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07/19/08 2:29 AM ET
Indians' chances unravel after error
Second half starts with loss to Mariners in Laffey's tough outing
By Jesse Baumgartner / MLB.com
SEATTLE -- If a last-place team can have a calling card, the Indians' has been defense. Coming into Friday, they were on pace to set the American League record for fewest errors in a season. But it was a small slipup from that reliable staple which produced drastic consequences in an 8-2 loss to the Mariners at Safeco Field to open the second half of the season and snap Cleveland's four-game winning streak in front of 42,570. With runners on first and second with two outs in the bottom of the second inning, Indians starter Aaron Laffey induced a hard-hit grounder from Ichiro Suzuki that Jhonny Peralta mishandled at shortstop to extend the inning and load the bases. That turned into a run when Laffey issued a four-pitch walk to the light-hitting Willie Bloomquist, and then more trouble when the next batter, Raul Ibanez, delivered a shot to right for the grand slam and a 5-0 deficit the Indians would not recover from. "Errors are going to happen, but as a pitcher, you've got to handle it," manager Eric Wedge said. "He walked a guy on four straight pitches, and then he creates a situation for himself. One thing Aaron has done a pretty good job with early in his career is controlling damage and making pitches, and he didn't do that tonight." The inning had started with two quick outs, but Seattle catcher Jamie Burke singled and Laffey hit No. 9 hitter Yuniesky Betancourt to bring up Ichiro as things started falling apart. "It just seems like once one thing happens, then another thing happens, it just kind of starts to unravel a little bit for me," Laffey said. "I kind of got out of my rhythm. I started to get into a little bit of a groove and just kind of got thrown out of wack there." It didn't help that Cleveland's multiple-run mistake provided a cushion for Mariners ace Felix Hernandez, who has been tough enough on more level terms this season. The Indians nicked him for a run in the third thanks to a walk, a Grady Sizemore ground-rule double and an RBI groundout from Casey Blake. Any comeback chance evaporated over the left-field fence with Jose Lopez's three-run homer in the bottom of the fourth to chase Laffey. Blake would provide his team's final run with a leadoff homer to right in the sixth. "[Hernandez] was pretty good. He has good stuff and threw a good ballgame tonight," Wedge said. "But we really never gave ourselves a chance on the flipside of it." Sizemore, who was returning to his native state, went 1-for-4 with the double. Ever since a stellar May, Laffey has been up and down for the Indians. He threw an effective six innings against the Rays before the All-Star break, but he struggled a bit in the start before that. "I've been kind of feeling kind of out of wack the last couple weeks here, just trying to figure it out and trying to fix it," he said. "[It] just seems like every time I start to get a hold of things, it's just like one thing happens, and then something else goes wrong and then I get right back into that same funk that I've been in. ... I just [have to] work hard to get that back and try to stay consistent." It was a tough way to begin post-All-Star-break life for the Indians, who were coming off a four-game sweep of the Rays and hoping to improve their position in the competitive AL Central division. Wedge had even addressed those four games before Friday's contest, saying, "We weren't doing anything extraordinary." But the basic execution the manager pointed to in those wins was exactly the problem that dragged Cleveland down early Friday night. "You know we talked about this before the break -- whether it be the pitcher or the hitter or defensively -- when you have situations, you have to make pitches, or you got to come through in certain situations offensively ... or make a play defensively," he said."And we saw all of that tonight both at the plate, in the field and on the mound -- and that's the difference in the ball game."
Jesse Baumgartner is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.