CLEVELAND -- All you need to know about the Giants' plight Thursday evening unfolded in the third inning of their 4-1 loss to the Cleveland Indians. Trailing, 1-0, with one out following Jamey Carroll's RBI triple, Giants manager Bruce Bochy ordered his infielders to play in with Ben Francisco at bat. Six innings remained, and yet Bochy was intent on preventing further scoring.
That's because the Giants were facing Cleveland left-hander Cliff Lee, who has dominated opponents all season. Giving Lee a one-run lead was daunting enough; spotting him more would almost surely spell defeat for the Giants. Bochy's worst fears were realized. The Indians, who averted a San Francisco sweep of the three-game Interleague series, amassed three runs in the third and Lee struck out a career-high 11 while allowing four hits in eight innings. Although the Giants kept the difference respectable, they never were truly in the game. They moved nobody into scoring position after Aaron Rowand doubled and scored on Rich Aurilia's single in the fourth inning. Lee (11-1) recorded six of his strikeouts against rookies Brian Horwitz, Travis Denker and John Bowker. "It was definitely a learning experience. Very impressive," Denker said. Bochy defended the trio by saying, "They faced a guy tonight who's throwing as well as anybody in the game. I don't know who would have hit him tonight. That's how well he threw." Denker, who struck out twice, related that he thought Lee fed him a hittable pitch during one of his plate appearances. After the game, Denker reviewed the at-bat on videotape and realized the delivery that tempted him was six inches outside. "I felt like I didn't get any pitches to hit," Denker said. "And if I felt I did, it wasn't there." Giants starter Matt Cain (4-6) displayed his typically searing fastball but lacked Lee's command. "He just didn't have a good feel of his secondary pitches," Bochy said. Cain agreed, saying, "I didn't have that good break to my curveball to slow them down." Yet Cain, who allowed all of the Indians' runs and each of their eight hits in four innings, was betrayed mostly by his fastball in the third. Carroll lashed his triple on a pitch that Cain said "missed by almost 18 inches or more. It was supposed to be down and away and I missed up and in." After Francisco walked, Jhonny Peralta lined a two-run double to left field. "Just not far enough in," Cain said of the 1-2 fastball Peralta smacked. "We had the right idea. I just didn't make the pitch." Yet the Giants, who have rarely played completely nondescript games this season, still derived some precious moments from the finale of their first Progressive Field visit. Omar Vizquel, beloved by Cleveland fans for his heroics with the Indians from 1994-2004, received yet another standing ovation before his first at-bat. Realizing that Vizquel's final plate appearance in the eighth inning might mark the last time they'd see him in a Major League uniform as an active player, the remaining spectators showered the 41-year-old shortstop with more hearty applause before he stepped in the batter's box and as he returned to the dugout after flying out. Right-hander Sergio Romo became the ninth Giant to make his Major League debut this year by pitching a perfect eighth inning, which featured two strikeouts. Romo thus rewarded his father, Frank, who flew from Southern California to Cleveland for the start of the series and sat through 25 innings and Thursday's one-hour, 42-minute rain delay before his son pitched. Two of Romo's family friends, his high school coach and an uncle filled out his cheering section. "It was everything I thought it would be -- except not throwing strike one [to the first hitter]," Romo said. "I always imagined I'd paint the first one." Romo didn't care that he toiled before a fraction of the paid crowd of 25,257. "I never pitched with the field being as bright as it was," he said. "I kind of felt I was the center of attention for the moment." He'll surely receive more chances to feel that way.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.