CLEVELAND: The new century has reinforced or established a couple of disconcerting trends for the Indians.
It almost has reached the level of folklore that the Tribe cannot beat the New York Yankees with regularity. We have seen their mastery for decades.
Relatively new is the phenomenon of caving in at the sight of a Boston Red Sox uniform, but for the past 10 to 12 years, the Indians have developed an allergy to anything Boston.
On the first homestand of the year, completed Thursday night, the Tribe lost to the Sox 6-3, giving the visitors a sweep of the three-game series. The Yankees began the homestand by winning the first two of the four-game set. The best the Indians could do was accept two rainouts.
“The Red Sox did pretty much what they wanted to this series,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “If they pitch like that all year, they’re going to win a lot of games.”
Zach McAllister was charged with salvaging the final game against the Red Sox, but he was forced to succumb after getting little help from the offense.
What did McAllister do wrong? He picked the wrong day to pitch. Rather, the wrong day was picked for him. The luck of the draw pitted him against Jon Lester, who came into the game with a 2-0 record and 1.42 ERA.
So while McAllister (1-2, 3.12 ERA) was holding the Red Sox attack relatively harmless, Lester was snuffing out any semblance of an offense by the Tribe.
“Zach worked from behind in the count a lot, but he made pitches to get back into the count,” Francona said. “He hasn’t had a ton of major-league starts under his belt, but he competes and he’s going to get better.”
Mike Napoli got the first hit off McAllister, a leadoff triple to right-center in the second inning that Drew Stubbs had trouble locating, possibly because of a stiff wind that at times seemed to blow directly in from center field and across the field simultaneously. Daniel Nava promptly singled home Napoli.
In the fourth, Jarrod Saltalamacchia lined a 3-and-2 pitch into the seats near the line in right for the second Sox run.
Three singles in a row to start the fifth gave the Red Sox their third run, with Dustin Pedroia getting the RBI.
McAllister struggled through the fifth inning, having run up his pitch count. But he retired the side in that inning then retired to the dugout for the night, having thrown 112 pitches.
“I thought at times I did pretty good and at other times I didn’t,” McAllister said. “I threw way too many pitches for the innings I pitched. But I was able to stay in there and battle them.”
The Red Sox are adept at making pitchers push their pitch limits, but a contributing factor was the bizarre strike zone of umpire Tim Timmons. Not that Timmons picked on McAllister. He was equally erratic when Lester was on the mound.
“I relied on my fastball early, but after a while, I was able to use my breaking pitch,” McAllister said.
In addition to being charged with three runs, McAllister gave up six hits and three walks, striking out seven.
The Tribe was fortunate to be trailing only by one run when McAllister left the game.
The first Indians run scored on Mark Reynolds’ double just inside the third-base line, a fly ball that sent him to third and Mike Aviles’ RBI ground out. The second run was almost identical in its mundaneness. Aviles doubled to start the fifth, took third on one ground out and scored on another by Stubbs.
Lester (3-0, 1.73 ERA) had his way with the Wahoos for seven innings, giving up four hits, one walk and striking out five. He threw 115 pitches but looked like he could have gone another five or six innings.
“When you’re not on the scoreboard with regularity, you need a big two-out hit, and we never got that,” Francona said.
The Tribe couldn’t keep the deficit at one, as Nick Hagadone and Bryan Shaw conspired to give up three runs in the seventh, two of which were unearned because of an error by second baseman Cord Phelps.
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.