CLEVELAND -- First Kerry Wood imploded. Then he erupted. Walking back to the dugout after coughing up the five ninth-inning runs that cost his Indians the game in an 8-4 loss to the Royals on Wednesday night, Wood tossed his glove about six rows into the stands at Progressive Field. Soon after, Wood snapped at a reporter who asked him if his stuff is not as sharp as he'd like it to be.
"Obviously, with giving up a five-spot, I'm not [very] sharp," Wood barked. "Obviously." And the glove toss? Clearly, it was not your standard souvenir. "Irrelevant," Wood said. "Nothing to do with the game." Irrelevant, perhaps. But also telling of the frustration for Wood, a $20.5 million hired gun who has been inconsistent with what few save opportunities he's had for a sub-.500 team the last two years. This was Wood's first save opportunity of the season. Lifted from the disabled list May 7, he waited nearly two weeks for this chance. And that's what made the outcome all the more ugly. If you want to know the truth, this whole ballgame was a bit ugly. It featured two starting pitchers who haven't won a game since last August, and both of them needed in excess of 100 pitches to get through just five innings of work. That set the tone for a night in which the two American League Central clubs combined to throw 386 pitches over the course of three hours, 39 minutes. It was right-hander Justin Masterson (last win: Aug. 20, 2009) pitted against right-hander Gil Meche (last win: Aug. 18, 2009), and both had to be salivating at the chance to get off the schneid. Masterson limited the damage off him to a pair of runs on five hits with four walks and three strikeouts on 106 pitches. That would have been a decent line over the course of, say, seven or eight innings, but Masterson was gone by the sixth, forcing manager Manny Acta to dig into his not-so-well-rested bullpen. "Way too many pitches," Acta said. "That's obvious. He was not able to finish things. He was going into deep counts." Staked to a 1-0 lead after the Tribe posted an unearned run on Meche in the second, Masterson let two on in the third and gave up an RBI single to Mike Aviles. David DeJesus then grounded into a fielder's choice that scored Scott Podsednik from third. "That third inning got a little frustrating," Masterson said. "Some tough-luck balls. I threw too many balls. My four-seamer was slicing and dicing when it wasn't supposed to, and that's never good." But the Indians tied it in the fifth when Trevor Crowe singled home Lou Marson. The two teams traded runs in the sixth, the Royals taking the lead on Mitch Maier's RBI double, only to lose it when Jason Donald grounded out to score Russell Branyan from third for his first big league RBI. For the Tribe, the go-ahead run came in the seventh. Shin-Soo Choo was hit by a pitch from Brad Thompson and swiped second. Dusty Hughes served up a ground-ball single to Travis Hafner, scoring Choo to make it 4-3. But the Indians left two on that inning, and they left the bases loaded when Hafner struck out looking against Bruce Chen in the eighth. Those five stranded runners would come back to haunt them. "We scratched and clawed to score four runs," Acta would say. "But we couldn't shut the door." The bullpen door swung open for Wood, who was looking to pick up where Chris Perez and Tony Sipp had left off in working a scoreless seventh and eighth, respectively. In this battle of bullpens, the Indians had to like the way Perez and Sipp set a tone, but Wood was off-key from the first note of the ninth. Wood's third pitch was a fastball up and away to Aviles, who punched it to left field, just inside the foul line, for a leadoff triple. "That's a tough way to start the inning," Wood said. It didn't get any easier when Wood made a diving stop of a DeJesus roller to his left, only to have the ball pop out of his glove when he stood up. Not that first base was covered, anyway. With runners on the corners and none out, Wood knew he needed a punchout or three. Instead, Billy Butler punched a double off the right-field wall to score Aviles with the tying run. Save situation now blown, Wood did manage to strike out Jose Guillen. He then intentionally walked Alberto Callaspo to load the bases and give himself a double-play opportunity. The five-pitch walk he issued to Mitch Maier, which brought home the go-ahead run, was not in the gameplan. And neither was the bases-clearing double to Yuniesky Betancourt, which made it 8-4. What made that big blow all the more crushing was the fact that it came on an 0-2 pitch. "I was trying to go up with a fastball," Wood said. "I got on top of it, and it didn't go high enough." The glove, on the other hand, went right where Wood aimed. And it was an ugly moment that summed up an ugly performance in an ugly game.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.