The Indians got past Florida for the first time since winning Game 6 of the 1997 World Series. The Marlins won Game 7 in 11 innings, swept a three-game series at home in 2002 and took the opener of this three-game set on two ninth-inning homers off the foul pole at Jacobs Field.
“The resolve of these guys is impressive,” Indians manager Eric Wedge said. “They have proven it all season.”
So has Westbrook (5-2), who began the year as the long man in Cleveland’s bullpen but is now 4-0 with a 2.85 ERA in seven outings, including five starts, at home.
“He was very tough, very impressive,” Marlins manager Jack McKeon said.
Westbrook got 16 groundouts. The right-hander allowed one run and six hits in his first appearance against the Marlins. He struck out four without a walk.
“I felt good, strong,” Westbrook said. “All my pitches were working and I threw strikes.”
Miguel Cabrera ruined Westbrook’s bid for his first career shutout by hitting a 446-foot homer, his 15th, to left-center leading off the seventh.
“To go eight and only make one mistake, that’s pretty good,” Westbrook said.
Wedge is pleased that Westbrook is finally pitching with consistency after three seasons of bouncing between the bullpen and starting rotation.
“Jake has pitched well in short stretches like this, but he’s learned a lot the last couple of years,” Wedge said. “We liked him in the bullpen, too, but as fate would have it, he’s done the job as a starter.”
Westbrook has worked at least six innings in seven of his eight starts.
Lou Pote pitched a perfect ninth for Cleveland.
Jody Gerut had three of Cleveland’s 13 hits off three Marlins pitchers, but was more impressed by Westbrook.
“He’s a pleasure to watch—poetry in motion,” Gerut said. “He works fast and makes it fun to play defense behind him. He was pretty nasty tonight.”
The Indians took a 5-0 lead in the third inning against A.J. Burnett (0-2). Gerut had an RBI single, Travis Hafner a two-run double and Blake a two-run homer, his eighth. The Indians went 5-for-5 with runners in scoring position in the inning.
Burnett gave up eight runs and 12 hits in 4 1-3 innings, losing for the first time in 10 interleague starts. He is 6-1 against AL teams, including six shutout innings against Cleveland in 2002 in his only previous appearance against the Indians.
“Those guys came out swinging,” Burnett said. “I went after them and they went after me.”
It was the most hits and runs allowed in a game by Burnett in his career. The right-hander also walked two and struck out three in just his second start since he had elbow ligament replacement surgery in April 2003.
“I’m healthy,” he said. “My arm feels good, but it is time to start putting up numbers.”
McKeon said that should come with more work.
“Stuff-wise, he’s fine,” McKeon said. “Velocity-wise, he’s there. It’sjust his command. This is like spring training for him.”
McKeon is more than double the age of Wedge, who is 36. McKeon is 73, and the 37-year difference in age is the most by opposing managers singe 87-year-old Connie Mack of the Philadelphia Athletics faced Detroit’s Red Rolfe, 41, in 1950. … Cleveland improved to 22-15 against right-handed starters. … Marlins 2B Luis Castillo extended his hitting streak to 10 games. He’s batting .349 (15-for-43) during the streak. … Blake is 15-for-32 (.469) with two homers and seven RBIs during an eight-game hitting streak. … Burnett is 0-4 with a 5.64 ERA in 10 starts since his last win, Aug. 18, 2002, againstSan Francisco.