Sabathia's good work wasted in loss

Sabathia's good work wasted in loss

CLEVELAND -- Reporters asked Victor Martinez if the Indians were pressing.

As he sat at his locker stall Sunday, Martinez seemed reticent to answer the question. But he did.

"If I say 'No,' " he said, "I'm going to lie to you."

Nobody needed Martinez to lie. Besides, the reality of how tight the Indians have been played itself out for all to see long before others raised the issue with Martinez. They had the Tribe's 2-1 loss in 10 innings to the Texas Rangers on Sunday as proof.

And the only explanation for it -- and for a string of similar losses -- is one that Martinez was hesitant to provide: The team isn't playing with the carefree confidence that had marked its effortless play last season.

Is it pressing?

"We have guys in here that are some of the best players in the league," said C.C. Sabathia, who performed masterfully for the Tribe in recording a no-decision. "Eventually, we're going to explode -- and hit."

Eventually wasn't Sunday, much to manager Eric Wedge's frustration. For Wedge, it was another performance that he has seen over and over and over this season.

"Like I said a couple days ago, I'm tired of talking about it, you know," Wedge said. "But it's something I have to talk about, obviously. It comes with the territory."

No doubt it does, for any big league manager. Yet Wedge found himself almost unable to explain the countless missed opportunities that the Indians didn't take advantage of. They had chance after to chance to give Sabathia a workable lead; they never did.

After they scored a run in the first inning on Martinez's RBI single, the Indians went scoreless. Their lack of offense left Sabathia walking a tightrope, and he only wavered once. It came in the sixth against leadoff hitter Ian Kinzler, whose solo homer tied the ballgame.

"It was a fastball right down the middle," Sabathia said. "He's a good hitter, and that's what he's supposed to do with that pitch."

From there, Sabathia held things together for another inning before he turned the 1-1 tie over to the Indians' bullpen. It performed well, too. And who knows what might have happened if not for Ben Francisco's error in the 10th on what looked like a routine play.

Pitching for the Tribe at time was Masa Kobayashi, who'd relieved Rafael Betancourt. With two outs, Kobayashi walked catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Ramon Vazquez then lined a single to right, and as Francisco went down to field the ball, it skipped past him.

Vazquez ended up on third base, and, more importantly, Saltalamacchia scored the tie-breaking run on the error.

"That's not the real reason we lost the game," Wedge said of Francisco's error. "We missed way too many opportunities offensively. We created some opportunities for ourselves early; we just didn't take advantage."

Again, another loss that timely hitting could have turned into a win. Another game that looked like many of the six games the Tribe had lost on its recent road trip. Another loss that ruined what had been a superb outing from Sabathia.

All point to the hitting -- or lack of it.

"You've got to believe that we're going to snap out of this offensive skid here," Wedge said. "It's obviously been a very extended period of time. But you have to believe when you come to the ballpark that today's the day."

But Sunday wasn't that day, which made it all the more disappointing when Sunday easily could have been.

"It isn't happening," said Martinez, his face wearing a blank stare. "The only thing we can control is to play this game hard."

Justice B. Hill is a senior writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.