CLEVELAND: Stop the presses, hold those tweets and wake up every blogger napping in his mother’s basement: Brett Myers has not fallen down a deep hole into forced retirement.
Yes, the man came into Sunday’s game with a 12.19 ERA and seven home runs allowed in 10⅓ innings, which is even worse than his 9.00 ERA in spring training.
Myers didn’t win, but that had a lot more to do with the inability of the Indians’ offense to figure out how to make contact against Jake Peavy.
So it was White Sox 3, Tribe 1 at Progressive Field, with Myers delivering six strong innings, allowing two runs, six hits and one walk.
Granted, he ran his home run total to eight, when Paul Konerko went deep following a walk to Adam Dunn with two outs in the sixth inning.
But give Myers a break. How many observers of the Wahoos in their heart of hearts thought he would get past the third inning? Manager Terry Francona wasn’t one of them. Of course, it’s his job to believe in his players.
“He threw the ball really well,” Francona said. “That was the guy you’re looking for. It’s easy to tell somebody to have confidence, but this was the kind of game you can build off of.”
Myers (0-2, 8.82 ERA) met little resistance from the Sox until the fourth, when Jeff Keppinger led off with a single and Alex Rios followed with another single. But Keppinger never got to third, as Myers struck out Dunn, induced Konerko to fly to right and Dayan Viciedo to hit a pop fly to short.
It was kind of amazing to see grown-up big leaguers swinging and missing Myers’ 88 mile-per-hour fastball, but he whiffed four, including Konerko.
“I thought it was a pretty good pitch,” Myers said of the 3-and-1 fastball Konerko launched over the left field wall. “It was down in the zone, but maybe it wasn’t the right pitch. I threw one down the middle in the second inning and he struck out. Then he hits a good pitch in the sixth.”
When Myers said, “It was one pitch that cost me,” unknowingly he was joining a large group pitchers from Cleveland who have been tortured by Konerko.
Few players have the longevity to come to the plate for 860 at-bats against an opposing team. But that’s how many times Konerko has faced Tribe pitchers. He carries a career average against them of .279 with 47 home runs and 174 RBI.
Was there a secret to Myers’ effective outing?
“With Myers it will always be locating his fastball,” Francona said. “For most pitchers, it starts with the fastball.”
If a pitcher can throw his fastball to spots, it sets up his other pitches.
“It all comes down to being able to locate the fastball down in the zone,” Myers said, echoing his manager. “I knew it wasn’t my stuff but the location of my stuff.”
In his first two outings of the season — a start and one relief appearance — Myers was pounded by opposing batters, but that’s a blip on the radar screen considering the length of his career.
“A couple of rough outings are tough to deal with,” he said. “I like it even less than the fans, and I’m the one who has to go home with it and lay down on my pillow.”
Peavy (2-1, 3.43 ERA) also threw one bad pitch. It was the first pitch of the first inning, and Michael Bourn whacked it over the fence in right for his second home run of the season.
“Bourn ambushed him, but after that he didn’t give us many opportunities,” Francona said.
Unfortunately for the Tribe, Peavy allowed only four other hits, did not walk a batter and struck out 11 in seven innings.
This is not surprising in light of the fact that the seven players in the Cleveland lineup who had faced Peavy before had an aggregate batting average of .192 with three home runs against him.
“He’s one of the most competitive players I’ve ever seen,” Bourn said of Peavy.
After Michael Brantley beat out an infield single to the shortstop with one out in the first, Peavy retired 12 batters in a row and 17 of 19, until Mark Reynolds singled with one out in the seventh.
“They were able to win the battle,” Bourn said, “but we won the series.”
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at email@example.com. 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.