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Indians fall short against Red Sox

Indians fall short vs. Red Sox

BOSTON -- For Grady Sizemore, the two games the Indians have played at Fenway Park have presented a classic dilemma.

"I don't know who to give credit to," Sizemore said.

Has the Boston pitching been that good? Or has the Indians offense been that poor?

Regardless of the answer, the end result Tuesday night was the same. The Tribe, unable to muster much of an attack against right-hander Josh Beckett, dropped their second straight to the Red Sox by a 4-2 count.

In this three-game series, the Indians are facing a list of Boston probables that looks like something out of a playoff series.

Curt Schilling held them to one run on six hits with 10 strikeouts in the opener.

On this night, Beckett left them guessing for seven innings in which all he allowed was a pair of runs on three hits with a walk and seven strikeouts.

And, oh, by the way, the Indians will get their first look at Japanese sensation Daisuke Matsuzaka in Wednesday's finale.

But in analyzing what's gone wrong on the last portion of a three-city, nine-game road trip, the Indians are reluctant to tip their hat too much to the opposition.

"These were two well-pitched ballgames," manager Eric Wedge said. "That's not to say we didn't have our opportunities. When you face starting pitching that tough, the few opportunities you get, you have to take advantage of. One at-bat can make it a different ballgame, but we didn't do that."

Jhonny Peralta's one-out single in the first was the only hit for the Tribe until Peralta singled again with one out in the seventh. Beckett, fresh off the disabled list, wasn't showing any signs of rust after missing two weeks with a skin tear on his middle throwing finger.

So it didn't matter much that Jeremy Sowers, coming off his long-awaited first win of the season, turned in a rather effective outing. The few mistakes Sowers made were enough to send the Tribe to its demise.

Julio Lugo's leadoff bunt single caught Sowers off-guard in the first, and Kevin Youkilis extended his hitting streak to 21 games with a double to left that allowed Lugo to score all the way from first.

But the real damage off Sowers came in the fifth and sixth innings, when both Jason Varitek and Youkilis pounded solo homers over the Green Monster on pitches that were in, but up.

"With solo home runs, sometimes you just make a bad pitch," Sowers said. "In this particular park, when it comes to left field, it's not a place where you want to make a bad pitch. But solo home runs are still solo home runs. That's better than the three-run home runs I've been giving up lately."

That wasn't the only encouragement Sowers, whose time in the rotation might be running out due to the impending return of Jake Westbrook, took from this start.

"I did feel more like myself than I have in a long time," he said. "I was able to command all three pitches. I had a stretch where I did get some quick outs, especially ground balls, which hasn't happened too often. That, in itself, was nice."

What wasn't as nice is what happened after Sowers left in the sixth, with a man on second and two out.

Wedge went to struggling reliever Fernando Cabrera, hoping to see the work the right-hander has been putting in behind the scenes would reveal itself. But Cabrera threw 22 pitches, and only seven of them were strikes. He walked Varitek and Wily Mo Pena to load the bases, then walked Dustin Pedroia on a 3-2 count to bring in a run.

"I felt he was around the zone, but he wasn't able to get in the zone," Wedge said. "It's still baby steps with him. We're trying to get him to get his confidence back to a spot where he can use all his pitches."

The run allowed by Cabrera would loom large, because the Indians used the momentum from Peralta's second single of the ballgame to post a pair of runs off Beckett in the seventh. Travis Hafner drove in Peralta with a triple to the corner, then scored when Victor Martinez grounded out to first.

Had the score been 3-2, rather than 4-2, the Indians' chances at a comeback might have been drastically improved. As it stood, though, they stranded a pair of runners against Brendan Donnelly in the eighth and another against Hideki Okajima in the ninth.

Clearly, then, it hasn't been just the starters who have been giving the Indians a hard time the past two nights.

"They've pitched well this series," said Sizemore, whose running basket catch of a Pena fly ball in the second was one of the few highlights for the Tribe on an otherwise dreary night. "But that doesn't mean we can't make adjustments and not let them dictate the game."

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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