Indians pitcher Corey Kluber made his third start of the season today, and it was not pretty. Kluber retired the first Boston batter on a ground ball, but the next two hitters, Carl Crawford and Dustin Pedroia, both doubled to right field, giving the Red Sox an early 1-0 lead. By now, facing Boston cleanup hitter Adrian Gonzalez, Kluber was probably hoping that Gonzalez would not also hit a double to right field, and Gonzalez did not. He hit a home run to right field instead. Ten minutes into the ballgame, the Indians found themselves down 3-0.
Kluber struck out the next two batters, and when the Indians scored a run off Boston starter Jon Lester in their half of the inning, an optimistic Indians fan, if there are any such fans left, might have hoped that Kluber just had first-inning jitters, and that perhaps he would pitch better for the rest of the game. But that hypothetical Indians fan was dreaming, as Kluber gave up two more runs in the second inning, putting the Indians into a 5-1 hole. Kluber bore down in the third inning, but he ran into more trouble in the fourth, hitting leadoff hitter Mike Aviles with a pitch. Aviles stole second, and then scored on a one-out single by former Indians catcher Kelly Shoppach.
Indians manager Manny Acta took Kluber out at this point and replaced him with Josh Tomlin, who lost his job as a starter ten days ago and was given the role of long reliever. Tomlin retired the next two Boston batters on five pitches, which must have made Acta feel that he made a good decision, and that perhaps the bleeding had stopped.
But we know better, don’t we, reader? Tomlin came back out in the fifth and turned in one of the sorriest pitching performances the Indians have seen this season, and that, my friend, is saying something. The first five Boston batters all reached base: single, walk, single, single, walk. By the time Tomlin got his first out of the inning, on a sacrifice fly, he’d given up three runs. Tomlin retired one more batter before giving up a two-run double to Crawford (his third double of the game, by the fifth inning), making the score 11-1. Frank Hermann took over at this point and lived up to the standards set by Kluber and Tomlin, giving up two walks and a double before finally recording the final out of the inning, an inning which saw the Red Sox score a season-high eight runs and send thirteen batters to the plate.
That made the score 14-1, and that’s how it stayed for the remainder of the game. Despite a shaky first inning which took him 26 pitches to complete, Lester, who is having a disappointing season, settled down and went six innings, giving up only the one run on three hits and two walks, and striking out a season-high twelve batters.
The 13-run deficit was the Indians’ most lopsided loss of the season. Three other times they were beaten by 11 runs. Since July 18, the Indians have lost seven games by margins of six runs or more. They’ve won only six games over that span, going 6-17.
The loss meant that the Indians split the four-game series with the Bosox, which is nice, I guess, but it doesn’t really mean a lot. The Red Sox surely had hoped to have done better, as they need to rack up wins to give them a hint of a chance of making the postseason. A split didn’t do them a bit of good.
The Indians went 3-4 on the seven-game homestand. They now embark on a nine-game road trip, with three games each against the American League west coast teams: the Angels, the A’s, and the Mariners. Maybe the Indians will do a mirror image of their recent nine-game road trip and sweep this one. And maybe you and I will meet Kenny Lofton outside the Bob Feller statue, flap our arms, and fly together to the moon.
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