C.C. you later: Sabathia's gem wasted
Tough-luck lefty once again victimized by offensive struggles
KANSAS CITY -- C.C. Sabathia has epitomized the Indians' second half. The All-Star left-hander delivers a great performance, but receives little run support.
The Indians lose.
That was again the case in a 2-1 loss to the Royals on Friday night at Kauffman Stadium. Sabathia tossed a complete game and threw his eighth consecutive quality start. However, the Indians lost for the sixth time in those games.
"Again, another great effort that we didn't take advantage of," Indians manager Eric Wedge said.
Sabathia is far from the only starter who hasn't seen many runs since the All-Star break. In the past few days alone, Jake Westbrook tossed eight shutout innings and took a no-decision, and Fausto Carmona also threw a complete game in a losing effort.
"We are still seeing some issues with our offense, and just our consistency or lack of with different individuals, and different areas of our lineup," Wedge said. "It's unacceptable."
No pitcher has been hurt by the offensive slump more than Sabathia. In nine second-half starts, Sabathia has averaged over seven innings a start, posted eight quality outings, and fashioned a 2.97 ERA. He has a 2-4 record.
Because of little run support, Cleveland is 2-7 in his nine starts, one of the major reasons why the Indians have not been able to distance themselves from the second-place Tigers in the American League Central race.
"I am not frustrated," Sabathia said. "You can't be. This is baseball. I wouldn't have signed up for this if I was going to go out there and get frustrated. That's the game. I am just going to go out every five days and keep us in the game."
Sabathia's gem helped the Indians lower their second-half ERA to 3.79, fourth-best in the American League. However, Cleveland ranks 13th in the American League in runs scored since the All-Star break, posting just 158 runs. The polar opposites have yielded an 18-21 second-half record.
"I think we are just trying a little too hard," Sabathia said.
Wedge didn't believe the Indians suffered a letdown after taking two of three from the Tigers in a very critical mid-week series at Comerica Park. Instead, it was just the trend that has plagued Cleveland in the second half: Getting behind in the count.
"They definitely competed, and came out there and worked hard," Wedge said. "We had pitches to hit, and whether we weren't ready, or we tried to do too much and came around them. We put ourselves in a position where [we] are in a pitcher's count."
The poor offensive production yielded six hits and a 1-for-6 night with runners in scoring position. Sabathia, the Major League leader in innings pitched, continued his fine season with another gem -- but took another loss.
Sabathia tossed Cleveland's second complete game in the past week, and continued a fine stretch for Indians starters. Sabathia wasn't as efficient as Carmona's 77-pitch complete game versus the Tigers.
The All-Star left-hander tied a season high with 119 pitches and navigated through several jams. However, he never felt tired and would have pitched the ninth if Cleveland tied or took the lead.
"My command wasn't really there," he said. "I just had to bear down and throw strikes. I will throw until they take the ball away from me. I will throw 219 pitches."
Sabathia was only nicked for single runs in the fourth and fifth innings. The Royals touched him for a run in the fourth on a Mark Grudzielanek walk, Billy Butler double and an RBI groundout from Emil Brown.
Kansas City scored another soft run in the fifth when it pushed one across without a base hit. Sabathia threw a pitch that glanced off Tony Pena to lead off the inning. Pena moved to second on a passed ball and scored on back-to-back sacrifices from Joey Gathright and Esteban German.
The Indians offense couldn't mount a comeback. They had runners in scoring position in the eighth and ninth innings, but couldn't score. The loss marked the 10th time in 12 games Cleveland scored fewer than three runs.
"When we are at our best, our offense works their you-know-what off to put themselves in a position to get a good pitch to hit, and more times than not, it gets there," Wedge said. "When we get two strikes, we battle ... That's what we do. We are working hard to get back there."
Conor Nicholl is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.