CLEVELAND -- Manny Ramirez was asked about the pitch tossed to him by Joe Borowski in the ninth inning of the Indians' 6-4 loss to the Red Sox on Monday night. Was it a fastball? Was it a changeup? One could hardly discern the difference when it came to Borowski's stuff in this nippy, nip-and-tuck affair at Progressive Field. "[It was] like a fastball," Ramirez said. "It was something like 80 [mph]. Or a changeup. It was right there."
In fact, just about everything Borowski served up over the course of not converting a save opportunity for the second time in the past week was high, heavy and hittable. "I just felt like I had nothing," Borowski said. "It felt like throwing through water, pretty much. Physically, I felt fine, but I was stuck in one gear. I had no extra gear. Not only that, but I couldn't locate either. So it was a double-edged sword." Not exactly inspiring words from the Indians' closer. And his immediate job security did not sound especially strong after this loss. Borowski was planning on meeting up with manager Eric Wedge and the Tribe's training staff after the game to discuss what's going on with his velocity, which has taken a notable dip this season. After routinely hitting 86-88 mph with his fastball last year, Borowski, for the most part, has seen his stuff max out several ticks lower in his five appearances in '08. And on Monday night, he hit a new low, maxing out at 83 and regularly hitting 81. "The ball just wasn't coming out of his hand like you typically see with him," manager Eric Wedge said, "and he didn't have the location he normally has." Such concerns reek of potential arm or shoulder trouble, and Borowski did not deny that a postgame MRI exam was a possibility. "I'm grabbing at straws trying to figure out what's going on," Borowski said. "Hopefully, we can pinpoint something." What Borowski couldn't do, on this night, was pin down a 4-3 lead the Indians had put together with a solid offensive approach against Jon Lester, another outstanding start from Jake Westbrook and some admirable, if not perfect, work from setup man Rafael Betancourt. The Red Sox jumped out to a 1-0 lead on Westbrook in a 32-pitch first inning, but he settled down quickly after that. His offense had his back in the fourth, when Victor Martinez and Ryan Garko both bounced grounders up the middle to drive in a pair, and in the fifth, when Travis Hafner came up with two runners in scoring position and knocked them both home with a ground-ball single to right.
Using his trusty sinker, as well as a solid slider, Westbrook pitched well with that 4-1 lead afforded him. It wasn't until the seventh, when the Red Sox snuck an unearned run across without hitting the ball out of the infield, that his night came to a close.
"My pitch count caught up to me," Westbrook said. "After 30 pitches in the first, I was behind an inning. I wasn't able to get deep in the game like I wanted to."
And so the game was handed over to the bullpen. Betancourt relieved Westbrook with two on and one out in the seventh, and the dangerous 1-2 punch of David Ortiz and Ramirez coming to the plate.
"Facing those two guys is a big challenge," Betancourt said. "You have to be aggressive and make those guys swing the bat."
Betancourt met that goal, striking out both sluggers to end the threat.
He wasn't as fortunate the following inning. Leadoff man Kevin Youkilis crushed Betancourt's 2-0 fastball out to the left-field home run porch to cut the lead to 4-3.
That's the lead that was handed to Borowski in the ninth, and it didn't last long.
Julio Lugo led the inning off with a double down the left-field line, and Coco Crisp followed with a sacrifice bunt that moved the runner over. Dustin Pedroia's sacrifice fly tied the game, and Borowski was strictly in damage control mode by that point.
Ortiz kept the rally going with a bloop single to the opposite field in left. And up came Ramirez, who was offered that first-pitch fastball/changeup and easily crushed it into the left-field bleachers.
Yes, the guy who hit the game-winner is one of the most feared batters in the game. But Borowski implied just about anybody could have hit that pitch out.
"It really doesn't matter with the garbage I was throwing out there," Borowski said, "especially against him."
Borowski blew a save in similarly dramatic fashion a week earlier in Anaheim by serving up a walk-off grand slam to Torii Hunter. The lack of success, combined with a lack of velocity, means his availability in the near future is under examination.
"I'm going to have to talk to him and see how he feels," Wedge said, "and we'll go from there."
Borowski, mystified and maddened by his malfunction, wasn't sure where he's headed.
"It's an oddity," he said. "I'll go out there and throw 300 feet and feel great. Then later that day, I don't know. I don't know if it's fatigue or what it is. It feels fine, but it just doesn't seem to come out right. It's driving me crazy, too."
|"I'm grabbing at straws trying to figure out what's going on. Hopefully, we can pinpoint something."|
|-- Joe Borowski|
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.