In the last four games prior to Monday the Indians’ starters have all gone at least seven innings, allowing four runs once (Sabathia), three runs once (Lee), two runs once (Westbrook), and no runs once (Sowers). During this stretch the Indians have scored six runs total, never scoring more than one run in any inning. Yesterday, with the game tied in the top of the ninth, Fuasto Carmona gave up four runs, and the in game before Brain Sikroski gave up a homer in his only inning of relief. So the offense has been very bad, the starting pitching very good, and the bullpen less than stellar.
So what happens in the first game of a three-game series against Boston Monday night? The Indians score eight runs in five innings, posting three runs in two innings (second, fifth) and two runs in one inning (third) to break the vicious one-run inning streak. Casey Blake hits two homers–in the traditional, hit-it-over-the-fences way–and Kelly Shoppach and Travis Hafner each hit RBI doubles. Each time the Indians score it is following an inning in which the Red Sox score, and each time the Indians come back to take the lead.
Paul Byrd, meanwhile, allows two runs in the bottom of the first, two in the second, one in the third, and one in the fourth, yielding three home runs (Ortiz, Manny, Wily Mo) and one triple (Wily Mo). He is relieved by Jason Davis, who promptly strikes out four batters in 2.2 innings. Davis is relieved by Rafael Betancourt, who goes 1.1 innings, preserving the 8-6 lead.
Which brings us to the ninth and Fausto Carmona, who comes on for his first career save opportunity, faces the 9-1-2 hitters of Boston’s lineup, and…records only one out, allowing two of the runners to reach base, one on a walk. The third hitter in Boston’s lineup is David Ortiz. With runners on first and second and the Indians carefully nursing a two-run lead, Ortiz, quite naturally for a man who’s hit 13 homers in July and one already in the game, drives a fastball to deep center field and…game over. Walk off home run. 14 for the month. A new club record.
So the Indians play just well enough not to win, the strengths of the team (hitting) being their previous weaknesses, the weaknesses (starting pitching) being their previous strengths. And the bullpen doing what it always does: almost, but not quite. The Indians lose another winnable game. As much as some things change, others remain the same.
The Indians lose. The Indians lose. ‘Twas ever thus. The Indians lose.