Lee connected for a pinch-hit homer off Wickman with one out in the ninth inning Sunday, sending the Tampa Bay Devil Rays to a 1-0 victory over the Indians and their first series sweep in Cleveland.
The Devil Rays had lost four straight when they arrived in Cleveland, where they were 7-21 all-time. But they completed their 12-game trip with a three-game sweep and hurt the Indians’ wild-card chances.
“What a nice way to end this trip,” Tampa Bay manager Lou Piniella said. “Our schedule is filled with teams that have postseason aspirations and hopefully we can ruin their plans.”
If not ruined, the Indians’ blueprint for success certainly was altered. They entered the series on a six-game winning streak—all on the road. But Cleveland, which is 11 games over .500 on the road, dropped to 27-30 at Jacobs Field.
“We’ve got to block that out and turn it around,” manager Eric Wedge said. “The fire is there, but we just didn’t finish off some opportunities.”
Lee, batting for Eduardo Perez, worked the count to 3-2 against Wickman (0-4) before hitting his second pinch-hit homer of the season and extending his hitting streak to 11 games. It also was his team-record eighth pinch-hit this year in 14 opportunities. He has six homers overall.
“I’m not sure what’s going on,” Lee said. “I’m just reacting and getting lucky. I was looking fastball and it was a slider. I hit it and thought, ‘No way,’ but got just enough of it to slide it over the wall.”
Wickman was surprised Lee hit his best pitch and that it went out, but said luck had little to do with the Devil Rays’ sweep.
“I’ve thrown the slider on a 3-2 count for 13 years and everybody knows it,” he said. “I threw it for a strike and Travis Lee beat me. But he nearly popped it straight up, too.
“The thing that annoys me is nobody gives them credit. That team is no slouch. They have some good hitters, but people will blame us for losing.”
Lee gave up six hits and one walk while striking out three in eight scoreless innings—his longest outing in 24 starts this season.
“If you had told me that I’d go eight without giving up a run, I’d tell you I got a win,” Lee said. “It just didn’t happen.”
Lee bounced back from a poor outing in Kansas City on Tuesday night, when he gave up eight hits and six runs in five innings of a no-decision. The Indians rallied to win 13-7 with an 11-run ninth.
This time, he stranded seven runners, including two apiece in the first and seventh.
Kazmir allowed six hits in six scoreless innings, striking out seven, including Cleveland’s 3-4-5 hitters with two on in the first.
He got some defensive help, too. With two on in the sixth, he struck out Jose Hernandez, but yielded a single to Casey Blake. Left fielder Jonny Gomes fielded the ball quickly and made a throw that was slightly up the first-base line, but in plenty of time for catcher Toby Hall to get back to the plate and tag out Travis Hafner trying to score from second.
Blake’s hit broke Cleveland’s 0-for-18 streak, including 0-for-7 against Kazmir, with runners in scoring position.
Blake, who left Saturday’s game with a bruised right shoulder after being hit by a pitch from Seth McClung, started at first base for the first time since Sept. 23, 2003.
The last time Cleveland lost 1-0 at home with the opponent scoring in its last at-bat was May 13, 1970, against Kansas City in a 12-inning loss. … Hall of Famer Bob Feller, 86, threw out the first pitch as he was honored for his pitching career and service in World War II. All fans received a Feller figurine as they came through the gates. … Indians C Victor Martinez extended his hitting streak to 12 games. … Tampa Bay DH Jorge Cantu, who had three homers in the first two games of the series, went 2-for-4 Sunday and was 8-for-14 (.571) with six RBIs in the series. … The last time Lee pitched eight innings also was against Tampa Bay, on Aug. 22, 2003.