Tribe can't find runs to support Westbrook
Three runs allowed enough vs. Tigers' stingy Maroth
CLEVELAND -- Jody Gerut didn't necessarily gush about Tigers left-hander Mike Maroth, but Gerut did give the man his due.
"Guy's like Maroth, they're gonna live and die by the amount of mistakes that they make," Gerut said Tuesday night. "And he didn't make hardly any."
In two sentences, Gerut summed up what turned out to be a disappointing night for the Indians. They came face to face with the soft-tossing Maroth, and he won that matchup, handing the Tribe a 3-2 loss to the Tigers at Jacobs Field.
For in beating the Indians, Maroth tied them up in knots from his first pitch to his last. He went 6 2/3 innings, gave up four hits and one run.
"He didn't throw anything straight," said manager Eric Wedge, marveling at Maroth's work. "He threw a couple of different changeups; he's cut the ball a little bit. You really never saw two pitches the same speed.
"He was effective against us."
So effective that the one run that Maroth, who is 5-0 with a 2.21 ERA in his last six starts against the Tribe, allowed came on a rare mistake that he made to Aaron Boone in the bottom of the third inning.
All Boone's homer did was chip into what was then a 3-0 lead, which the Tigers built off right-hander Jake Westbrook in the top of the third.
Until the third, Westbrook had shown how to plow through an outing when his best stuff was somewhere else. He piled up a pitch count that had him at close to 50 as he started the inning.
"I threw a lot of pitches early, and it set the tone for the day," Westbrook said. "But I battled. I battled with what I had."
He found himself in his fiercest battle in the third. The inning opened when he gave up a single to Placido Polanco and a double to Carlos Guillen, putting Tigers on second and third with the heart of their order coming to the plate.
"I threw a pretty good pitch to Guillen," Westbrook said. "He did a good job of getting a base hit.
Westbrook got Craig Shelton to ground out to short, though Polanco scored on that play. It wouldn't have mattered if he hadn't, because Polanco would have scored along with Guillen on Magglio Ordonez's homer.
It gave the Tigers a 3-0 lead, which Maroth (6-9, 4.07 ERA) made look insurmountable. From that three-run deficit, the only thing Westbrook could hope to do was to keep it from growing larger.
And he did. He held the Tigers scoreless before leaving after five innings.
"Anytime you throw over 100 pitches in five innings, obviously you've worked pretty hard," Wedge said of Westbrook, who threw 103 pitches. "But he still gave us a chance to win this ballgame.
"He still only gave up three runs."
And Westbrook's successors didn't give up any runs at all. Right-hander Fernando Cabrera, fresh from the Triple-A Buffalo roster, worked a scoreless sixth, seventh and eighth, and right-hander David Riske worked a scoreless ninth.
Yet their work left the Indians with a deficit to make up, and Maroth wasn't making that an easy task, Gerut said.
"When you establish the corners like he did and you start to get those calls that aren't good pitches to hit and are borderline strikes, that's how guys like that stay in the league," he said of Maroth.
He kept the Indians in a tight grip. They had one or two chances to push across runs, but each opportunity to score fell short.
But in looking at this ballgame through a broader lens, the Tribe lost because Westbrook (6-10, 4.51 ERA) gave up a few too many runs against a pitcher who gave up so few.
"Three runs, it's not a whole bunch," he said with a shrug. "But it was enough tonight."
Justice B. Hill is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.