Indians Ink: Mental Misplays help Cubs

C.C. Sabathia didn't have his best stuff, but deserved a much better fate. Deserted by his defense, the Indians' ace was victimized for nine runs in just 2 1/3 innings in a 9-2 loss to the Chicago Cubs that was mercifully shortened to seven innings by a thunderstorm. Neifi Perez, Aramis Ramirez, Matt Murton and Henry Blanco led the offense for Chicago, which won two of three in the series.

"We all know we stink right now," said Sabathia (5-4), whose ERA skyrocketed to 4.19. "Everything is going wrong. Right now, I don't think anyone is having fun."

Sabathia stood tall and took the blame for the loss -- though it was clear that his teammates' lack of sharpness on defense didn't help.

"I would like to apologize to everybody. I lost focus," he said.

The Cubs swatted 13 hits to all parts of the field off Sabathia and two relievers, but it was back-to-back bizarre plays by Ben Broussard and Ron Belliard that fueled Chicago's eight-run third inning.

"They helped us on a couple of weird plays that I haven't seen -- ever," said Cubs manager Dusty Baker, who has been in pro baseball for nearly 40 years. "They say if you stay in baseball long enough you'll see everything, and I'm still seeing stuff.

"We need some breaks. We'll take 'em and capitalize on 'em."

That they did.

Tied 1-1, Perez opened the third with a single and went to third on a single by Ramirez.

That's when things got very strange as Phil Nevin bounced a ball to first baseman Ben Broussard, who was playing in. Perez broke down the line and Broussard seemed to panic and threw home as Perez waltzed back to third and Nevin reached first to load the bases.

"In my mind, I saw him going," said Broussard, adding that he heard someone yell to throw to the plate. "That's the first time that has ever happened to me. I was in no-man's land."

So was Belliard when Murton grounded a ball to him between first and second. Nevin stopped a few feet off first and would have been an easy out at second, but Belliard faked a throw there, then whirled as if to throw to first, only to hold the ball as one run scored and the bags remained loaded.

The Cubs then employed an attack that resembled a leaky faucet going drip, drip, drip and driving everybody mad. Jacque Jones' soft single made it 3-1, and Sabathia got Todd Walker to pop out, but walked home another run and two more singles by Blanco and Juan Pierre made it 6-1 -- with the bases still loaded.

Edward Mujica made his major-league debut for the Indians and gave up a two-run double to Perez and sacrifice fly to Ramirez that made it 9-1.

"We did pretty good," Baker said. "There were some broken bat hits in there, some hits you need. We got some breaks. It was just an unfortunate night for C.C. and a very fortunate one for us."

After Perez doubled and scored on a single by Ramirez in the first, Travis Hafner tied it in the bottom half with an RBI single for Cleveland. The Indians' other run came in the sixth when Hafner singled and scored on a one-out double by Broussard.

Carlos Zambrano (6-3, 2.83 ERA) walked the first two batters he faced in the game, but got Jhonny Peralta to hit into a double play before Hafner delivered in the first inning.

"I just had a little problem with my back (stiffness) early in the game," Zambrano said. "It wasn't a problem for the last three innings of the game."

He allowed two runs and six hits over six innings, walking three and striking out two to improve to 5-0 with a 1.59 ERA in his last eight starts.

"I just go out there and make my pitches and try to win the game," he said.

NOTABLE: Before the game, Cleveland traded much-maligned RHP Jason Johnson (3-8, 5.96 ERA) to Boston for a player to be named or cash considerations. The Indians must pay part of Johnson's contract. ... Indians OF Jason Michaels missed his fifth game with a sprained right ankle. "If he isn't doing a little more on Friday, it's probably a DL situation," manager Eric Wedge said. ... Cubs 1B Derrek Lee, sidelined since April 21 by a broken wrist, will go on a minor-league rehab assignment this weekend. "It feels good, no setbacks," he said after taking batting practice. ... The news was not nearly as good for Cubs RHP Kerry Wood, sidelined with a sore shoulder. "With each day I get more and more doubts," he said. "It needs to start feeling better. I don't know what we're going to do."

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