Indians flatten Phillies, 10-6

Posted: June 20, 2007

CLEVELAND - Jon Lieber drives a big truck, but lately he has been the owner and operator of some even bigger innings.

The Phillies righthander allowed five runs to score in the bottom of the sixth inning of tonight's 10-6 loss to the Cleveland Indians at Jacobs Field. The Indians went on to score eight runs in the inning.

"Compare the way I was throwing the ball last year to now, and to me, physically and mentally, it's night and day," said Lieber, who has allowed five runs to score in an inning in four of his last five starts. "I feel like I'm throwing the ball as well as I have since '05. It's definitely frustrating. I'm letting my teammates down."

The Phillies lost back-to-back series to Detroit and Cleveland, two of the best teams in the stacked American League. It marked the first time the Phils had lost back-to-back series since they opened the season with series losses to Atlanta, Florida and the New York Mets.

Is the AL tough? Yes.

But manager Charlie Manuel lamented lost opportunities.

"We definitely could have won a couple more games," the Phils' manager said. "They won, and they deserved to win. So did Detroit. But we gave at least one game away in each series. We could have won two out of three. We definitely can play with them if we fill our holes."

Lieber, who went 2-2 with a 2.50 ERA after his first six starts, is 1-4 with a 6.75 ERA in his last six starts. In five of those six games - all Phillies losses - he allowed 49 hits and 27 earned runs in 27 innings for a 9.00 ERA.

So what happened tonight?

The CliffsNotes version of the sixth went like this: Jason Michaels made the first out, a whole bunch of stuff happened, Michaels made the second out, more stuff happened, and the inning ended when Ryan Garko struck out looking.

The Phillies allowed a season-high eight runs in the inning to turn a 4-2 lead into a 10-4 deficit.

It started when Trot Nixon singled to right. Garko then hit a swinging bunt to the left side. Lieber fielded the ball but made a poor throw to first. Garko reached safely to put runners on first and second.

"He couldn't make the play, and that just kind of opened the inning up," Manuel said. "From there, things just escalated."

Josh Barfield doubled to score Nixon to make it 4-3. Lieber intentionally walked Grady Sizemore to load the bases and Casey Blake followed with a single to left to score Garko and Barfield, handing the Indians a 5-4 lead.

Lieber tweaked his right ankle when he left the mound to back up catcher Rod Barajas behind the plate.

"I came off the mound and there was a pop. I felt it," Lieber said. "It felt like I twisted my ankle."

Lieber said he didn't think he will have to miss a start. He believes ice and maybe a massage is all the strained ankle might need. That would be good news for the Phillies, who just replaced Freddy Garcia in the rotation with Kyle Kendrick from double-A Reading.

Where would the Phillies turn if they need another starter from their system?

Mike Zagurski and Yoel Hernandez finished the inning, but not until they allowed Lieber's last two runners to score, along with three more runs of their own.

"We just started giving up hits," Manuel said.

In four of the Phillies' last five losses, they have allowed at least 10 runs to score: a 17-5 loss to Kansas City on June 10, a 12-8 loss to Detroit on Friday, a 10-1 loss to Cleveland on Monday and tonight's loss.

It was hard to remember that the Phillies took a 4-2 lead in the top of the sixth tonight when Ryan Howard hit a two-out double to score Jimmy Rollins and Aaron Rowand knocked in Howard with a single to right.

"I felt good after that," Manuel said. "But then we had to hold them. And we've been having trouble holding them."


Contact staff writer Todd Zolecki at 215-854-4874 or tzolecki@phillynews.com.

Read his blog at http://go.philly.com/zozone.

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