|Highest WPA||Lowest WPA|
|Paul Byrd||.219||Jensen Lewis||-.341|
|Victor Martinez||.207||Asdrubal Cabrera||-.220|
|Ryan Garko||.203||Jorge Julio||-.172|
Different night, same late-inning collapse, but with a bit less vitriol. Unfortunately, a loss is still a loss.
Again, the Indians' starter did much better than expected. Again, the Indians' offense had opportunities to break the game open but failed, and again a Tribe reliever committed the cardinal sin of relieverdom, the 9th inning home run.
The seeds for tonight's loss were sown yesterday. For after Rafael Betancourt threw 1.2 innings on Monday, he wasn't going to be available tonight. Which normally wouldn't be that big a deal, but after Joe Borowski was shunted to the Disabled List, the Indians were left with a thin back end of the bullpen. And because Paul Byrd rarely goes deep into games even when pitching well, Eric Wedge was going to have to steal an inning or two with guys not inducted into the Circle of Trust.
Fortunately, Paul Byrd pitched as good a game as he's capable of, allowing 6 base runners in 6 innings. The obvious change from his first couple outings was the command of his pitches. Byrd always has a definite plan to get hitters out, but those plans require intricate placement of pitches. Tonight he stayed on the corners or just off, and fooled Boston's lineup for six innings.
Meanwhile, the offense wasn't helping much, though they didn't lack for opportunities. They left a runner on third in the second, runners on the corners in the third, and runners on first and second in the fourth. They finally got that big hit in the fifth, when Victor Martinez drove home two runs, the culmination of an excellent at-bat. But true to form, Jhonny Peralta ended the inning by grounding into a double play.
So when Paul Byrd left the game, it was just a 2-1 contest, meaning that the Indians' depleted bullpen would have to hold Boston scoreless for the next three innings. Wedge tried to sneak in Jorge Julio in the seventh, as the Red Sox had up the bottom half of their order, but Julio couldn't hit the strike zone, and was removed after walking the first two hitters he faced. Rafael Perez limited the damage, but again, this left a gap in the relief coverage for the rest of the game. Jason Varitek was the sixth batter Jensen Lewis faced.