Kansas City (63-83) at Cleveland (86-61)

Cloudy Currently: Cleveland, OH
Temp: 49° F
  • Game info: 7:05 pm EDT Sat Sep 15, 2007
  • TV: STO
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The Cleveland Indians have been very good lately. At home, they have been even better.

The surging Indians look to move a step closer to their first AL Central title in six years when they continue a three-game series against the Kansas City Royals on Saturday night.

Casey Blake homered on David Riske’s first pitch in the ninth inning to rally Cleveland to a 5-4 win in Friday’s series opener.

The Royals erased a 1-0 deficit with four fifth-inning runs off Indians ace C.C. Sabathia, but Franklin Gutierrez hit a two-run homer in the seventh and Victor Martinez tied it with a leadoff home run off Riske in the eighth.

Blake hadn’t homered in 36 games - a span of 144 at-bats since Aug. 1 - before connecting off his former teammate.

After rounding the bases, Blake was greeted by his teammates, who first pounded him on the head and then plastered him with a whipped-cream pie - an early season fad that quickly is becoming a Cleveland tradition.

“It’s cool. I just hope nobody hurt their fists punching me,” Blake joked. “You know, when you hit steel like that. It’s a good feeling. It’s been a long time since that has happened to me.”

The Indians (86-61) improved to 16-4 in their last 20 games overall with their eighth win in nine home contests. They have 45 victories at Jacobs Field, their most since finishing 48-33 in 2000.

Cleveland is 5 1/2 games ahead of Detroit in the Central with 15 games remaining, including a three-game home series against the Tigers starting Monday.

The Indians also won for the 12th time this season in their final at-bat at home.

“I kind of felt it in the dugout. I knew we were going to win this game,” said Sabathia, who struck out a career-high 13 in seven innings. “I just had a feeling someone was going to get a big hit.”

The Royals (63-83) have dropped eight of nine overall and three straight on the road. They have lost 16 of their last 20 games at Cleveland.

“It seems like every game we play here is like this,” Royals manager Buddy Bell said. “We’re a pitch away or a hit away from a win. This is a tough loss.”

After facing Sabathia, who was denied his 18th win, Kansas City has another difficult task on Saturday when it faces Fausto Carmona (16-8, 3.20 ERA).

With Sabathia, Carmona and Paul Byrd, the Indians are the majors’ only team with three-15 game winners. They’re the first AL team with three 15-game winners since Mike Mussina, Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte with the 2001 New York Yankees.

Carmona continued his outstanding season with another strong outing Monday in a 6-2 road victory over the Chicago White Sox. He allowed two runs - one earned - and three hits through seven innings in a game interrupted by a rain delay of nearly 2 1/2 hours.

The right-hander has held opponents to three earned runs or fewer in 12 of his last 14 starts, pitching at least six innings in all but one of those appearances.

He is 2-0 with a 3.12 ERA in four starts this season against the Royals, winning both outings at Jacobs Field.

Zack Greinke (6-5, 3.99) looks to rebound from a disappointing performance for the Royals. The right-hander lasted 3 2-3 innings Sunday in a 6-3 loss to the Yankees, allowing three runs and six hits, walking two and striking out one. He entered the game not having surrendered a run in 19 straight innings.

Greinke made his first start in more than three months against the Indians on Aug. 24 and pitched three scoreless innings in Kansas City’s 2-1 victory.

He is 2-4 with a 3.83 ERA in nine career starts versus Cleveland.

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Starting Pitchers

Z. Greinke LAD vs. R. Hernández LAD
7-7 Record 19-8
3.69 ERA 3.06
106 K 137
36 BB 61
1.30 WHIP 1.21

Scoreboard

Saturday, Sep 15