CLEVELAND -- Cliff Lee knew the Indians' situation coming into Friday night's game against the Tigers as well as anybody. "We got swept by the Royals [earlier in the week]," Lee said. "That's not very good." So when heavy rains cleared up in time for the Tribe to get this series-opening game in, Lee was hoping he could do his part to ensure his club's misfortune would clear up as well.
For six innings, that's just what he did. But a rough spot he hit in the seventh proved to stretch the Indians' gloom and doom into another day, as they fell, 5-4, to the Tigers in front of a sparse group of fans at Jacobs Field. "We lost the game because of me," Lee said. "I let us down." At the plate, the Indians let themselves down with their inability to get much of anything going against veteran left-hander Kenny Rogers. Casey Blake's fifth-inning solo home run and Travis Hafner's sixth-inning RBI single were about all the Indians could muster off Rogers, who kept them off-balance for 6 1/3 innings. Luckily for the Indians, though, Lee was having just as much success against the Tigers for six innings. Marcus Thames touched him with a solo shot in the second and Brandon Inge added a one-run single in the fifth, but Lee's efforts had put the Tribe in a position to tie the game at 2. "I was throwing strikes and working ahead," Lee said. Lee's work might have been made easier if not for a couple baserunning gaffes by his teammates. In the fifth, just before Blake's homer, Eduardo Perez tried to stretch a single off the left-field wall into a double, but was gunned out by left fielder Craig Monroe by several steps. "It was a wet track," Perez said. "Some horses don't run well on a wet track. I'm not a mudder." Jason Michaels' name was nearly mud when he got picked off the bag at first after singling in the first inning. And Hafner was also nabbed when he tried to stretch his RBI single into a double in the sixth. "Those are mistakes that add to [the loss]," manager Eric Wedge said. "They aren't the reason we lost, but all these things contributed, especially when you're talking about a one-run game." The largest contributing factor in this loss, though, was the decisive seventh. In that inning, Lee found big trouble when he gave up a leadoff single to Chris Shelton, then let a fastball to Monroe catch too much of the plate. Monroe unloaded on the pitch and sent it over the center-field wall to make it 4-2. "That home run kind of got me," Lee said. The Tigers continued to get to Lee with Curtis Granderson's one-out single and Ivan Rodriguez's two-out RBI double. That all served to put the Indians in a late, 5-2 bind. Lee had asked his teammates to bail him out, but that turned out to be too tall of an order. Blake, though, tried to do his part by launching his second solo homer in the bottom of the seventh. The blast came immediately after Rogers handed the ball over to flame-throwing reliever Joel Zumaya. The Tribe continued to chip away in the eighth, and they received a little bit of help in the process. With Grady Sizemore at second and Michaels at first, Jhonny Peralta hit into what looked to be a sure-fire double play against Fernando Rodney. But second baseman Placido Polanco's throw to first was errant, allowing Sizemore to score to make it 5-4. But just when it seemed the Indians might be working a little magic to end the losing skid, Todd Jones shut them down without incident in the ninth. Lee knew what that meant. "We lost because of me," he said. "It was totally my fault. I gave [the Tigers] the lead right back with a little cushion, and that was it."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.