CLEVELAND (AP)—The Cleveland Indians are on the verge of matching a 95-year-old record. It’s not a mark they ever imagined approaching.
Cliff Lee couldn’t stop his team’s season-opening slide on Saturday as Roy Halladay outpitched the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner and the Toronto Blue Jays withstood a ninth-inning rally to beat Cleveland 5-4, dropping the Indians to 0-5 for the first time since 1985.
The Indians haven’t lost their first six games since 1914, when they were known as the Cleveland Naps.
“This is not where we wanted to be or where we expected to be,” said Lee, who didn’t lose his second decision until July 6 last season and finished 22-3. “But there’s nothing we can do about it now. It’s done. Our job is to come in here and keep them from sweeping us.”
Halladay (2-0), a 20-game winner last season who finished second to Lee in Cy Young balloting, held Cleveland to one run and five hits in seven innings. The right-hander struck out seven, including two in a sticky second, and was rarely in real trouble.
“That’s Doc,” Toronto manager Cito Gaston said. “You kind of expect that out of him.”
Desperate for a clutch hit, the Indians, who opened the season by being swept in Texas, finally got one in the ninth on Mark DeRosa’s two-out, three-run double off closer B.J. Ryan to make it 5-4. But with the potential tying run at second, Jason Frasor struck out Victor Martinez for his first save.
“Victor is the guy we wanted up there,” Indians manager Eric Wedge said. “We showed some fight.”
Lee (0-2), who shrugged off a shaky spring training in Arizona as nothing to worry about, failed to get past the fifth inning for the second time. He was better than on opening day, when the Rangers pasted him for seven runs in five innings. Still, he gave up four runs and seven hits with four walks, and now has a 9.90 ERA.
“It’s not the results I want,” Lee said.
Aaron Hill had two RBIs for Toronto, which improved to 5-1—its best start since 2001.
The Blue Jays are showing signs that they might be able to hang with the big boys in the brutal AL East. With nice balance throughout the lineup, and with Halladay as a legitimate No. 1 starter, Toronto could challenge Tampa Bay, Boston and the New York Yankees in baseball’s toughest division.
“We’re all thrilled,” Halladay said. “We’ve scored a lot of runs and our pitching has been pretty good. It’s a matter of keeping all of that going.”
Through five games, Indians starters have yet to reach the sixth inning and their relievers have been mostly ineffective. Cleveland’s hitters are not coming through in the clutch—the Indians are just 5-for-39 with runners in scoring position—and the fielding has been sloppy.
Still, the Indians remain optimistic.
“We’re going to win plenty of ballgames this year. No one is going to panic,” first baseman Ryan Garko said. “We’ve got to battle through this and keep our heads up. There’s a lot of character in this room. We have to fight through the perception that it’s a big deal, because it’s really not. We’re going to be fine.”
It was a missed opportunity, one the Indians can’t afford.
“You have to put the ball in play there,” Wedge said. “Our guys know that.”
Lee was in an immediate 1-0 hole that could have been deeper.
Marco Scutaro walked leading off the first, Hill blooped a single and the runners moved up on Lee’s wild pitch, a ball that could have been blocked by Shoppach. Alex Rios followed with a sinking liner to center that Grady Sizemore snared with a sliding catch, but Scutaro tagged and scored.
But the lefty was right back in scramble mode in the second, and this time he couldn’t escape.
Toronto loaded the bases on a double, single and two-out walk. Hill then grounded a two-run single to right, with Kevin Millar sliding in safely from second when Shoppach couldn’t hold Shin-Soo Choo’s strong throw to the plate.
The Blue Jays made it 4-0 in the third on Lind’s RBI single.
Cleveland finally scored in the fifth on Sizemore’s run-scoring double.
Toronto was 1-6 against Cleveland last season. … The Indians placed LHP Scott Lewis on the 15-day disabled list with a sore elbow. Lewis, who started and pitched 4 1-3 innings in Friday’s home opener, had Tommy John surgery in 2003. Wedge said MRI results were negative. … RHP Vinnie Chulk was brought up from Triple-A Columbus and replaced Lee in the sixth. He allowed one run in 2 1-3 innings… The 42 runs allowed by the Indians in their first four games were the fourth-most in that span since 1900, and the most since Baltimore gave up 44 in 1978. … Indians DH Travis Hafner got the day off after hitting a homer in his previous two games.