CLEVELAND -- If hitting really is contagious, can consistently ineffective bullpen pitching be infectious, too? If so, you can chalk up Rafael Perez as the latest victim. Taking the mound with the game tied Thursday night, Perez simply couldn't record an out. Neither could Ed Mujica as the pair combined to give up a Tribe season-high eight runs in the eighth inning to let the Orioles pull away in a big way and salvage a split in the Indians' 11-6 loss before 22,140 fans at Progressive Field.
Understandably, manager Eric Wedge was short and matter-of-fact when addressing his bullpen's most recent meltdown. "It just got away from us," Wedge said. "Perez was up and didn't have it today. Mujica is struggling as well." Wedge had said earlier in the week that he and pitching coach Carl Willis would keep a close eye on Perez, who leads the Indians' bullpen in appearances and innings pitched, to make sure they don't over-exert the young left-hander. With Perez being the lone reliable arm in the Tribe's troubled 'pen this season, the Indians have primarily needed the 26-year-old to work two innings each time out. Whether or not it was a matter of prolonged fatigue, Perez simply didn't have it Thursday night. He allowed the first two batters on before he gave up an RBI double to Lou Montanez and a two-run single to Juan Castro. Perez was then pulled, marking the first time he left a game without recording an out since May 3. No stranger to rough outings, Mujica replaced Perez and, after recording an out and intentionally walking hot-hitting Nick Markakis, gave up an RBI double to Melvin Mora. It got even tougher after that, as he walked two more batters (one intentional) and gave up three more runs before leaving the field to a Bronx cheer once he finally recorded the inning's third out. Mujica has given up 12 runs -- three more inherited -- in his last five appearances, good for a 32.40 ERA. "I've seen him up in the zone a lot more with everything, and because of that his secondary stuff is not playing," Wedge said. "We'll have to re-evaluate him and see how we can get him going again." Perhaps the only good news to come out of the quickly vacant Indians clubhouse was that Jhonny Peralta, who left Thursday's game in the seventh inning, didn't have a broken hand. He was pegged in the left hand by a Daniel Cabrera fastball in the third inning, but was able to play four more innings before leaving Progressive Field for precautionary X-rays. His diagnosis was a left-hand contusion and his prognosis will be evaluated day to day. That was the status of Zach Jackson, Paul Byrd's replacement in the starting rotation, coming into his Tribe debut. He certainly didn't dazzle or remind anyone of CC Sabathia, but his five innings of work looked pretty good compared to the bullpen's night. The 25-year-old right-hander, one of the four players acquired in the Sabathia trade, did run into some early trouble, however, when he allowed two quick runs in the first inning. "I had a little trouble getting the first, second guy out in the inning," Jackson said. "I had to work a little bit harder and got my pitch count up. I just wish I could have gone a little deeper into the game." The Indians had Jackson's back, though, as they evened up the score in the bottom half of the first inning. Grady Sizemore and Ben Francisco picked up singles off Cabrera before Shin-Soo Choo brought them around with a two-out, opposite-field double. But Jackson would leave the game behind as the O's picked up a run off Jackson that will go down in the books as earned, but certainly could have been prevented. Ramon Hernandez was on second with a two-out double when he came around to score on Kevin Millar's double to right-center field, which could have easily been caught had Sizemore or Choo seen it. Both players lost it in the lights before letting it fall between them. "That's the way the game goes," said Jackson, who got Wedge's backing afterward to make Wednesday's start against the Royals. "My team behind me made some great plays ... [then the] ball gets lost in the lights. It happens. It's baseball." The Tribe ensured Jackson wouldn't be the pitcher of record in the sixth inning, when Asdrubal Cabrera drove in Kelly Shoppach with an RBI double to even the score at 3. The rally had the potential to be much more, but Franklin Gutierrez went down swinging with the bases loaded to end the inning and make for the last meaningful Tribe threat of the night. Sure, the Indians strung together three runs on four hits -- including Gutierrez's sixth homer of the season -- off Alberto Castillo in the ninth inning, but that wasn't enough to even bring the tying run to the on-deck circle. "In multiple areas of our ballclub," Wedge said, "we didn't play well tonight."
Andrew Gribble is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.