CLEVELAND: Indians pitchers have been walking batters at a consistently high rate from Day 1 of the season, but it didn't cost them much until Sunday.
That's when they (mostly the bullpen) walked he house, allowing Detroit to erase a 7-1 deficit and score three in the ninth to win 9-8, the final run scoring on a wild pitch. The nine new walks put the Tribe average at 6.8 per nine innings.
""I think they know they're walking a tightrope, and that this cannot continue to happen,'' manager Manny Acta said. ""You can't walk six guys a game and not have it come back on you.''
Some fans might wonder why Acta didn't leave right-hander Joe Smith in the game to start the eighth inning after he got the last batter of the seventh with mostly right-handed batters coming up for the Tigers.
Asked if he thought about leaving Smith in, the manager said, ""No, because we had a four-run lead and Rafffie (Rafael Perez) is in the mix to be the eighth-inning guy. But he couldn't make a pitch; he kept leaving pitches out over the plate.''
In other words, Acta is holding auditions for setup man. Obviously, Perez didn't help his cause with Sunday's outing. He lasted two-thirds of an inning and gave up two runs on four hits.
Speaking of pitchers who aren't there yet, Jake Westbrook realizes that it will take time before he regains the fine edge to his command that he lost in recuperating almost two years from Tommy John surgery.
""I felt better,'' he said of his start Sunday, in which he gave up three runs and three walks in 5 2/3 innings. ""I got a little closer to where I want to be. I felt like I made good pitches when I needed to.''
But Westbrook qualified the progress he thinks he made.
""It's just a step,'' he said. ""I'm not where I want to be. I want to get deeper in the game. My command is a little erratic right now. It's a matter of finding the consistency I had three our four years ago. And that might take some time.''