Missed opportunities lead to Tribe loss
Indians drop first game to Rays in six tries this season
ST. PETERSBURG -- A reporter used the word "annoying" to describe the Indians' 8-4 loss to the Rays on Tuesday night."It was annoying," manager Eric Wedge said of what transpired at Tropicana Field. "That's a good description." The list of annoyances was long for Wedge and the Indians. It was bad enough that a nine-inning game took three hours, 48 minutes to complete. It was made worse by the fact that Fausto Carmona had another erratic outing, the Tribe offense stranded 13 runners, including five in the sixth and seventh innings, and Rafael Betancourt's miserable '08 continued in a rocky seventh. Put all those annoying attributes together, and you have the recipe for the Tribe's first loss in six games against the AL East's top team. "It was a frustrating ballgame, to say the least," Wedge said. "We had multiple opportunities to win that ballgame." The frustration began with Carmona, who squandered leads of 1-0 and 3-1 with his inability to control his pitches, most notably his once-trusty sinkerball. After Shin-Soo Choo's RBI single off Edwin Jackson gave Carmona the 1-0 lead in the first, Carmona coughed it right back up when Akinori Iwamura tripled to lead off the bottom of the inning and scored on a Carlos Pena sacrifice fly. Jhonny Peralta's 18th home run -- a two-run shot to center in the third inning -- gave the Tribe the 3-1 lead, but Carmona couldn't hold onto that one, either. Carmona walked the first two batters he faced in the fourth, then, with two outs, gave up a two-run single to Dioner Navarro and an RBI triple to Gabe Gross to give the Rays a 4-3 lead. "It bothered me a bit because I was just one pitch away [from getting out of the jam]," Carmona said through interpreter Luis Rivera. "I left a changeup up the middle [to Navarro]." That was one of many pitches Carmona (5-4, 4.46 ERA) had trouble locating in this brief outing. He was done after that fourth inning because of his struggles to find his proper release point. In all, he gave up four runs on three hits and five walks. "He was all over the place," Wedge said of Carmona. "He had poor control and wasn't able to fix it or make adjustments." That's been the case with Carmona throughout his injury-plagued '08. Walks hurt him before he missed two months with a left hip strain, and they're still hurting him now. "It's been a little difficult to get in the groove, especially today," Carmona said. The Tribe's bats certainly fell out of their early groove when the Rays' bullpen went to work. Jackson left with two on and two out in the sixth. Grady Sizemore drew a walk off J.P. Howell to load the bases, but right-hander Grant Balfour came on to get Ben Francisco to fly out to deep center field. As bad as that missed opportunity seemed, it was worse in the seventh, when the Indians had runners on the corners with no one out and still came out empty-handed. The downfall began when Choo struck out looking. "One thing I hate to see is when you put it in the umpire's hands with two strikes," Wedge said. "You don't want to flip that coin." And after Choo went down, Balfour got Ryan Garko to fly out to right. Franklin Gutierrez then faced Dan Wheeler and did the same. "If the guy ahead of you doesn't get it done," Wedge said, "you've got to go up there and be that much more determined and focused to get it done." The bats didn't get the job done, and neither did Betancourt. Sent out in the seventh to keep the Indians within a run, Betancourt blew up. He walked Pena, then watched Evan Longoria send a pair of fastballs just left of the left-field foul pole. Stubbornly, Betancourt stuck with the fastball with two strikes, and Longoria made him pay. His third fly ball stayed fair for a two-run homer. "He didn't hit his spot," Wedge said of Betancourt. "I'm sure he didn't mean to throw a fastball, waist-high down the middle, but he needs to do a better job than that." Betancourt's bad job continued one out later, when Cliff Floyd took him deep to center for a solo homer that knocked him out of the game. And Juan Rincon joined the fray when he stepped to the mound and immediately served up a solo homer to Navarro. With that, the Rays had gone ahead, 8-3, and this ballgame was all but over, though the rule book insisted on it continuing toward its official completion, which didn't come until nearly 11 p.m. ET. Annoying? Yes, yes it was. "That," Wedge said, "would be the proper term."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.