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05/16/09 1:15 AM ET
Seven-run lead not enough for Indians
Rays cap win with walk-off shot against Vizcaino
By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com
ST. PETERSBURG -- It looked as bad to manager Eric Wedge on television as it did in person. In fact, the view on the tube might have been even worse for Wedge, because he could see, in high-definition brilliance and with a clear view of the strike zone, the ugliness displayed by his pitching staff in Friday night's 8-7 loss to the Rays at Tropicana Field. Wedge, ejected in the third inning for arguing a close play at the plate, left before Anthony Reyes, Tony Sipp, Jensen Lewis and Rafael Betancourt all chipped in to squander a 7-0 lead and before the newly signed Luis Vizcaino gave up a walkoff homer to B.J. Upton. All anger, then, had to be directed at the lonely walls of the visiting manager's office and the scribbling pens of the press. "We've got to pitch," Wedge said. "We've got to command the baseball. A 9-0 lead [Thursday] becomes 9-6, and tonight it's 7-0, and we lose the ballgame. "At some point these guys have got to look in the mirror. It's not their stuff. Their stuff is fine. You've got to concentrate. You can't miss by a foot and a half. I'm sitting here watching on TV and seeing what you're seeing. It's ridiculous. There's no other word for it. This is the big leagues. We've got to be better than that." Just when it appeared things were getting better for the last-place Indians, they saw their two-game winning streak halted in the most hurtful of ways. "Losing a game like this is tough," a visibly frustrated Victor Martinez said. "We're doing all we can to put up good at-bats and score some runs." Martinez stopped short of pointing the finger at the pitching staff. Wedge didn't. "I respect the heck out of these position players," Wedge said. "It's not how many times you get kicked in the face, it's how many times you get up. And they will. But these [pitchers] have to start holding up their end of the bargain, too." Reyes didn't do that. He breezed through the Rays' lineup his first time through but began to fall apart in the Rays' three-run fourth. In the sixth, Evan Longoria drove home a run with a single, and Reyes left with one on and one out. "I thought I made some good pitches, and they were able to put them in play," Reyes said. "I just need to bear down harder and put them in places where they're not going to do too much damage." Sipp relieved Reyes and walked Aybar to put two on, and Lewis came in to get Ben Zobrist to ground into a fielder's choice. But second baseman Jamey Carroll's throw to first on an attempt to turn two was errant, and a run scored to make it 7-5. The Rays kept chipping away with a run off Lewis in the seventh. Jason Bartlett doubled, moved to third on a sac bunt and scored on Lewis' wild pitch to make it 7-6. And in the eighth, Rafael Betancourt served up a game-tying solo shot to Zobrist. So that's how 7-0 became 7-7. And when Wedge looked back on what had transpired, he had particularly pointed words for Lewis, who was slated to be in a setup role this season but has struggled in these tight situations. "He's throwing," Wedge said of Lewis. "I'm tired of watching him throw. He's got to pitch. He's got a lot of moxie, got a lot of guts. He has good stuff. But you've got to pitch. If you're going to make it up here, you can't miss spots by a foot or a foot and a half and expect to have success." Lewis seemed caught off-guard by those remarks. "The one wild pitch just came out of my hand bad," Lewis said. "But I don't know. I thought the pitch to Carl Crawford [on a single in the seventh] was a good pitch. He just put a good swing on it. Other than that, I really haven't had a chance to talk to [pitching coach] Carl Willis or anybody else." Luis Vizcaino certainly didn't get a chance to get eased into action. He hadn't pitched in a game since April 21, two days before the Cubs released him, so he was thrown to the wolves in this outing. He got Upton in a 3-2 count, then threw a flat sinker that Upton pounded out to left to put the game away. Now, let it be known that the Indians, whose early offensive exploits included Grady Sizemore's club-record 19th career leadoff blast and Shin-Soo Choo's second two-run homer in as many nights, went quiet at the plate once left-hander Scott Kazmir departed in the fourth. But Wedge, for one, didn't blame the bats. "When you score seven runs, you should be up at home plate tension-free," he said. "Our guys are not tension-free just because they feel like they've got to score more runs. And that's ridiculous at this level. Don't get me wrong, they should be able to overcome that. But when you talk about mutual responsibility, we're staring it straight in the face right here." Mark DeRosa joined Martinez in staying away from the finger-pointing. "It sounds cliché," DeRosa said, "but you win as a team and you lose as a team." The Indians, though, keep losing games because of a pitching staff and a relief crew with ERAs that rank among the highest in the league. Wedge might not have been in the dugout for all of this game, but he's seen enough in person and on TV this season to know where the blame lies. "I know it's not easy," he said. "I'll be the first one to tell you it's not easy. This game is played by men, and it's the hardest game out there. It's the best of the best, and only the ones who execute survive."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.