The team with the highest payroll in the game overpowered and overmatched the Indians as they fell 8-2 in the first of a four game series. The Indians have now dropped the opening game in 15 of 17 series this season – not a recipe for success. Yankees starter Phil Hughes dominated the Indians lineup which went gently into the New York night. Hughes opened the game by striking out the first 5 Tribe hitters who came to the plate. Jhonny Peralta finally put one in play when he hit a fly out to center to end the 2nd inning. As Rick Manning stated, it appeared Indians starter Fausto Carmona would have to be close to perfect on this night as Hughes was mowing down the Indians.
Carmona battled through 6 innings against a Yankee lineup without Alex Rodiriguez and Jorge Posada. Right fielder Nick Swisher would open the scoring with a 2-run bomb that hit almost at the top of the right field foul poll. It should have been a solo homer but 1B Umpire CB Bucknor, almost unanimously considered the worst umpire in the majors, missed an out call on a close play at first. Robbie Cano reached on the infield single but replay showed that Jason Donald’s throw beat the runner. There would be three other bang-bang plays at first that Bucknor would all give to the Yankees. Judging from the replays, it looked like he “guessed” correctly on only 1 of 4. It had a significant impact on what was a hard-fought game through the first 6 innings. With the NBA playoffs in full bloom, complaining about officiating is definitely in vogue but with Bucknor it is a pretty consistent gripe year-round. He will have the plate this afternoon, which should be fun.
Rick Manning did not hold back in his critique of Manny Acta’s response to the missed calls by Bucknor. He was beside himself that Acta never left the dugout once, especially after the close calls came in such short succession, all favoring the Yankees. He implored Acta to at least leave the bench and “show that he is sticking up for his guys” and at least put it in the ump’s mind for the next close call. It was the most critical I have heard a Tribe broadcaster in Acta’s short tenure with the Indians.
Despite Hughes’ blistering start, the Indians would start a rally in the fourth as Travis Hafner scored their first run on a Jhonny Peralta double. The rally died when Luis Valbuena struck out to end the inning with Peralta on 2nd and the tying run on third. Valbuena has no business in the lineup – there has to be a breaking point, even with Asdrubal’s injury thinning the ranks of the middle infield. He went 0-4 again last night with 3 costly strikeouts. He has to be sent down to try and get something working or else his confidence could be shattered long term.
As I mentioned, with the Tribe bats sleeping, Carmona had to be nearly perfect and he battled but lost it in the 6th. The Yankees scored 2 more, including on a bases-loaded walk to Juan Miranda, not exactly their most feared hitter. It was all they would need. Tony Sipp, who has been reliable for the Indians this year, made the Yankee W official in the 7th inning. Derek Jeter reached on a single to short where Jason Donald made a helluva a play to make it close. Curtis Granderson tried to put down a bunt – fouled off two – and then promptly hit a double to the wall when he decided to swing with 2 strikes. Mark Teixeira walked and Robbie Cano, the Yankees RBI leader to date, hit a no-doubter grand slam to the upper deck in right to effectively end the game at 8-2.
Until the grand slam, it had been a fairly well-played game and the Tribe battled for 6 innings. However, you never had the feeling that the Indians had a chance or enough firepower for a rally to make it close or tie it up even when it was 2-0, 2-1, 4-2. Thus is the nature of this team. The one great moment for the Indians came on an amazing diving catch by Trevor Crowe who extended full out on the warning track in what was the play of the night around the league. With 3 games left in the series over the long weekend, there appears to be little hope for this club to end the month on a good note against the Bronx Bombers. Already in the cellar, it looks like the month of May will end in the same discouraging manner as the past 4 weeks.
(Photo: Uli Leit/New York Times)