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07/24/07 11:14 PM ET
Sabathia's effort wasted in loss to Sox
Starter gives seven strong innings, but Tribe's bats quiet
By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com
CLEVELAND -- His home park was packed, but C.C. Sabathia didn't know if the fans assembled before him at Jacobs Field on Tuesday night were rooting for or against him. If the noise level provides an accurate estimation, then roughly half of the 39,339 in attendance for the second game of the Tribe's four-game series with the Red Sox were of Boston descent -- or, at the least, rooting interest. "It's a little embarrassing, to be honest," Sabathia said, "because I know what a good city this is. To hear the fans chanting "Youuk" when [Kevin] Youkilis is up. ... That's not Cleveland." At the least, many of those in the crowd on this night went home happy, as Sabathia and the Indians fell for the second straight day against the Red Sox, this time by a 1-0 count. Sabathia (13-5) dropped this game because of two balls that found a way to drop in during the decisive fourth. And while Sabathia only had about half the home crowd behind him, he had even less of the Indians' offense working in his favor. The Indians simply had no answers for Japanese import Daisuke Matsuzaka and his six-pitch mix. In fact, the Tribe bats -- shut out for the fifth time this season -- have now gone 15 innings without so much as a run scored. "When you only score two runs in 18 innings, there's obviously a lot more you can do," manager Eric Wedge said. "We need to take a few more chances and make adjustments." Grady Sizemore took a bit of a chance on the basepaths early in this one, and it proved to be a costly undertaking. Sizemore led off the bottom of the first with a base hit and stole second. But when Casey Blake hit a sharp grounder to short, Sizemore opted to speed toward third. Julio Lugo's throw to third nailed him. "That was a tough read," Wedge said. "If Lugo didn't have a line to throw the ball, he would have just, at that point in the game, thrown the ball across the field. But he took a peek, saw a crease where he could throw the ball and made a good baseball play." The play was a big one, for the Indians went on to load the bases against Dice-K. They came up empty when Jhonny Peralta went down swinging. "You don't know when you're going to get chances like that," Wedge said. "It can come back to bite you a little bit." It bit the Tribe in the fourth, when two balls that had the potential to be caught proved to be the club's undoing. With one out, Youkilis elicited a healthy round of chants of his last name when he lofted a single to right. Trot Nixon charged in on the ball, but was unable to get his glove under it before it hit the grass. Wedge argued the umpire's ruling of a single, but replays showed that Nixon had, indeed, trapped the ball after it hit. "I thought Trot caught the ball, to be honest," Sabathia said. "I haven't seen the replay yet, but when I got the ball back, it didn't have any grass stains on it." Sabathia's otherwise splendid outing was further stained when Manny Ramirez singled on a line drive to left. One out later, Sabathia tossed a 1-2 changeup to Mike Lowell, who swung hard and lifted it to left. Left fielder Ben Francisco, eyeing Lowell's big swing, initially broke back toward the wall before realizing the ball was headed for more shallow pastures. By the time he came in on it, it was too late. As was the case with Nixon, Francisco came up just short in his diving attempt to get a glove on the ball. The base hit allowed Youkilis to score the game's only run. "One mistake in a game like that," Sabathia said, "will kill you." But as Francisco pointed out, that was far from the Indians' only mistake in this game. "It's a play you'd like to make," Francisco said. "I just came up a little short. But we had other chances to win. We just didn't get the big hit." Indeed, the Indians had their leadoff hitter in scoring position three times and came up empty-handed. Matsuzaka, who had been roughed up by the Tribe at Fenway Park last month, allowed just four hits, three walks and a hit batter in seven innings. Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon picked up where he left off. It mattered little, then, that Sabathia shook off the ill-effects of three rough outings earlier in the month to turn in a gem more befitting of his ace stature. Wedge, however, hoped Sabathia's showing would serve as a guiding light to an Indians rotation that has two members -- Cliff Lee and Jake Westbrook -- scuffling. "He's our guy. He has to lead the way," Wedge said. "This was a big step for him and a big step for us, just in regard to our starting rotation. Hopefully, these guys can start competing with each other a little bit and keep it moving down the line." But when it comes to the Indians' showing in a series that Sabathia called a "good measuring stick," things are not moving in the right direction. And the cheers for Boston don't help, either. "It's a little disappointing," Sabathia said.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.