08/02/2004 4:19 PM ET
Jays' big first sinks Lee, Tribe
Error opens door for four first-inning runs
By Bob Matuszak / Special to MLB.com
TORONTO -- Cliff Lee's struggles and frustrations continued on Monday, as did his team's.
|Cliff Lee has not made it out of the fifth inning in any his last three starts. (Aaron Harris/AP)
Lee allowed six runs (two earned) on nine hits in just 4 1/3 innings as the Indians lost their third straight, 6-1, to Toronto at SkyDome.
Lee (10-4) is now 1-3 in his last four starts with a 10.80 ERA. To make matters worse, over his last three starts, Lee has not made it out of the fifth inning, giving up five homers, including two against the Blue Jays on Monday.
"I felt good but it was just one of those days," Lee said. "I've been trying to do the same thing all year, and I just have to keep doing it. Today the breaks just weren't going our way."
The Indians fell to seven games behind Minnesota in the AL Central.
Lee's final moment on the mound epitomized the current state of affairs with his game. With Frank Menechino on second and Alex Rios on first, Carlos Delgado ripped a hard chopper towards first baseman Lou Merloni. The ball took a bad hop off the dirt portion of the first base cut-out and ricocheted off Merloni's face and into right field for a run-scoring double.
After a minute on the turf, Merloni was fine, but Lee's day was finished. However, Lee still had one more throw left in him. As he walked to the dugout, he launched his glove more than 20 rows into the stands.
"I didn't even realize I did it until a couple minutes afterwards when I was just sitting there," Lee said. "It was my lucky glove for a while, but now I have to find another one. Hopefully I made a fan happy."
Merloni said the ball hit him between the eyes, but was lucky he was wearing sunglasses to help protect him. After the game Merloni was complaining about having a headache, but said he would be fine.
"That's what happens when you play on this [Astroturf]," Merloni said. "That's why you see a lot of teams getting rid of it. Who knows what could have happened if I didn't have the glasses on. I might have gotten a broken nose."
Lee's light-hearted look at his glove-launching incident underscored his manager's feelings towards his starter's performance, which he thought was more positive than negative.
"I thought he looked better today," Wedge said. "They touched him up in the first inning, but he took a step in the right direction. I'm sure he's frustrated, but he has to realize he did better."
In Lee's last outing against Detroit July 26, he lasted just 2/3 of an inning in allowing six runs on six hits.
"At least I made it to the second inning today," Lee said.
Toronto starter Ted Lilly (8-7) scattered three hits over seven innings while walking two and striking out four in winning his first game since June 28. Lilly has allowed just two earned runs in his last three starts.
"He pitched really well," Merloni said. "He was throwing breaking balls at 84 mph and then he would bust guys in at 92 mph."
Lee's day couldn't have started any worse as the Blue Jays touched him for four unearned runs in the first inning to take a 4-0 lead. With two outs, Vernon Wells hit his 13th home run, scoring Chris Gomez, who reached on Ronnie Belliard's fielding error, and Rios. Josh Phelps followed with a crushing solo shot to left-center field that reached the second deck.
"I gave up the home run to Wells on what I thought was not a bad pitch, then Phelps hit one on a ball that was at his shins," Lee said. "I don't know how he hit that one out."
Lee has now allowed 35 first-inning hits in starts this season (21 2/3 innings), while his ERA in the opening frame is 9.14. Still, he doesn't understand what the problem could be at the beginning of the game.
"I wish I knew," he said.
Cleveland was able to cut the lead to 4-1 after Victor Martinez scored Belliard on a sacrifice fly in the fourth, but the Tribe would get no closer as the Blue Jays extended the lead to 6-1 on Delgado's double in the fifth.
The lone bright spot was the work of Cleveland's bullpen, which held the Jays hitless in 3 2/3 innings of work, as Bob Howry, David Riske and Matt Miller combined for no walks and six strikeouts.
Bob Matuszak is a contributor to MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.