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07/22/09 11:07 PM ET
Indians unable to pick up Pavano
Valbuena homers, but Tribe can't climb back from deficit
By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com
TORONTO -- In the long run, the Indians feel the extra time between starts they gave Carl Pavano coming out of the All-Star break will benefit him. In the short run, Pavano was either too rusty or too well-rested to get the job done against the Blue Jays. The Indians found their offense, but lost the game, 10-6, at Rogers Centre on Wednesday night, because Pavano and reliever Jose Veras couldn't keep the Jays off the basepaths and couldn't keep the ball in the yard. Toronto pounded Pavano for four homers and Veras for one, and Cleveland lost for the 16th time in 23 games. This loss fit the theme of the first half, rather than the second, in that it was the arms, not the bats, that let the Tribe down. And Pavano, who allowed seven runs on seven hits over 4 2/3 innings, accepted the bulk of the blame. "I couldn't get the job done," Pavano said. "I put us in a bad position." Though Pavano surrendered solo shots to Vernon Wells in the second and Aaron Hill in the fourth, the Tribe was still in a decent position, down 2-1. Those homers were the only hits allowed by Pavano in the game's first four innings, and the Indians bats had presented a persistent threat to Jays rookie left-hander Ricky Romero. They were just waiting for the big hit. The big hits came in the fifth, but they came off Pavano. Alex Rios hit a leadoff shot to get the Jays' five-run inning going. Pavano retired the next two batters and had an 0-2 count on Marco Scutaro. "Typically," manager Eric Wedge said, "he's done a good job finishing those innings off." Not this time. Pavano left an 0-2 fastball up in the zone to Scutaro, who smacked it out to left to make it 4-1. Hill walked, then scored on an Adam Lind double. Lind came in to score on a Scott Rolen single, and Rolen scored on the Lyle Overbay double that knocked Pavano out of the game with his team trailing, 7-1. "This was one of those games where I struggled to get the ball down," Pavano said. "I don't think I got a ground ball until the fourth inning. The balls I left up, they hammered and made me pay." Pitchers like Pavano, who rely on sinking action on their fastballs, are often said to be better off pitching tired. If they are too strong, their fastball doesn't dip. That might have been the case here. But it's hard to argue against the Tribe's decision to give Pavano, who hadn't pitched since July 11, an extended break. After all, he's already amassed nearly as many innings this season (111 2/3) as he did in the preceding four injury-plagued years with the Yankees (145 2/3). "I think it's going to come back to [help] us in the second half," Wedge said. In the meantime, the Indians tried to erase the damage left behind by Pavano. They finally got to Romero in the sixth, putting two on for Luis Valbuena, who worked the count full, then cranked out a three-run shot to right to make it 7-4. Just like that, it was a ballgame again, but the good vibes didn't last long for the Tribe. In the bottom of the inning, Veras, who has been rather uninspiring since his late June acquisition from the Yankees, walked two batters and gave up a three-run shot to Scutaro, who turned in the first multi-homer game of his career. "If we do a better job against them there," Wedge said, "we're right back in the ballgame." The Tribe was once again out of the ballgame after Scutaro's second shot. The two runs they put together off Jesse Carlson in the seventh weren't enough. Still, Wedge stressed the positives of seeing some production from an offense that had scored just 12 runs in the second half's first five games. "We had better swings," Wedge said. "We're still not where we need to be, but that's pushing in the right direction." As for Pavano, he couldn't push past the fifth. "We ended up scoring six runs," the veteran righty said. "If I hold them to a couple runs that inning, it's a different ballgame."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.