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Westbrook strong, but Indians fall

Westbrook strong, but Indians fall

WASHINGTON -- Jake Westbrook's return to the rotation Sunday should have been a celebration for the Indians. Instead it was another painful reminder of how far the team has dipped on offense.

"When the starting pitcher gives you the chance to win the ballgame, more times than not you've got to win that ballgame," manager Eric Wedge said.

The 3-1 loss to Washington was characterized by poor hitting from the Tribe, but it wasn't an isolated incident. The Indians' bats were silent at critical times throughout the final Interleague series of the season.

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Pinch-hitters came to the plate a total of eight times in the series. They recorded four strikeouts, hit into two double plays plus a popout and a groundout.

"[Pinch-hitting] is something that you obviously don't do a great deal of in the American League, but that's still no excuse," Wedge said. "We've got guys who do a good job of staying in the game mentally and are capable of doing that."

The starters didn't fare much better, and on Sunday, the Indians' first six batters combined for just one hit, a single from Travis Hafner.

"We all stunk this weekend," third baseman Casey Blake said. "That's just the way it is. We've got a long way to go."

Perhaps most disappointing was the feeling the team had squandered a quality start from Westbrook. Returning from injury, he threw seven innings, allowing three runs on seven hits.

He accomplished that with only 88 pitches, and the radar gun consistently clocked his fastball in the 90s.

"He really set the tone early with his sinker and the way he commanded the ball on the plate," Wedge said. "It's easy to get geared up when you haven't pitched for a while, but he's been under control and has done a great job."

Westbrook sent coaches into a momentary panic in the second inning, when Dmitri Young hit a line drive off of the pitcher's wrist. It left a small bruise, but nothing serious enough to take him out of the game.

Westbrook had been out of the lineup since May 2, when he injured his left oblique muscle. Since then he made four rehab starts, with mixed results.

"The first two rehab starts, I was all over the place, but the third one was good," he said. "The last one wasn't bad, I just wasn't aggressive."

He said that he felt prepared for his return, although he had to fight to keep every run off the board when he saw the Tribe's tally lying stagnant.

The team's lone offensive score was a solo home run from Franklin Gutierrez in the fifth inning. He hit a deceptively long pop fly on a 3-2 pitch that found its way over the wall in left-center field.

Washington countered with three runs spread out over the course of the game. Young scored two, and Ronnie Belliard added the third.

After dropping the series, the Indians finished Interleague Play with a 9-9 record, which puts them below the American League average as well as their Central Division rivals.

The Indians return home in a new position, as a second place team searching for offensive production. Casey said that the Indians will put in the practice time until they're able to get the offense going again.

"We're competitive," he said. "And when you don't get it done, you feel like you let the team down."

Michael Phillips 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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