CLEVELAND -- Greg Aquino's latest outing offered a new twist on a tired story for the Indians.
After the Cleveland offense erased a four-run deficit in the ninth inning, Aquino was unable to hold the Brewers in extra innings, ending the Tribe's nine-game homestand with a 9-8, 11-inning loss to the Brewers on Wednesday night at Progressive Field.
The Tribe bullpen has been unable to close out many games this season, and this one was no different. But it didn't help that manager Eric Wedge was forced to go to his bullpen early for the third consecutive game after starter David Huff went just five innings. But that was the situation as Milwaukee loaded the bases off reliever Aquino with the game tied at 8 in the 11th inning. First, Prince Fielder singled and Corey Hart walked, Then, Shoppach got crossed up on Aquino's wild pitch that bounced off the Indians catcher's arm and allowed both Fielder and Hart to advance. After the wild pitch, Mike Cameron was walked intentionally, bringing up J.J. Hardy. The Brewers shortstop took Aquino's first pitch deep to center field, which was enough to score Fielder with the deciding run. The Indians' offense made one last comeback attempt in the bottom half of the inning, when Mark DeRosa singled with one out and Victor Martinez reached on an error by Milwaukee reliever Mitch Stetter, who relieved Mark DiFelice. But Shin-Soo Choo and Ben Fransisco both struck out to end the game. It was a heartbreaking way to finish out a once promising homestand. After the Brewers' sweep of the Tribe, the Indians finished with a 4-5 record during the home stretch. "The guys did a great job of fighting back," Wedge said. "The guys did a great job of creating an opportunity for themselves in that last inning." "We need to do a better job making pitches. We need to do a better job of getting ahead." Falling in extra frames erased an unlikely comeback by the Indians. In the ninth inning, trailing by four runs with one out, second baseman Jamey Carroll walked. After DeRosa doubled, the Brewers brought in closer Trevor Hoffman, who had yet to blow a save this season. But that soon changed. Martinez singled to score Carroll, Choo was then walked and Ryan Garko hit a bases-clearing double to tie the game. In what turned out to be a big play in the game, Garko turned his right ankle rounding second base and was tagged out for the second out of the inning. He was taken out of the game, but Wedge said that it was nothing serious. Jhonny Peralta ended the inning with a flyout to right field. "Garko would have made it back," Wedge said. "He twisted it, but he's OK." But despite the bad-luck play, the Indians forced extra innings. Kerry Wood held the Brewers scoreless in the 10th inning. But the Indians couldn't put anything together in the bottom half of the inning, and Aquino was unable to repeat Wood's success. In six innings, the Tribe's bullpen gave up six runs. But as Wedge said after the game, the loss couln't be placed fully on the bullpen's shoulders. Just one start after pitching the best game of his career, Huff pitched effectively but was only able to go five innings. He gave up three runs on five hits while walking one and striking out one. But Huff had thrown 99 pitches through those five innings, ony 59 for strikes. That forced Wedge to go to his bullpen early. No Indians starter lasted more than five innings during the series. In all, the bullpen gave up 18 runs over 14 innings. "By no means did our bullpen do a good job," Wedge said. "But having said that, it's tough to get three innings out of your bullpen three games in a row."
Matt O'Donnell is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.