Starter Jeremy Sowers' night was over in a hurry. He lasted just three innings, during which he allowed four runs on four hits with two walks and a strikeout. The Red Sox's three-run third off Sowers included an RBI single from Victor Martinez and an RBI double from Jason Bay to make it 4-0, and that proved to be enough.
"The big inning seems to be a bit of a problem," Sowers said. "My last start against Baltimore, the elements -- [a muddy mound] -- made it more difficult. But tonight, the element that made it more difficult is that they have a very good lineup."
Sowers will be out of Minor League options next year, so the Indians have to decide what to do with him. At times this season, he's looked like a rotation member in the making, and at times, he's looked like a prime candidate for the bullpen or the waiver wire.
Just when it appeared Sowers had things figured out, he stumbled down the stretch his final three starts, allowing 15 runs in just nine-plus innings of work.
"I think the last couple starts, he's been getting a little bit tired," manager Eric Wedge said. "His fastball is a little bit short. He didn't have the same command."
Sowers did not dispute that notion.
"I've had some issues physically," he said. "I battled an achy shoulder all year, and I had a little cramp issue [in the hamstring] my last start. So from a conditioning standpoint, everything's been minimal the last couple weeks."
The general theme of Sowers' season is that he's struggled the third time through an opponent's lineup. Given how hard Sowers had to work just to get through three innings in this start, Wedge pulled him before he faced the Red Sox a third time.
"I think the season was a progress over last year and the year before that," Sowers said. "But I'm not there yet."
Neither is the Tribe's youthful offense, which has now scored three runs or less in 11 of 19 games.
"We've got a lot of guys out there trying to figure it out," Wedge said. "[Jhonny Peralta, Travis Hafner and Jamey Carroll] are really the only veterans we've had in there. With the young kids, they've been facing some pretty good pitching, and they'll be better for it."
The Indians were set down quietly by Daisuke Matsuzaka for four innings, but they finally came alive in the fifth. Hafner doubled to open the frame, and one out later, Luis Valbuena knocked him in with a single. Valbuena stole second and scored on Trevor Crowe's single to cut the deficit to 4-2.
Those runs were the first scored by the Tribe in a 20-inning stretch. But they would be the only runs for the Indians in this loss.
With Jess Todd holding Boston scoreless in the fourth and fifth and Tony Sipp relieving him to strand a pair of runners in the sixth, the Indians appeared as though they might have a chance to make something happen late. But that was not the case.
The Tribe had two on with two out against Matsuzaka in the top of the sixth, but Kelly Shoppach struck out to end the inning. With two out in the top of the seventh, the Indians got something going against Ramon Ramirez when Carroll singled and Shin-Soo Choo walked. Ramirez, however, recovered to get Peralta to go down swinging.
These missed opportunities would come back to bite the Tribe in the bottom of the seventh. A Matt LaPorta fielding error at first allowed Jacoby Ellsbury to reach with one out, and Sipp walked Dustin Pedroia.
In came reliever Jose Veras, who immediately served up a two-run double to Kevin Youkilis to put this one to bed.
The road losses merely underscore the more glaring issue, which is that the Indians have lost 25 of 33 games since Aug. 28. It's been an uninspiring end to a disappointing season.