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Sox homers spoil Tribe home opener

Sox spoil Tribe home opener

CLEVELAND -- The Indians figured Fausto Carmona might be a tad rusty Friday night. Ten days removed from live action will have that effect on anyone.

Why their bats remained cold in the clutch may be the hotter question.

The Indians fell, 6-4, to the White Sox at Jacobs Field, as Carmona's disappointing season debut, coupled with a Tribe offense that frittered away chance after chance with runners in scoring position, proved far too much to conquer.

Carmona, pitching for the first time since an April 3 exhibition for Class A Lake County, gave up six runs in just 4 1/3 innings. But more critically, the Indians were 3-for-20 with runners in scoring position.

"I don't know how many we left on, but it was ridiculous. We're too good of a hitting team to be doing that," manager Eric Wedge said. "Our approach was very poor, to say the least."

For the record, the Tribe left 13 on base. So while they outhit the Sox, 13-8, they had little to show for it on a night that officially went down in the books as the club's home opener.

Incidentally, it's why Friday's game counted as the home opener that the Indians may be struggling under pressure. Ever since that bizarre, snow-filled weekend postponed the Tribe's entire opening series with Seattle last week and forced Cleveland indoors for four straight days, they have struggled in the clutch.

Friday was most certainly not an anomaly. The Indians are 15-for-74 with runners in scoring position this season.

"You can get in bad habits being out in the [batting] cage," said Ryan Garko, who had a career-high four hits on Friday. "It's frustrating."

Wedge, though, was hardly willing to begin laying blame on the weather.

"Anybody can use that time off as an excuse," Wedge said. "But that's not something we can do. We can't afford to."

And neither can Carmona, who is filling in the rotation's fifth slot for the injured Cliff Lee. To his credit, he would not dip into a bag of excuses.

The frigid night, as temperatures dipped into the 30s?

"Didn't notice it," Carmona said through a translator.

The extended layoff, filled by just two bullpen sessions?

"I didn't feel anything. I'm not making any excuses," Carmona said. "I was feeling fine."

But it became evident early that Carmona was off. When he walked Darin Erstad, the second batter of the night, it proved an ominous harbinger.

Yet even as the 23-year-old right-hander gave up seven hits, two walks, hit a batter and tossed a pair of wild pitches, his night was essentially soured by two hanging sliders that ended up in the stands.

Chicago's big blows came on Juan Uribe's three-run homer to left-center in the fourth and a two-run shot by Jermaine Dye in the fifth.

"He left a couple sliders up for the home runs. That was the difference," Wedge said.

Said Carmona: "I was feeling good other than those two pitches."

Carmona's role -- and performance -- took on an interesting arc last season. He began the season in the Tribe's rotation, established himself as a dominant setup man, struggled as the closer and bounced back with a strong September in the rotation. So he's shown to be resilient in the past.

Cleveland's offense will eventually spring back as well, of course. But the frustration is still there after yet another night where the big hit never came. Another night when they had every opportunity -- the Tribe had baserunners in every inning and stranded runners in scoring position in all but one.

Examples of these problems were many, but perhaps the night's struggles could be best encapsulated in the bottom of the fourth. Trailing, 4-2, the Indians loaded the bases with one out and the heart of their order in waiting. But Sox starter Javier Vazquez struck out both Trot Nixon and Travis Hafner, as yet another big inning was stifled.

"A lot of opportunities tonight that we squandered," second baseman Josh Barfield said. "We've just got to get that big hit."

David Briggs is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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