No comeback in cards as Tribe falls
Lee's struggles, defensive miscues too much to overcome
CLEVELAND -- In a silenced Indians clubhouse that offered a vast contrast to the frenzied scene outside late Saturday, Cliff Lee offered a terse summation of the night's events.
"We lost. I pitched bad again," Lee said. "And that was pretty much it."
Just add a slapdash defense that put the game out of reach to that assessment. And yes, that was pretty much it in the Indians' 9-5 loss to the Tigers Saturday night before 38,254 at Jacobs Field.
As the streets of Cleveland exploded in joy to celebrate the Cavaliers' historic triumph over Detroit next door -- the Tribe's NBA neighbors are heading to the NBA Finals for the first time in the franchise's 36-year history -- the boys at The Jake at least gave Motown some solace.
The Tribe has proven beatable. The Indians' loss meant their division rivals will not go winless against them this year after the first-place Indians took the season's first five meetings with Detroit.
Lee had much to do with this one, disappointing for a fifth straight start. The 28-year-old left-hander gave up five runs on eight hits over just 4 1/3 innings.
And since his brilliant shutout win over the Angels on May 8, Lee is now 1-3 with an 8.92 ERA over his past five starts. What's more, the opposition is hitting .299 against him and averaging more than three walks per nine innings.
"I've been getting ripped. I've been giving it up," Lee said. "And I'm not happy about it. We're way too good of a team for me to be pitching the way I've been pitching."
His problem Friday was familiar. By perpetually falling behind in the count with a wayward fastball, his secondary stuff was rendered useless. And even the pitches that found the plate crossed it in all the wrong ways.
For his part, a visibly frustrated Lee refuses to blame his struggles on a year that's seen him miss nearly all of Spring Training and the season's entire first month.
"I'm not going to make excuses," Lee said. "The bottom line is I haven't been getting the job done."
But it's clear something is off. And really, it's been any number of things that needs fixing.
"We just need to help him get back on track," manager Eric Wedge said.
To be fair, Wedge could have said the same about the Tribe's infield defense, which may have ultimately been Cleveland's undoing. The Indians committed a trio of errors, and it was a three-act comedy of gaffes in the sixth that essentially put the game away.
The opening act came on a roller between second baseman Josh Barfield's legs. Error No. 2 saw shortstop Jhonny Peralta botch Marcus Thames' grounder. So by the time Omar Infante delivered the coup de grace, a ball that hopped by Casey Blake at third, reliever Rafael Perez had been charged with three unearned runs.
The inning turned a one-run game into an 8-4 Tribe deficit. Even with a never-say-die offense that gave the Tribe a dramatic comeback victory the night before, it was too much.
Unlike Lee's struggles, however, the club's porous defense has not revealed itself to be a trend. Its .983 fielding percentage is tied for fourth-highest in the American League, and the Indians defense has been deceivingly solid this season.
"We had a tough night," Wedge said. "We just had one of those nights defensively. These guys have done a good job making plays out there, but we had an off night."
Alas, that was not true for Lee, who is now nearly a month removed from his last solid outing.
What's gone differently from his successful runs? Lee couldn't summon an answer late Saturday.
But he knows one thing.
"Five, six days from now, I've got to be different," Lee said. "It has to be."
David Briggs is an associate reporter for Mlb.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.