CLEVELAND: It’s not quite the equivalent of “Down goes Frazier,” Howard Cosell’s memorable call in the George Foreman-Joe Frazier classic, but what the heck:
So “Down goes Lee,” which was preceded by “Down goes Halladay,” as the Phillies left town with nothing but a lot of negative pitching numbers.
First it was Roy Halladay getting pummeled in the Indians’ 14-2 rout Tuesday night followed by former Tribe Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee getting beat by a more respectable 6-0 Wednesday night at Progressive Field.
Halladay and Lee have been among baseball’s best starters for several years, but this week they weren’t much more than two guys trying to survive a night on the North Coast.
For the fourth game in a row — all wins — the Tribe scored early and never looked back.
“It’s a good way to play,” said manager Terry Francona about scoring first. “And when you score first and score next, it’s a great way to play.”
Maybe the result would have been different if not for one man in the Indians’ lineup, a guy who doesn’t play every day but who played far too often, as far as the Phillies are concerned. Ryan Raburn is a self-effacing player who speaks softly and doesn’t bother anyone.
Except that lately, Raburn has bothered the Indians’ opponents. And that would be an understatement. Wednesday night, he singled three times, doubled and drove in two runs, which only scratches the surface.
In his past 14 at-bats, dating to his final time at the plate in the second game of Sunday’s doubleheader in Kansas City, Raburn has 12 hits, with one double, four home runs, nine RBI and five runs. That’s a normal month of production for many players who are in the lineup all the time.
“I think whenever you can plug in a guy because of an injury or in a doubleheader and he gets that hot, it’s such a bonus,” Francona said.
Michael Brantley also was as prime tormentor of Lee (2-2, 3.46 ERA), who lasted six innings and gave up five runs (four earned), five hits and two walks. Brantley singled three times and scored a run.
Lee wasn’t quite as sharp as usual, and he certainly had little luck. The Tribe took advantage of three infield singles (including Brantley’s bunt hit) to score three runs in the third inning. But there was nothing cheap about Asdrubal Cabrera’s double that drove in two of the runs.
The game marked the second big-league appearance of the season for Trevor Bauer, who was summoned from Columbus to make a spot start. On April 6, he was called up to do the same thing and walked the first four Rays batters in the first inning, yet he was able to last through the fifth, giving up two hits, three runs and seven walks.
He began Wednesday night’s outing by walking the first batter of the game, Jimmy Rollins, who was thrown out trying to steal. One strikeout later (on a 3-and-2 pitch), Bauer walked Chase Utley, and you could almost sense the crowd thinking, “Here we go again.”
But Bauer ended the inning by striking out Ryan Howard after running the count to 3-and-2.
Bauer was not thinking of that day almost a month ago at Tropicana Field.
“This was a new day, a new game,” he said. “So no, no negative thoughts crept in.”
Bauer felt better about being on a major league mound than in his first Tribe start.
“The more times you do something, the more comfortable you get,” he said. “I definitely felt more comfortable this time.”
After the first, he tempered his penchant for living on the edge. Bauer threw 93 pitches in five innings and walked six. But even though the Phillies had opportunities to score, Bauer did not give up a run, primarily because he yielded only one hit and was able to make pitches when he had to.
For example, after walking the first two batters in the fifth inning, Bauer retired the side on a line drive to the second baseman, a fly to center and a fly to left.
“When he got a lot of traffic, he made some unbelievable pitches,” Francona said. “He attacked hitters with really good stuff.”
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.