NEW YORK -- That the game was played in the afternoon and his time on the mound in the ninth inning came around 4:30 p.m. ET felt appropriate to Joe Borowski. "It was," he said, "like batting practice." Alas, what the Yankees did to Borowski with two outs in the ninth Thursday was the real thing. And it resulted in the shell-shocked Indians walking out of Yankee Stadium with an 8-6 loss, the victims of a three-game sweep.
Borowski, you see, was sent into this ballgame with a 6-2 lead. This wasn't even a save situation. So while he had flirted with disaster plenty over the course of notching five saves in five save opportunities this season and come out clean, one would assume Borowski could flirt with it plenty in this outing and still emerge with his team in the win column. But a Yankees lineup with the likes of Jorge Posada, Johnny Damon, Derek Jeter, Bobby Abreu and, especially, the red-hot Alex Rodriguez is not one to mess with, as Borowski would cruelly learn. Earlier in the day, right-hander Fausto Carmona, making his second start of the season, had come out quite well against that potent offense. In six innings of work, he allowed just two runs on six hits with a walk and two strikeouts, drawing raves from manager Eric Wedge. "He threw the ball great," Wedge said of Carmona, who's filling in for an injured Cliff Lee. "He pitched a great ballgame. He was aggressive and used all his stuff." Unfortunately for Carmona in the early going, his offense wasn't nearly as aggressive. It frittered away two bases-loaded opportunities, augmenting an April that has seen struggles in the clutch. In the fourth, after David Dellucci took right-hander Darrell Rasner deep with a solo shot to right to make it a 1-1 ballgame, the Indians loaded the bases with one out. But Casey Blake popped up to first and Jhonny Peralta went down swinging. In the sixth, the Tribe loaded them up again, this time with none out and reliever Brian Bruney on the hill. Again, they left them loaded. Blake lined out to third, Peralta popped out to second and Mike Rouse flew out to left. With that, the Indians' batting average with the bases loaded this season dropped down to a paltry .063 (1-for-16). Clearly, they were a team in need of an offensive spark. They found it in the seventh. With the game now tied at 2 after a Giambi homer and a Dellucci RBI groundout, the Indians had two on for Victor Martinez. Though he was playing just his second game in the last two weeks, Martinez didn't look at all rusty when he slapped Vizcaino's 3-1 offering into the right-center-field bleachers for a three-run homer that made it 5-2. "That was a big hit for us," Wedge said. "Hopefully we're going to start to turn things around here offensively. Victor getting that big hit at that time will hopefully push that along." Scoreless innings from relievers Aaron Fultz and Rafael Betancourt pushed this game closer to victory for the Tribe. But just to make matters easier on Borowski, the Indians added an insurance run in the top of the ninth, when Blake reached on Rodriguez's throwing error with two outs, allowing Travis Hafner to score from third. As he trotted out to the mound with the 6-2 lead in hand and the lower portion of the lineup due up, Borowski never imagined the drama that would ensue. "You know it's not a save situation," he said, "but you've still got to go out there and get it done." With Robinson Cano retired on a fly ball to center and Melky Cabrera gone on a groundout to short, Borowski, it appeared, was getting that job done. Even the solo homer he allowed to Josh Phelps looked more like a garbage-time moment than a sign of the brutal things to come. "But no matter what I threw with two outs," Borowski said, "it was like everybody got locked in." Posada singled and Damon drew a walk, and what was left of the crowd suddenly got back into it. Jeter lofted a single to left to bring in a run, and Abreu did the same to bring home another. Just like that, it was 6-5. "They were hitting everything," Borowski said. "All of a sudden, the floodgates opened." In the dugout, Wedge pondered walking Rodriguez, who was due up, to pitch to Giambi with the bases loaded. Given that Giambi already had five hits, including two homers, in this series, Wedge opted not to take his chances with the bases jammed. "It's a tough spot there," Wedge said. "You put A-Rod on, and you put yourself in a position where you have to make perfect pitches to Giambi, who is as selective as any player in the game." So the Indians took their chances with Rodriguez. It was a bet that left them broke. Borowski threw just two pitches to A-Rod. The first landed in the dirt for a wild pitch, allowing Jeter to move to third and Abreu to second. The second was an outside fastball. Rodriguez reached out for it and hit a rocket shot to dead center field. It landed just short of the black batter's eye beyond the wall for a three-run homer -- his 10th in this young season. Rodriguez circled the bases, raising both arms in celebration. Borowski hung his head. The 35-year-old Borowski has seen the late innings go awry plenty of times in his seven-plus seasons in the bigs. But he had never seen anything like this. "That was a first for me," he said. "It's a shame, because everybody played great today. That's the last thing I saw coming. That was awful." It was, simply, a bad time for BP.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.