Sabathia cruises to third straight win
Wearing No. 42 on Jackie Robinson Day, lefty dominates
CLEVELAND -- The ball was destined for center field, rocketed up the middle by Chicago's Rob Mackowiak.
On most any day, the two-out hit in the bottom of the eighth inning would have scored the tying run from third base. But this, most certainly, was not just any day.
Sunday, the ball reflected off pitcher C.C. Sabathia's flailing left hand and directly to third baseman Casey Blake, who nailed Mackowiak at first.
"I just got very lucky," Sabathia said. "That was the game right there, and I was fired up."
Sabathia pumped his fist and roared in the direction of a euphoric Tribe dugout. Yes, it was that kind of afternoon for the Indians, who fittingly capped this bizarre homestand with a 2-1 victory over the White Sox at Jacobs Field.
Despite banging out just one hit, the Indians rode yet another brilliant outing by Sabathia, three Chicago errors and a nice dose of kismet to their third straight series win.
And while the season is still awfully green, the game took on a season-defining feel for some. They had, after all, just won for the first time since 1992 when getting just one hit or less.
"To be able to scratch a game out like that, you're going to be looking down the road at this as a difference maker," said Joe Borowski, who picked up his fifth save.
Why exactly? Just look back to that game-saving play in the eighth.
"That's the type of play where last year the ball bounces off somewhere else and the [other team] ends up scoring and winning the game," Sabathia said. "So hopefully, that's a good omen that we'll have a good year and that we'll have some luck on our side."
Said Casey Blake: "You look at all the good teams in the past. And it always seems like they have things go their way."
Few witnessed this unforgettable thriller. No more than 5,000 people were scattered throughout the park's lower sections -- the upper deck was closed -- as temperatures dipped into the low-40s and wind gusts of up to 28 mph swirled off the lake.
But for those who came, Sabathia's masterful effort made the trek more than worthwhile. The big left-hander, looking as inspired as ever Sunday while donning Jackie Robinson's No. 42, struck out 10 hitters over eight innings of one-run ball.
"The story of the day, obviously," Indians manager Eric Wedge said.
After injuries limited Sabathia to just 2 1/3 innings of work last April, the season's first month has been one to savor this year. Sabathia is now off to the first 3-0 start in his career.
So Sunday's outing, his ninth career double-digit strikeout game, was simply the continuation of a dominance that reaches back to last year's All-Star break -- and a continuation of Sabathia's lifetime supremacy over the Sox. After Sunday's win, Sabathia is 14-3 with a 3.54 in his career against the Tribe's division rivals.
On the other side, the Tribe offense has been mired in a dreadful slump -- at least when it counts.
Cleveland's struggles in the clutch continued on Sunday, but it could not help but take advantage of Sox starter Jose Contreras's five walks and three Chicago errors. Third baseman Joe Crede's pair of miscues in the first and the fourth inning directly led to Cleveland's two runs.
But in terms of hitting? There was none. Grady Sizemore led off the game with a double and that was it.
"Nothing shocks you anymore after these last couple of weeks," Sizemore said.
The Tribe was 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position on Sunday and 0-for-22 dating back to Saturday's win. For the series, the Tribe went 3-for-36 in clutch situations.
"We need to do a better job," Wedge said. "[With] a runner on third, you got to at least make contact. We're much better than that. They know it and I know it."
But hey, if the Tribe is looking for the negatives in a 6-3 record, they must be doing something right.
"It's a good start, but we've got a long way to go," Wedge said. "By no means are we playing like we're capable of. But all things considered, that's a good thing with where we are."
David Briggs is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.