CLEVELAND -- Scott Elarton will take the loss. The Indians' offense, once again, will take the blame. It was Elarton's roughshod return to big league relief work that allowed the White Sox to score the go-ahead runs in the Tribe's 6-3, 12-inning loss in front of a Memorial Day crowd of 31,006 at Progressive Field on Monday. But it was the offense's continuing inability to come through in the clutch that allowed this game to drag so deep into extras.
The Indians were a woeful 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position in this loss, which was their ninth in 10 games. It didn't matter, then, that they cranked out more than 10 hits for the first time in eight games, because they stranded 13 runners. It all added up to a four-hour, two-minute affair that somehow felt longer. "No excuses," said third baseman Casey Blake. "Just, once again, we didn't get it done." Such is theme of the season and the last couple of weeks, in particular. The Indians were in first place in the American League Central Division and coming off a 6-1 homestand when they packed their bags and headed to Cincinnati after a win over the A's on May 15. It feels like a lifetime ago. Since that time, the offense has hit just .163 (14-for-86) with runners in scoring position, and the team has fallen into third place, 5 1/2 games back of the first-place Sox. "Hopefully," said starter Paul Byrd, "we can turn it around just as quickly as we've fallen down." Some early signs of hope from the offense staked Byrd to a 3-1 lead in this one. David Dellucci hit a solo homer off Javier Vazquez in the first, Victor Martinez ripped an RBI single in the third, and Jhonny Peralta hit one in the fifth. Byrd tried to keep that lead, but the Chicago bats just kept coming. They ripped 10 hits off him, in all, and he managed to limit the damage to three runs. But with the offense unable to get anything else going in his support, he was still kicking himself for the mistakes he made. In the sixth, Byrd left a pitch up to Jim Thome, and Thome hit a towering solo shot out to left-center field. In the seventh, the two-out double Byrd allowed to Orlando Cabrera ended his night. Reliever Rafael Perez came on and served up the game-tying single to A.J. Pierzynski. So it was that Byrd, for the second outing in a row against the Sox, was unable to notch his 100th career victory.
"I've got to give them credit," he said of his opponent. "They have a lot of veterans, and they find a way to get it done. They just put the bat on the ball, and it worked."
If only Byrd could say the same for his teammates, who had a couple of opportunities to get it done in the late innings and came up empty.
In the eighth, the Indians had two runners in scoring position with one out against Octavio Dotel. But Asdrubal Cabrera went down swinging, and Grady Sizemore, in the midst of an 0-for-6 night, did likewise against lefty reliever Matt Thornton.
As Rafael Betancourt held up his end of the bargain by pitching a scoreless ninth and 10th, the bats went down in order against Scott Linebrink in the ninth and stranded two more runners against Boone Logan in the 10th.
In that latter inning, with Travis Hafner unavailable because of a shoulder injury, Kelly Shoppach was sent in to pinch-hit with runners on second and third and two out, but Logan got him to go down on a hard-hit liner to right.
A blink-and-you-missed it, 1-2-3 inning against Logan in the 11th meant Elarton was sent out to work the 12th. A rapid Sox rally resulted.
Elarton quickly allowed a leadoff single to Nick Swisher and a slash single to Alexei Ramirez, who had showed bunt.
"I was thinking dead bunt with that second hitter," Elarton said. "I wanted to throw up and away. I didn't think he'd be slashing there."
The tie was slashed when Orlando Cabrera lifted an RBI single to right. That was the go-ahead, but the Sox kept piling on. Carlos Quentin grounded out to first to score Ramirez from third, and Brian Anderson ripped an RBI double to make it 6-3.
"It wasn't the way I had it written up," said Elarton, who was making his first big league relief appearance since 2003.
It didn't matter that the Indians brought the tying run to the plate in the bottom of the 12th in the form of Jhonny Peralta. He grounded into a double play to end any faint hope of a comeback.
"We had multiple opportunities," manager Eric Wedge said. "You look at our at-bats, and they're definitely better. But we still need to do a better job with runners in scoring position and with runners on third with less than two outs."
|"Hopefully, we can turn it around just as quickly as we've fallen down."|
|-- Paul Byrd|
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.