Jim Thome) was the bullpen.
Betancourt has now allowed seven hits and one walk in only two-and-one-third innings. That's a WHIP of 3.43, and opponents are hitting .583 off him.
Borowski has given up three hits, two home runs and four walks in the same amount of innings pitched. A small sample size but still staggering. If the back end of the bullpen continues to perform like that, the Tribe is in big trouble.
I believe the Indians only lost one series from April to June last season, the three-game sweep in New York at the hands of the Yankees. They now are on the brink of losing two of their first three series of the season.
Yes, it's early, and yes, I expect them to come out of it, but it's disconcerting nonetheless. The Angels are one of the top teams in the American League, and with Boston and Detroit on the horizon it won't get any easier.
But it's Tribe time now. Believeland.
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