"I threw a slider on a 3-2 count and got beat," Wickman told reporters. "It's my best pitch and I'll throw it again in that situation. I've done it for 13 years. Everybody in the league knows it, it's in every scouting report. Travis Lee just beat me ... but he nearly popped it straight up, too."
Lee told reporters he actually was looking for a fastball and said he felt lucky to get just enough of the ball to hit the high-arcing drive that landed barely over the right-field wall.
It was a heartbreaking turn of events for the Indians, who came home to start a nine-game homestand just 2 1/2 games out in the AL wild-card race after going 6-0 on the road. Instead, they got swept for the first time by the Devil Rays -- who were just 7-21 lifetime at Jacobs Field before this weekend.
Wickman felt the frustration the most.
"The thing that annoys me is nobody gives them (Tampa Bay) credit," he said. "That team is no slouch. They have some good hitters, but people will blame us for losing."
The Indians, who are 36-25 on the road, fell to 27-30 at Jacobs Field this year.
Wickman said whining about tough luck and making excuses is not the way to start winning at home, however.
"I don't like hearing people say, 'Well, we're a young team and that's going to happen.' When are we going to grow up and not let it happen?"
Asked if the club is in danger of going into a late-August tailspin like the 2004 Indians did, Wickman said that was a fair question that can be answered only by Cleveland starting to win again. A year ago, the Indians pulled within one game of first-place Minnesota in the AL Central on Aug. 14, then lost nine straight and never were heard from again.
"I hope it doesn't happen again that it gets out of hand, but yes, it is something to think about," Wickman said.
Manager Eric Wedge refused to blast his club for losing three in a row, but admitted it was disappointing.
"You have to look at how you played and how the other team played, too," he said. "We had opportunities today, but just didn't finish them off. Part of that was because of the good pitching they had."
Actually, Cleveland starter Cliff Lee outpitched Devil Rays starter Scott Kazmir in a battle of left-handers -- but only by a little.
Lee allowed six hits and one walk over eight scoreless innings; Kazmir gave up six hits in six scoreless, but got out of two big jams.
Grady Sizemore walked and Coco Crisp singled to open the game for Cleveland. Kazmir then struck out the heart of the Indians' order -- Jhonny Peralta, Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez.
Then in the sixth, the Indians nearly scored. Cleveland put two runners on, but Kazmir fanned Jose Hernandez for the second out -- making the Indians 0-for-18 with runners in scoring position since Friday night. Casey Blake broke that streak with a single to left, but Travis Hafner was thrown out trying to score from second on the play.
Before the game, right-hander Jeremy Guthrie was sent back to Buffalo and outfielder Jason Dubois called back to Cleveland. Dubois struck out all three times he went to the plate.
Blake, who left Saturday's game with a bruised right shoulder after getting hit by a pitch, played first base with Dubois in right field.
CLASS AAA BUFFALO (66-56) gave up seven runs in the ninth inning and lost at home to Ottawa, 9-6, trimming the Bisons' lead in the Northern Division of the International League to 1 1/2 games over Rochester. Leading, 5-4, Jake Robbins (2-5, 3.59 ERA) came on to start the ninth and try for his 21st save. Instead, he suffered his fourth blown opportunity, giving up four runs without retiring a batter. Chris Cooper (4.97 ERA) allowed another run before getting the three outs to make it 9-5. Franklin Gutierrez doubled and went to third on a single by Joe Inglett in the bottom half. But Dusty Wathan hit into a double play, Gutierrez scoring, and Brandon Phillips lined out to end it. Gutierrez drove in two runs while Jason Cooper (.261) hit a solo homer, his 11th, and Ryan Garko (.306) had two hits including his 18th homer, also a solo shot.
CLASS AA AKRON (70-50) lost at Trenton, 8-6, despite Pat Osborn (.282) getting three hits, two RBI and his seventh homer, a solo shot. Jon Van Every (..228) had a two-run homer, his 22nd, while Ryan Mulhern (.337) and Ben Francisco (.290) both went 2-for-5. Ron Bay (3-3, 4.76 ERA) yielded four runs in three innings. Jason Stanford (2.08 ERA) gave up one run in 1 2/3 innings and Travis Foley (4.04 ERA) gave up two earned and one unearned run over 1 1/3 innings before Victor Kleine (4.39 ERA) finished with two perfect innings.
CLASS A KINSTON (21-28) lost at Lynchburg, 6-3, as Nick Pesco (8-10, 4.07 ERA) allowed six runs over 5 2/3 innings. Chris Niesel (4.50 ERA) gave up only one walk and struck out one over the final 2 1/3. Micah Schilling (.223) had three hits and Brandon Pinckney (.255) went 2-for-4 to lead the offense.
CLASS A LAKE COUNTY (22-24) edged visiting Hickory, 3-2, by scoring once in the bottom of the ninth without getting a hit. Chris Gimenez was hit by a pitch. Two outs later, he stole second base and continued to third on a throwing error by the catcher. He then scored on a wild pitch. Brian Finegan (.294) hit a two-run homer, his ninth, while Trevor Crowe (.260), Matt Whitney (.242) and Ricardo Rojas (.226) all had two hits for the Captains. Brandon Rickert (6-1, 3.86 ERA) gave up only two hits over three scoreless innings for the win. Starter Reid Santos (4.81 ERA) allowed two runs over the first six.
CLASS A MAHONING VALLEY (28-25) won at Jamestown, 5-3. Ryan Edell (3-2, 2.66 ERA) pitched five scoreless innings and Dustin Roddy (1.57 ERA) struck out three and yielded only one hit over the final two innings for his sixth save. In between, Tom Cowley (5.20 ERA) gave up three runs over two innings. Cirilo Cumberbatch (.239) had two hits, including a solo homer, his third, while Chad Longworth (.320) went 3-for-5 with two RBI. Andy Lytle (.248), Chris Clem (.248) Jose Constanza (.261) and Jose Chavez (.261) also had two hits apiece for the Scrappers.
ROOKIE LEAGUE BURLINGTON (20-31) defeated Danville, 8-4, as Jason Schutt (1-5, 7.05) earned his first professional win, allowing three runs over six innings. John Drennen (.239) went 2-for-3 with his seventh homer, a two-run shot. Enrique Vasquez (.227) also had two hits and two RBI.