CLEVELAND -- The late-inning comebacks that were a hallmark of the 2007 Indians have generally eluded the club this season. Consider that in 65 games, entering Wednesday night, the Tribe had won just four times when trailing after six innings, twice when trailing after seven and once when trailing after eight. It didn't bode particularly well for the Indians, then, to go into the seventh inning against the Twins in a four-run hole. The only difference this time was that the Tribe made it moderately interesting with a late three-run rally.
But the pitching let the Indians down on this night, early and late, and an 8-5 loss to the Twins in front of 18,742 fans was the end result. "We fought our way back in it," center fielder Grady Sizemore said. It was Sizemore's seventh-inning three-run homer off Twins reliever Dennys Reyes that made a rally seem momentarily plausible. Unfortunately for the Indians, that homer was sandwiched in-between a disastrous start for Paul Byrd and roughshod relief work by closer Joe Borowski. Byrd's outing left the larger impact, for it put the unreliable Indians offense in an early 6-1 deficit. Coming off an extraordinarily efficient outing against the Tigers, against whom he notched his 100th career victory Friday night, Byrd turned in a dud this time around. "I could not get the ball down," Byrd said. "I could not make my pitches. I left my sliders up, and they just spun. It was like a pinball machine." It looked like one in the third, when the Twins, who broke open a 1-1 tie and exploded for five runs. Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer ripped consecutive RBI doubles and Jason Kubel hammered a two-run homer to center. That third inning would be the final inning of work for Byrd, who is now 1-3 with a 7.18 ERA over his last five starts. "He didn't have it tonight," manager Eric Wedge said of Byrd. "He wasn't throwing it where he wanted to." Given the way this season has progressed to this point, a 6-1 deficit seemed as reasonable a time as any for the Indians to throw in the towel. But they didn't. The Tribe got another run across against Twins starter Nick Blackburn in the sixth, when Kelly Shoppach, filling in for an injured Victor Martinez, ripped a solo homer. Blackburn departed after six strong innings and handed the game over to the bullpen. The Indians pounced. In the seventh, David Dellucci walked and Casey Blake singled with one out against Boof Bonser. When Franklin Gutierrez hit into a fielder's choice and Jamey Carroll struck out swinging, it appeared the Twins would escape any damage. But manager Ron Gardenhire turned to the left-handed Reyes to face the left-handed Sizemore. It was a reasonable move, considering Sizemore came in with a .219 average against lefties and Reyes hadn't allowed a homer all season. Reyes, though, left a slider up. Sizemore crushed it out to right. Suddenly, it was a ballgame at 6-5. Sizemore certainly deserved some praise for getting this game to that point, but the Indians also owed a debt of gratitude to long reliever Scott Elarton, who picked up the pieces from Byrd's shaky start to turn in three scoreless innings. Rick Bauer had followed with a scoreless seventh. "They gave us a chance to win the ballgame," Wedge said. "They did a great job." As did Rafael Betancourt, who looked more like the Betancourt of '07 with a scoreless eighth. But when the Twins erupted off Borowski for a pair of insurance runs in the ninth, this one was over. "We just weren't able to finish it off," Wedge said. The shame of it all, in Byrd's eyes, was that this was a game in which the offense actually gave the Indians a fighting chance, and the starting pitching let the bats down. It marked just the sixth time all year that the Tribe lost when scoring five or more. The club is 17-6 in such games. "This will be a long night awake, staring at the walls," Byrd said. "I'm very frustrated."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.