CLEVELAND -- Carl Pavano's previous outing against the White Sox was dazzling. His start against the Royals on Wednesday was a dud. Pavano gave up nine runs in just 4 2/3 innings of work, and the Indians never recovered in a 9-0 loss at Progressive Field. The Tribe spent 62 days in the American League Central cellar before Tuesday's win vaulted them into fourth place. But Pavano's troubles in this one evened up this three-game series and pushed the Tribe back into last place.
"I was erratic," said Pavano, who gave up the nine runs on 11 hits and one walk and threw 92 pitches. "I threw a lot of balls. Every inning was long." Well, that wasn't entirely true. The bottom halves of those innings were pretty short, because the Indians did next to nothing against Gil Meche. He held them scoreless on four hits with three walks over seven innings. Along the way, he tied a career-high with 11 strikeouts. "He was [at his] best today," Shin-Soo Choo said of Meche. "Before, he's thrown more fastballs, more curveballs. Tonight, he had a great changeup in 3-2 counts and 2-2 counts." Many of which became three-strike counts. But the real problem was Pavano. Coming off a three-hit shutout of the Sox, he simply couldn't keep the Royals off the basepaths. For the game's first three innings, Pavano (6-5, 5.40 ERA) escaped major damage. He allowed just a Brayan Pena sacrifice fly, and he got assistance when Choo threw out Tony Pena Jr. at home on a double play in the third. But in the fourth, Pavano gave up a leadoff double to Billy Butler, followed by a two-run homer from Jose Guillen. Alberto Callaspo, en route to a four-hit night, singled with one out, and Miguel Olivo homered with two out to make it 5-0. "The home runs, I didn't even look at the pitches [on video]," Pavano said, "but they were over the middle of the plate. These guys are going to hit those pitches." It got worse. In the fifth, the Royals loaded the bases on singles, and Pavano was particularly upset with himself for allowing Mark Teahen to reach on an infield single to second. Jamey Carroll made a nice diving stop of the ball in the hole, but Pavano was slow to cover first base, and Teahen reached. "I got a late start over there," Pavano said. "I saw it get past [first baseman] Victor [Martinez], and I didn't see Jamey. So I slowed down. By the time I sped back up, he beat me to the bag. That's a mental error. That can't happen." Pavano paid for the mental error in a big way. As a result of the single, the bases were loaded with two out. Pavano fell behind 3-1 to Callaspo and offered up an elevated fastball that was pounded out to right-center field for a grand slam. It was 9-0, and it was over. "When the count was in their favor, I made bad pitches," Pavano said. "And they hurt me every time." Manager Eric Wedge felt Pavano, who also gave up nine runs in his Indians debut on April 9 in Texas, was one pitch away from getting out of jams on multiple occasions. "That's the nature of the game," Wedge said. "It's very fragile." The Indians got some sturdy relief work in the form of the 3 1/3 scoreless innings tossed by Jensen Lewis and the scoreless ninth thrown by Joe Smith in his return from the disabled list. But with the deficit left behind by Pavano and the pain inflicted by Meche, what did it matter? Even if the Indians entertained ideas about a comeback akin to the one put together against the Rays last month, Meche wasn't going to let it happen. "Meche pretty much controlled the game the whole time," Pavano said. "He pitched well, and I didn't do my job"
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.