CLEVELAND -- Jake Westbrook was just about perfect in Spring Training play, not issuing a single run in 18 innings of work. The Indians asked him to be just as perfect in his 2008 debut Thursday afternoon at Progressive Field, and he couldn't be that good. Not that Westbrook didn't deliver a solid outing, for it's hard to take issue with the performance he put together in a 2-1 loss to the White Sox. But when your supporting cast puts up all of two hits, and you serve up a pair of solo home runs, it's a formula for defeat.
"I made two mistakes, and it ended up costing us the ballgame," Westbrook said. "I still feel I threw the ball well." Unfortunately for Westbrook, left-hander John Danks threw just a little bit better. Westbrook and Danks became embroiled in a pitchers' duel in which neither hurler surrendered a hit in the game's first four innings. Danks, in fact, carried his no-hitter into the sixth, when Casey Blake's leadoff single brought it to a screeching halt. Other than that, the Indians' bats were quiet as could be. "Coming off a late game to an early game and it's a little cold, you knew it was set up to be a pitchers' duel," first baseman Ryan Garko said. "That's what it turned into. But I think we could have done a better job swinging the bats than we did." Danks kept the Tribe from doing so primarily with his cutter, which was spot-on. "I thought we had some decent swings early," manager Eric Wedge said, "but we didn't have much to show for it. Then we fell off from there." That was bad news for Westbrook, whose scoreless '08 finally came to a close in the top of the sixth. He tried to run a fastball away from leadoff man Juan Uribe, but the ball came back in and down. Uribe deposited it into the left-field bleachers to make it 1-0. "It was down in there where he likes it," Westbrook said. "He definitely made me pay for it. I thought the mistake to Uribe was the ballgame." Who could blame Westbrook for thinking that? The Indians weren't doing much to instill confidence in their offensive approach. Danks, though, lost some of his luster in the seventh. He issued a one-out walk to Travis Hafner, setting up Garko's game-tying RBI double to the opposite field in deep right. The Indians even threatened to take the lead when Franklin Gutierrez reached on a two-base error. Center fielder Nick Swisher and right fielder Jermaine Dye both converged on the fly ball and collided, allowing it to bounce off Dye's glove. Swisher was charged with the error, which just as easily could have been attributed to Dye. So let's call it an E-8 1/2. Whatever the case, it was an opportunity for the Indians, who now had two runners in scoring position with one out. It was, however, an opportunity wasted. Danks got Asdrubal Cabrera to ground out on a hard-hit ball to third. Joe Crede deflected the ball off his body, and shortstop Orlando Cabrera scooped it up and fired to first for the out. Octavio Dotel then relieved Danks to retire Blake and end the inning. "Asdrubal hit the ball hard, but right at Crede, and he made a good play," Garko said. "Sometimes you just hit it right at 'em." And sometimes you hit it out, which is exactly what Crede did in Chicago's next at-bat when he stepped up against Westbrook to lead off the eighth inning. Westbrook delivered a 2-0 sinker that didn't sink, and Crede smacked it out to left. "I didn't do my job and put up a zero there," Westbrook said. "It cost us." Sox offseason addition Scott Linebrink ensured the 2-1 lead held up in the eighth, and closer Bobby Jenks quickly retired the Tribe in the ninth to end it. So in the end, Westbrook's slight imperfections loomed large. Yet it was still an outing that bodes well for him getting off to a better start than last season. "There's a lot of ballgames to be pitched," Westbrook said. "If I can be as consistent as I was today, more often than not, it's going to work out."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.