The good news from last night? The Indians offense actually scored five runs. The bad news? They gave up eight. The 8-5 loss was the Indians fourth straight and 10th in the last 14 games. The four wins seem like a distant memory and the trend of losing is becoming worrisome.
Jake Westbrook, still looking for his first win in more than two years, was very close to being scratched with tightness in his back. Its too bad he wasn’t. Jake’s control problems continued as he couldn’t get out of the fourth inning. Of his 85 pitches, only 44 were for strikes. “I’m definitely searching for something, and command is one of those things,” Westbrook said. “It’s frustrating that it’s not there, especially with how my arm feels. It would be one thing if it was hurting, but I feel great. I feel I should be making progress, and I just haven’t done that.”
Worst of all, the offense actually gave Westbrook an early three run lead. Trailing 1-0 in the third, the Tribe exploded with some two out lightning. Mark Grudzielanek, Grady Sizemore, and Shin-Soo Choo hit consecutive singles to give them a 2-1 lead. After Austin Kearns walked, the suddenly hot Jhonny Peralta doubled in Choo and Kearns. A 4-1 lead should have been plenty for Manny Acta’s opening day starter. But it wasn’t.
The walks killed Jake, especially in the fourth. After being handed a three run lead, he walked the leadoff hitter Alex Gonzalez. The next man, Jose Bautista, touched Westbrook up for a two-run blast to left. The damage could have ended there, but a bad throwing error by fill-in shortstop Luis Valbuena kept the inning going. Jake lost his focus, walking Adam Lind to load the bases and Vernon Wells to force in the tying run. His night ended there.
In three and two/thirds innings, Westbrook allowed four runs (three earned) on five hits, walking five and striking out three.
Once again, with the score tied, the Indians shot themselves in the foot with mental mistakes. It hasn’t been talked about much, but the play of Grady Sizemore continues to be a concern. Even last night, when he had two hits, his brain cramp in the bottom of the fourth was the overshadowing moment.
The Indians had just been handed a run by Toronto starter Ricky Romero on a throwing error, a wild pitch, and a Grudzielanek infield single with one out. Grady kept the inning going with a single of his own. With the team’s best hitter, Choo, at the plate, Sizemore was inexplicably picked off first base.
A second killer mistake was the failure of Valbuena, who looks more and more like he is going to be headed for Columbus in favor of Jason Donald (hitting .323 in AAA), compounded his earlier throwing error by failing to lay down a bunt with the Tribe trailing 6-5 in the sixth after Lou Marson’s leadoff double. Marson never made it home.
“”It didn’t cost us the game right there, but it is important,” Acta said.
And how did the Jays jump ahead 6-5? The Jensen Lewis walk parade came through town. Just as he did in his last outing, Jenny couldn’t throw the ball over the plate after retiring the first two men in the sixth. Two walks and a double later, the Tribe was trailing for good.
Things would get worse for the beleaguered Tribe pen. Old friend Raffy Perez was once again given a chance in a big spot and like Jenny Lew, he couldn’t find the fountain of 2007. Travis Snider, hitting .179 at the time, smoked a ball right back up the box which hit Perez in the foot for an infield single. Fred Lewis followed with a gap shot double and Acta came right out of the dugout to call for Aaron Laffey. Laffey couldn’t stem the tide, giving up a two out RBI single to Lyle Overbay.
“Our bullpen picked a bad time to struggle,” Acta said.
I tweeted last night that it was time to rename my old “Dump David Dellucci” blog “Release Rafael Perez.” Its officially time to cut the cord on him. If he wasn’t out of options, he’d be in Columbus right now. All you need to know about him at this point is that he has a WHIP of 2.86 in 7.1 innings of work. He cannot be counted on. Acta favorite Saul Rivera has an 0.75 ERA in 11 appearances in AAA. Get him up here.
Now we move to an afternoon tilt on a beautiful sunny 75 degree day here in C-Town. I’ll be in the house watching my beloved Wahoo Warriors attempt to stem the tide and end the losing skid. They send Fausto Carmona (3-1, 4.05) vs. Toronto’s Brandon Morrow (2-2, 5.46).
One more thing – how’s that Russell Branyan experiment working out thus far? .207 with 2 RBI and as many home runs and me. That’s how.
photo via Chuck Crow/PD