NEW YORK -- When the sinker doesn't sink, Jake Westbrook is sunk. And so are the Indians, for that matter. Westbrook was bruised and battered for 1 2/3 brutal innings at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday night, and the Indians suffered a 10-3 loss to the Yankees in the opener of their three-game series.
"It just wasn't my night," Westbrook said. "In turn, it wasn't the Indians' night." Mere days after signing his name to a three-year, $33 million contract extension, Westbrook couldn't extend himself past the second inning. Westbrook, though, was far from the only member of the Tribe off his game. Third baseman Andy Marte made a pair of errors; second baseman Josh Barfield, on an attempted double-play relay in the seventh, threw a ball about five rows into the stands behind the Yankees' dugout; and the Indians, as a unit, had trouble capitalizing on opportunity after opportunity against left-hander Chase Wright, who was making his big-league debut. Travis Hafner's solo shot in the third -- his first career homer in Yankee Stadium -- was the only notable tally against Wright. The infield miscues, which have already been an all-too-obvious trend for the Tribe this season, don't have manager Eric Wedge in crisis mode just yet. "We were sloppy out there," Wedge said. "But we're better than what you saw tonight, and we're better than you've seen this season and what you saw last year. We'll tighten it up." Nor is Wedge overly concerned with the early-season troubles of Westbrook, who gave up a six-spot to the Yanks in the second inning, undermining the Indians' efforts. Actually, Westbrook's troubles in what would tie for his shortest outing in an official game began before the second. He walked the first batter he faced, Johnny Damon, and later let him score on Alex Rodriguez's RBI single. He gave up a single to the second batter he faced, Derek Jeter, and later saw him score on Jorge Posada's sacrifice fly. "He was just missing it early," Wedge said of Westbrook, who had been afforded a 1-0 lead when Victor Martinez drove in a run in the first. "Balls were just coming off the plate." If Westbrook was just barely missing in the first, he was completely missing in the second. The Yankees made him pay. With one out, Westbrook hung a sinker to Doug Mientkiewicz, and it resulted in a solo home run to right. After serving up a double to Damon and getting Jeter to ground out to short, Westbrook nearly got the third out of the inning and escaped further damage when Bobby Abreu sent a hard-hit grounder Ryan Garko's way. But the ball bounced off the first baseman's glove and went hopping into right field for an RBI single. Then it got really ugly. Rodriguez, perhaps better known these days as Mr. April, turned a poorly located cutter into a no-doubt-about-it blast over the left-field wall to make it 6-1. One Jason Giambi single later, Posada joined in on the fun with a two-run homer of his own over the wall in right-center. That was it for Westbrook, whose 1 2/3 innings of work made for his shortest start in a non-weather or injury-affected game since his own Major League debut with the Yankees on June 17, 2000. And that was not the only disappointing nugget to come out of this start for Westbrook. He tied a career high for homers allowed in a ballgame, and he did so in a single inning. Westbrook, who will lug a 12.08 ERA with him to Tampa Bay, has now served up five home runs in three starts, so he's well on pace to exceed the 15 homers he gave up in 32 starts last season. "That's kind of disturbing," he said. "It's just a matter of figuring it out. I've got to get my sinker down in the zone and get ahead. I can't pitch from behind in the count. That's not a good spot to be in." With financial security in hand, Westbrook is in a good spot with the Indians. But this start was bound to raise the question of whether he tried too hard to prove that he's worthy of the Tribe's investment in him. "The contract wasn't on my mind at all," he said. "My focus was on the game going on, and I didn't get the job done."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.