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Jitters, command derail Carmona early

Jitters, command derail Carmona early

BOSTON -- They may be the two top reasons why the Indians won the American League Central.

Together, they are definitely the biggest reason why Cleveland hasn't been able to put Boston away in the AL Championship Series. The Indians are still waiting for that command performance from C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona.

Carmona couldn't deliver it on Saturday night and instead got knocked out in the third inning of the Tribe's 12-2 loss to the Red Sox in Game 6 at Fenway Park. Carmona allowed seven runs in two-plus innings and the ALCS is now going to a seventh game Sunday.

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"He was a little too excited," catcher Victor Martinez said. "He was pumped up and it caught up with him. I was really trying to calm him down, but it was tough."

Carmona, who allowed four runs in four-plus innings in his Game 2 start, walked four and allowed six hits in Game 6, including a first-inning grand slam by Red Sox outfielder J.D. Drew. The Indians never recovered from that, and Sabathia and Carmona are now 0-3 with a 12.67 ERA in four starts against the Red Sox, having allowed 27 hits and 16 walks in 16 1/3 innings.

"They put a lot of pressure on themselves to be perfect," Indians outfielder Trot Nixon said. "They've struggled a little bit, it's true, but this team is not about one guy or two guys. This team is about 25 guys. We'll be fine."

The Indians' best pitcher on Saturday was not Carmona or closer Joe Borowski, who allowed two runs in the eighth inning, but long reliever Aaron Laffey. Making his first postseason appearance, Laffey pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings to keep the Indians from overtaxing their bullpen going into Game 7.

"Laffey pitched great for us, really picked us up in the bullpen," manager Eric Wedge said. "He pitched well and saved our bullpen."

Carmona's problem in Game 2, according to Wedge, was he was too fine. That wasn't the case on Saturday night.

"I was more aggressive tonight, but luck wasn't on my side and I couldn't do it," Carmona said. "I'm really disappointed."

The Indians also had some first-inning issues with home-plate umpire Dana DeMuth, and Wedge went out to forcefully express those views after the damage was done.

"We obviously had some issues early on, but the umpires have a tough job," Wedge said. "Particularly against a team like Boston or New York, teams that are very patient, you've got to make sure that when you're in command of the baseball, and you're putting it on the plate, that you're getting those calls.

"We felt like it was a little tight, but then again, we weren't exactly pounding the zone, either. Victor was a little bit upset and I was a little bit upset, but that's part of it."

The inning started with both Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis reaching on infield singles and David Ortiz drawing a walk to load the bases. Carmona then came back to strike out Manny Ramirez and get Mike Lowell on a popup to short right field.

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That left Drew, and Carmona threw a first-pitch fastball that the Indians thought caught the plate. DeMuth ruled otherwise, and that was the pitch that the Indians talked about most after the game.

"I felt I made a good pitch," Carmona said. "But I still have to keep pitching. I can't blame one pitch."

Drew worked the count to 3-1, then hit a low fastball over the center-field wall for a grand slam.

"It was a low fastball, but right over the middle of the plate," Carmona said.

Martinez said the first pitch changed the at-bat.

"That pitch was right there," Martinez said. "Unfortunately we didn't get the call, and with the bases loaded and the count 3-1, we couldn't mess around."

Carmona, who threw 36 pitches in the first inning, was able to work out of a first-and-third jam in the second. But he walked Ramirez and Lowell to start the third, and Drew singled to center to drive home the run. That was Carmona's last batter of the night. "They hit a couple balls on the ground there early in the right spot," Wedge said. "Not much you can do about it. Still, [Carmona] didn't do a good job of working ahead. He had good stuff ... almost worked through that inning again, and J.D. got him. And things just sort of dominoed on him from there."

Wedge tried to shut off the rally by bringing in left-hander Rafael Perez. But this has been a tough series for Perez as well. Perez started off by getting Jason Varitek on a fly to center, but that was the only batter he retired. Jacoby Ellsbury singled, Julio Lugo doubled, Pedroia walked and Youkilis singled. Wedge had to bring in Laffey, and the Red Sox walked away from the inning with a 10-1 lead.

"We were trying to give them a different look and also trying to get Perez going a little bit," Wedge said. "Initially, trying to work through that inning and trying to control damage, but it didn't work out that way."

T.R. Sullivan 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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