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Peculiar road trip ends on sour note

Peculiar road trip ends on sour note

ANAHEIM -- After word trickled into the clubhouse that ace Cliff Lee was on his way to the Phillies, the Indians went out and played a ballgame on Wednesday afternoon at Angel Stadium.

And in the type of result that has led the Tribe to trade back-to-back Cy Young Award winners in Lee and CC Sabathia, the Indians lost. This time, it was a 9-3 defeat at the hands of the Angels, ending a long, strange road trip on a sour note.

The trip was strange because it saw the Indians play their best baseball of the season while the front office stripped them of nearly every tradable commodity in the clubhouse. Rafael Betancourt went to the Rockies, Ryan Garko to the Giants and Lee and outfielder Ben Francisco were sent to Philadelphia. It's quite possible that All-Star catcher Victor Martinez will be next.

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That's a lot to process, and, with the Lee news fresh in their minds, the Indians played their only uninspired game in an otherwise solid trip.

"Obviously, there was a great deal going on off the field before the game," manager Eric Wedge said. "These kids are human."

Martinez might be a bit distracted at the moment, as he's no stranger to the rumors. But on Wednesday, his job was behind the plate, catching left-hander Aaron Laffey. And it was a rough outing for the young left-hander.

Laffey threw more than 40 pitches in the game's first inning, allowing a pair of runs. He settled down in the second, third and fourth, but fell apart again in the Angels' decisive five-run fifth.

But Laffey didn't get much help from a defense that committed two errors behind him in the fifth.

"We didn't play well behind him," Wedge said, "and he really had to work hard that first inning."

Laffey's work wasn't made any easier by Angels right-hander John Lackey and the Tribe's punchless approach against him. The Indians mustered just one run on three hits off Lackey in seven innings.

Still, up until the fifth, the Tribe was in the game. It was a 2-1 ballgame heading into the inning.

Laffey and the Indians saw the game unravel when the Angels put two on to set up Bobby Abreu's RBI single. Abreu moved to second on a Choo throwing error, and the Angels had two runners in scoring position. Juan Rivera sent a popup to the right side that second baseman Luis Valbuena lost in the sun, allowing another run to score and make it 4-1. Kendry Morales then ripped an RBI double, and Laffey was yanked with two on and none out.

"It was one of those sinkerball days," Laffey said. "Balls were getting through the holes on the ground."

Wedge summoned right-hander Chris Perez from the bullpen to replace Laffey, and Perez immediately gave up a two-run single to Howard Kendrick to make it 7-1. The Indians, losers of two straight after a season-high five-game winning streak, never recovered.

The Tribe went 6-3 on the trip -- 6-7 if you count the loss of four players to trades.

"It was a bittersweet road trip," Laffey said. "It was a weird road trip. But there are lots of positives to take out of it. Just because we lost two games in this series, there's nothing to be discouraged about."

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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