© 2008 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
07/09/08 11:45 PM ET
Nice start goes awry for Byrd, Indians
After losing five-run lead in seventh inning, slide reaches 10
By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com
DETROIT -- Jimmy Carter was president. More appropriate to the situation, Jeff Torborg was manager. That's the last time the Indians did what they've done here in 2008. What was once a season of promise and a season centered on completing unfinished business has hit its lowest of many low points -- and it's a point no Tribe team has dared approach in nearly three decades. Wednesday's 8-6 loss to the Tigers at Comerica Park -- a loss in which a 6-0 lead was wasted and in which Miguel Cabrera's two-run homer off Jensen Lewis in the ninth provided the finishing blow -- marks not only the finale of a winless road trip once deemed "make or break" but also gives the Indians 10 consecutive losses for the first time since June of 1979. "I've never been here before," manager Eric Wedge said. "As a player or a manager, I've never been here." The Indians didn't get here by accident. Theirs is a starting pitching staff ravaged by injuries to Jake Westbrook and Fausto Carmona and, most recently, the trade of ace CC Sabathia. Theirs is an offense that, even on nights that begin with promise, is continually unable to come through in the clutch. And theirs is a bullpen that has lost the trust of its manager. "We're losing collectively," said starter Paul Byrd, who was foiled by the 'pen in this one and remains winless since June 6. "You can't single out one facet of our game." So Wedge will do what obviously must be done at this point. He will gather his club before Thursday's home game against the Rays and address every facet. "I'm going to meet with these guys," Wedge said, "and let them know where I'm at and where I feel we're and what I see collectively as a ballclub and individually." What does Wedge see? "The effort is there," he said. "The work is there. Respecting the game and being a good teammate -- that's there. What's not translating is consistent performance from game time until that last pitch is thrown. Tonight was a great example of that."
Yes, it was.
On this night, the Indians jumped out to a 5-0 lead against Tigers starter Eddie Bonine, whom they had never faced before, and were getting a resilient outing from Byrd, who worked himself out of several early jams.
But the Indians couldn't cash in on a golden opportunity in the fifth, and it came back to bite them. They had the bases loaded with none out against Tigers reliever Casey Fossum.
Then Shin-Soo Choo struck out looking, Ryan Garko struck out swinging, and Andy Marte struck out swinging.
"Bases loaded, nobody out, and you strike out three times?" Wedge said. "That just can't happen. And a couple of those were looking. You can't leave it in the umpire's hands. I don't care if it's a strike or not. If it's that close, you've got to get after it."
Wedge might have been incorrect in his count of the caught-lookings, but his point was nonetheless clear.
What's also been clear the last couple seasons is that Byrd is a much less effective pitcher as a game wears on. In fact, he entered this start with a 6.53 ERA from the third inning on.
But Wedge opted to stick with Byrd going into the seventh, with the Indians now holding a 6-1 lead after Jamey Carroll's RBI single in the sixth and Edgar Renteria's RBI single in the sixth.
It turned out to be a bad move, as Byrd gave up consecutive singles to open the inning and was removed.
"I'm frustrated I couldn't put them away," Byrd said.
Byrd's frustration would grow, as Rafael Betancourt came out and walked the first batter he faced to load the bases. Carlos Guillen's double brought home two runs, Cabrera's groundout to short brought in another and Matt Joyce tied it up with a two-run homer to right.
It was another outing that begged the question: What has happened to Betancourt? Could this really be the same guy who shut out the Tigers in 10 appearances against them last season?
"To me, the difference is I think he lost his confidence," Guillen said. "When you lose your confidence in this game, it's tough."
Wedge has lost enough confidence in his bullpen that he was willing to send Byrd out for the seventh, despite his tendencies. Betancourt made him pay for that decision.
Perhaps what followed should have come as no surprise, given the obvious shift in momentum. The Indians had Casey Blake at third with one out in the ninth, but Guillen made a sensational stop of a hard Garko grounder to third, and Blake got caught in a rundown to all but end that threat.
In the bottom of the ninth, Lewis hung a fastball to Marcus Thames, who ripped a leadoff single, and, after getting Guillen to pop out, hung another to Cabrera, who hit a laser over the left-field wall to end it.
"I don't think I threw one quality Major League pitch tonight," Lewis said. "I threw three meatballs and got away with one of them. It's unacceptable across the board."
The Indians' play long ago became unacceptable to Wedge. And this marathon losing streak -- a streak that is now two losses shy of tying a club record set in 1931 -- has exhausted his patience.
"Guys who have the opportunity have got to step up," Wedge said. "This is the big leagues. You have to perform to stay here."
|"We're losing collectively. You can't single out one facet of our game."|
|-- Paul Byrd|
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.