© 2008 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
06/20/08 12:59 AM ET
Hot start doesn't hold up for Tribe
Francisco's early homer not enough for Indians vs. Rockies
By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com
DENVER -- The Indians and Rockies probably have enough in common to feel like brothers. Both teams made noise last October, only to fall short of their goal. And both are enduring a wildly disappointing 2008 season thus far. When his Indians suffered a three-game sweep at the hands of the Rockies with Thursday night's 6-3 loss at Coors Field, Tribe third baseman Casey Blake compared the Interleague series to a brotherly battle.
"It felt like we were in the games," Blake said. "It was almost like fighting your little brother. We'd kind of hang with them for a little while and get a couple punches in, but that big blow we needed just never came."
No, the Rockies were the big brother in this series, and that was anything but what the Tribe expected coming in.
Surely, if any ballpark and any opponent would allow the Indians to continue the hot hitting they displayed at home last week, it was hitting-friendly Coors and the pitching-starved Rox.
That was the plan, anyway. Reality, as tends to be the case this year, was not kind to the Indians, who have now lost seven straight road Interleague games, dating back to last year, and each of their last six games at Coors, dating back to 2003.
Early on in this night, it appeared the Tribe would be able to successfully back starter Jeremy Sowers. Grady Sizemore led the game off with a single off Jorge De La Rosa, and Ben Francisco followed one out later with a two-run homer.
Then, inexplicably, De La Rosa settled in. It was inexplicable because this was the same De La Rosa who came in with a career record of 0-3 and ERA of 7.80 against the Indians from his days with the Royals.
He looked like a new man this time around. Or, perhaps more accurately, the Indians made him look like one.
"I didn't think we played particularly well," manager Eric Wedge said. "The last couple days, I thought we swung the bats better than the score indicated. I didn't feel that way tonight. I didn't feel our approach was very good. We swung at pitches out of the zone, and they took advantage and exploited us."
That's the way it generally went for the remainder of De La Rosa's six innings of work, in which he struck out a career-high 10 batters.
The Indians didn't get to De La Rosa again until the sixth, when Blake hit a solo homer to tie the game up at 3.
"I felt he was effectively wild," Blake said of De La Rosa. "He wasn't really locating his fastball all that well. When we faced him in K.C., he was pretty wild, and we took advantage. Maybe we could have been more patient with him [in this game]."
The position players could have done a better job of backing Sowers in the field, as well. Sowers was roughed up for 10 hits in his six innings of work, but several of those were of the infield variety.
It was Yorvit Torrealba's infield single that drove in the tying run in the fourth. Blake made a diving stop on that ball and really didn't have a play.
But Blake could have made a better play on the bunt Willy Taveras put down in the fifth. The speedy Taveras reached on the bunt, then advanced to second on a Blake throwing error.
"It seems you try to move a little faster than you have to because he's running," Blake said of Taveras.
Said Sowers: "Speed doesn't slump."
After Omar Quintanilla moved Taveras over with a sacrifice bunt, Matt Holliday knocked him in with a single to make it 3-2.
Blake would atone for his error by tying the game with his solo shot, but Sowers gave the lead right back up in the bottom of the sixth. He was burned on a 2-0 fastball to Jeff Baker, who homered for the third consecutive game to make it 4-3.
"It was 2-0, and he probably guessed fastball, as most hitters in 2-0 counts do," Sowers said. "He just drove it. He had a heck of a series."
And Taveras, a former Tribe farmhand, had a heck of a game. In the seventh, he burned his old club again -- this time against reliever Masa Kobayashi. After reaching on an infield single to shortstop Jhonny Peralta and moving to second on an intentional walk issued to Holliday, Taveras came around to score on the grounder Garrett Atkins scooted out of Peralta's reach.
"That's the way this series was going," Wedge said. "If that ball is a couple feet the other way, it's a double play. It just wasn't going our way. We were a foot short either way."
Wedge's decision to intentionally walk Baker after the Atkins hit also backfired, as Brad Hawpe came up and ripped an RBI single to right to all but seal this game.
With their division deficit now up to 8 1/2 games -- equaling a season-high -- the Indians will not look back fondly on this rare visit to Colorado.
"It's disappointing," Blake said. "We were playing pretty good baseball. We certainly didn't expect to come in here and not win a game."
But that's life as the little brother.
|"It's disappointing. We were playing pretty good baseball. We certainly didn't expect to come in here and not win a game."|
|-- third baseman Casey Blake|
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.