Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Joe No! Tribe Falters Late Falls to Red Sox

In one swing that made every Cleveland Indians fan puke, perennial nemesis Manny Ramirez took closer Joe Borowski deep to left and gave the Boston Red Sox a 6-4 victory last night at Progressive Field. The Red Sox were down but are a team that are never out of it and the Indians failed to take advantage of it and left the door open for a late inning Boston comeback.

The Indians squandered another great outing by Jake Westbrook who looked in command for the first six innings. A first inning walk to annoying, yet under appreciated, Dustin Pedroia who was brought home by a Kevin Youkilis double for a 1-0 Red Sox lead. Westbrook then cruised through the next five innings and waited for the Tribe offense to awaken from its slumber.

He got his wish in the 4th inning as the Indians hitter finally starter working the count again Boston starter Jon Lester. Asdrubal Cabrera walked and was followed by Travis Hafner who singled to right. Victor Martinez delivered a lined shot up the middle to deliver the As-Man and knot the game at 1-1. Jhonny Peralta looked awful in striking out but Ryan Garko brought home Hafner with a single to put the Indians up 2-1. The innings looked to be big with two runs already in and two on with only 1 out but no more would come of it. Jason Michaels and Franklin Gutierrez feebly flew out to end the threat.

The Indians looked primed to break the game open in the 5th as Casey Blake and Grady Sizemore walked to start the inning. The As-Man provided a nice sacrifice but to put runners on second and third with one out. Hafner, proving to be clutch once more, drove in both men with a single to center to but the Tribe up 4-1. Martinez single and Peralta walked to load the bases with one out. Former Indians Julian Tavarez relived and struck out Ryan Garko and David Dellucci to end the treat. Another failed opportunity that would come back to haunt the Tribe.

That's when the tide turned to the Red Sox favor. Despite a high pitch count pitching a complete game in his last outing Jake Westbrook came out for the 7th inning. A curious choice by Eric Wedge with Rafael Perez ready in the Tribe Pen. Sean Casey walked and was forced out at second on a slow roller by Julio Lugo. Coco Crisp delivered a masterful bunt single and Martinez threw errantly that allowed Lugo to reach third. Pedroia's infield single made it 4-2 with runners on first and second with 1 out and Westbrook's night was done.

The Indians seemed to grab momentum right back as Rafael Betancourt struck out David Otriz and Ramirez to end the threat and preserve the lead. But Betancourt gave up a lead off homer to Youkilis in the 8th to make it 4-3 and with Joe Borowski in the bullpen, to say the city of Cleveland was restless would be an understatement.

Lugo greeted Borowski with a laser shot past 3rd for an inning opening double and Crisp sacrificed him to third. The Indians caught a break as replays showed Crisp was safe on the play. Pedroia tied the game at 4-4 with a sacrifice fly to LF as a chorus of boos rained down at The P. It seemed inevitable as David Ortiz blooped a single to left as Manny Ramirez strode to the plate. One 80 MPH "fastball" right down the middle of the plate later it was 6-4 Red Sox and the Indians were 5-8. At least he didn't stand there, hands in air, and preen for 10 seconds like in the ALCS. Jonathan Papelbon closed out the ninth to preserve to victory.

Aside from Iron Joe, a game to totally make Tribe fans sick. Betancourt looked dominant again versus Ortiz and Ramirez but then got tattooed by Youkilis. Raffy Right has been extremely hittable this year. Wedge's decision to stick with his starter just a little to long, a la Game 5 of the ALCS last year, cost the Indians a run they couldn't afford to surrender. The offense, especially Hafner, finally came through but still squandered a couple of opportunities to turn nice innings into huge innings and failed to put the game away.

The Tribe appears to have more questions than answers as they continue to lack the "look" of a contender that they had last year. The Red Sox are one helluva team and can never be counted out but the Indians played an equal part of keeping them in the game and handing them opportunities. One more game to go in the short 2 game series. How they respond tonight will tell a lot about this team.

It's Tribe Time Now. Believeland.

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