CLEVELAND -- For all their late-inning struggles this season, the Indians hadn't lost a game all year when leading after seven innings. But on Wednesday night, a thin bullpen, a crippling error from third baseman Mark DeRosa and more offensive woes in the clutch undid the strong effort the Indians received from Fausto Carmona and sent them to a 6-5, 10-inning loss to the Red Sox at Progressive Field. Former Tribe farmhand Jonathan Van Every's solo shot off Jensen Lewis in the top of the 10th was the difference. The three games with the Red Sox, who have won 12 of their past 13, were decided by a grand total of four runs. But the Tribe came out on the losing end two out of three times.
"We made some mistakes, but our fight and overall persona was better," manager Eric Wedge said. "We're still working to make sure everything gets aligned, but we gave them everything they could handle in all three ballgames." That, along with the 6 2/3 innings turned in by Carmona, qualified as the bright side. And the Indians will cling to it for dear life as they enter Thursday's off-day and the month of May with an 8-14 record and a last-place standing in the American League Central Division. The Indians possess that dubious distinction in large part because of the negatives displayed in this defeat. Their bullpen and defense have been shaky, and their offense has struggled with runners in scoring position. Early in this game, though, all the pieces appeared to be coming together. Carmona more closely resembled his 19-win form from '07, allowing just two runs on five hits with three strikeouts and retiring 12 in a row from the second to the sixth. He walked four batters, but he never lost his composure. "Everybody knew we were light in the bullpen," Wedge said. "We needed Fausto to give us a great effort, and he did against a good-hitting ballclub. It was something he can continue to build from." The bats staked Carmona to an early 5-0 lead. Victor Martinez contributed an RBI triple -- just the second triple of his career -- in the first, then scored on a Shin-Soo Choo sacrifice fly. In the second, DeRosa smacked a solo shot. And Kelly Shoppach, taking over the injured Travis Hafner's DH spot, added a two-run blast in the fourth. Carmona coughed up consecutive RBI doubles to Mike Lowell and Jason Varitek with two out in the sixth. But he left in the seventh with the Indians leading, 5-2. Two men were on, two were out, and Wedge turned to Rafael Perez, who proved how far he's come after a sluggish start by striking out David Ortiz on three sliders. Yes, it was all coming to plan, and an Indians team that came in 6-0 in games led after seven innings seemed poised to end this homestand on a positive note. But the foundation cracked in the eighth, and DeRosa's costly error played a pivotal role. Rafael Betancourt let two on with one out, and Jeff Bailey scooted a groundball DeRosa's way. DeRosa had logged seven assists to that point, and there was little reason to believe he wouldn't be able to turn a double play on this one. Yet the ball bounced in the dirt, then bounced off his glove. "I thought I was having a good night defensively, and the one that I didn't get made the difference," DeRosa said. "I put this on my shoulders." The Red Sox now had the bases loaded. A Van Every single brought home one run, and Lewis was summoned. Ordinarily, the Indians might have at least considered letting closer Kerry Wood come in for a five-out save at this point, but Wood was unavailable after two taxing efforts in the first two games of this series. Filling in as closer for the day, Lewis couldn't quite get the job done. Pinch-hitter J.D. Drew grounded into a fielder's choice that scored one run, and Jacoby Ellsbury sent a single up the middle on an 0-2 pitch to knock in another and tie it up at 5. "The 0-2 hit to tie the ballgame, that was the big one," Wedge said. "You just can't let that happen late in the ballgame in that situation." Offensively, the Indians had plenty of situations in which they could have bailed out the bullpen. But they left the bases loaded in the eighth against Manny Delcarmen, and they stranded two more runners in the ninth against Hideki Okajima. "That was as much a difference as anything," Wedge said. Lewis recovered from the eighth in time to work a perfect ninth. And he had two outs in the 10th before serving up a 1-1 changeup to Van Every -- his former Minor League teammate -- that was pounded 420 feet out to dead center. "I thought I knew him pretty well," Lewis said. "He's a 'speed him up, slow him down' guy, and it didn't look like he saw [the changeup] well on the first pitch. If the pitch is down, it's probably a ground ball." The Tribe had another chance to recover in the bottom of the inning, when Ben Francisco drew a one-out walk off Jonathan Papelbon and stole second base. But Shoppach and Grady Sizemore both struck out swinging, with Sizemore's second strike coming after he thought he had called time. For the Indians, it all added up to a brutal end to a brutal month. They were ready to turn the page. "We'll take this month," Lewis said, "and throw it out."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.