Covering the Bases: Game 34

Final:

Red Sox 12, Indians 1

FIRST: It’s tough to put too much of this one on sinkerballer Justin Masterson. Yes, he was inconsistent again (six runs yielded in six innings with three hit batsmen and one walk) and the four-spot he surrendered in the first inning put the Tribe in an early hole. That hole increased to five runs by the seventh inning. The problem right now is that a four- or five-run hole seems like the Grand Canyon for Cleveland’s offense.

And it’s not just me saying that.

“The way we were swinging the bat since two or three days ago,” manager Manny Acta said, “five runs were a big hole to climb out of.”

The Indians looked to be in a good spot on Thursday, when they claimed an 8-3 win over Josh Beckett and Boston. Since scoring seven runs and hitting .467 in the first three innings of that game, however, the Tribe scored just eight runs and hit .223 over the final 33 innings of this four-game series.

Cleveland has lost five of six and three games in a row for the first time this season. That said, the Indians are still in first place in the American League Central. Detroit isn’t going to remain in hibernation all summer, though.

SECOND: Acta said one unfortunate trend of late is having one or two hitters on a hot streak while others slump. Lately, it has been Michael Brantley who has been swinging a hot bat for Cleveland. He went 3-for-4 on Sunday and is now hitting .321 (25-for-78) over his past 19 games after hitting .196 (11-for-56) in his first 13 games this season. With Johnny Damon still struggling (0-for-3 Sunday and now hitting .159), it seems like a good time to consider moving Brantley back into the No. 1 spot.

THIRD: Signing Dan Wheeler made sense on the surface over the offseason, but the veteran right-hander has officially pitched his way of the ballclub. On Sunday, Wheeler gave up five runs on six hits in the seventh inning, allowing a 6-1 deficit to bleed out into a 12-1 laugher. The Indians designated Wheeler for assignment after the game.

Wheeler wasn’t terrible in April, when he posted a 3.68 ERA in eight games. In May, though, he posted a 16.20 ERA (nine earned runs in five innings) across four appearances. On the year, the righty had seven walks compared to two strikeouts. His ERA jumped to 8.76 from 4.76 on Sunday.

Cleveland hasn’t announced who will take Wheeler’s place in the bullpen. It seems like a safe bet that it would come from one of Jeremy Accardo, Hector Ambriz, Frank Herrmann or Chris Ray, who are all with Triple-A Columbus. Among the four, Herrmann has the best K/BB ratio, Ray has the best ERA, Accardo the best WHIP and Ambriz the most strikeouts.

HOME: Let’s end on a warm note, shall we? Prior to the top of the third inning, the Red Sox showed highlights of Johnny Damon’s contributions to Boston’s run to the 2004 World Series. After the highlight package wrapped up, the home team put the camera on Damon, who stepped out of the dugout, lifted his helmet and waved to a crowd that was offering him cheers and standing ovation.

That was a special moment for Damon.

“It’s the first time since I’ve been back that they’ve given me recognition for what I did with the Red Sox,” Damon said. “It’s the first highlights that I’ve seen of me doing something good. It was definitely very special. Obviously, I would like to thank the Red Sox for putting it up and I’d like to thank the fans who did applaud me, the fans that really appreciate how I go about my business and play baseball.”

Damon agreed that Boston’s gesture might have had something to do with the fact that he no longer plays on a rival team in the American League East. Damon left the Red Sox after the 2005 season as a free agent, signing with the Yankees. He played for the Rays last year.

“I knew there were hard feelings on both sides for a while,” Damon said. “It seems like everything is getting back to normal. I really wanted to come back here when I became a free agent. They failed to sign me. Unfortunately, the only other option was New York, but I’m still happy I had that experience, because I think I know better than anybody now how both sides are. I’m just very appreciative that I’ve been able to play for both sides and also to be able to be playing on my seventh team right now.”

It only took seven seasons for the Red Sox to acknowledge his contributions.

“Lucky seven, I guess,” Damon said with a smile.

On deck:

Indians (18-16) at Twins (10-24)
at 8:10 p.m. ET on Monday at Target Field

NOTE: I will not be traveling to Minnesota. I’ll be back on Indians coverage for the upcoming homestand. Keep checking Indians.com for the latest on the club.

–JB

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