Indians 4, Braves 2

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ATLANTA (AP)—After facing only four Atlanta Braves batters, Cliff Lee had given up three hits and a run, and his pitching coach was at the mound.

But the Cleveland Indians’ left-hander wasn’t worried because he knew he was throwing strikes.

Lee stuck to his strategy and did not walk a batter, winning for the first time in six starts. Casey Blake hit a tiebreaking homer to help the Indians beat the slumping Braves 4-2 Friday night in their first meeting since the 1995 World Series.

“I was throwing strikes and staying ahead; they just happened to hit some good pitches, I thought,” Lee said.

Since a 5-0 start to the season, Lee (6-1) had four no-decisions and a loss in his previous five starts.

“The won-loss record I can’t control,” Lee said.

Lee can control balls and strikes. He did not throw more than two balls to any batter, and 69 of his 89 pitches were strikes. He gave up two runs and six hits in seven innings, striking out seven.

“I’m just trying to throw strikes,” Lee said. “I want to get ahead, stay ahead and put them away as quickly as possible.”

Indians manager Eric Wedge said the key for Lee was holding the Braves to one run in the first inning with “pretty good damage control.”

After his pitching coach, Carl Willis, visited the mound, Lee gave up only one hit to the next 16 batters.

“He flew from there,” Wedge said. “He was ahead in the count and very efficient with his pitches. I thought the deeper he went in the game, the better he was.”

Lee has allowed no more than three runs in 11 of 13 starts this season, but his souvenir from Friday night’s game was the ball from his first major league hit—a sixth-inning single.

“I was just trying not to strike out,” Lee said.

Jose Jimenez worked a perfect ninth for his sixth save.

Blake’s leadoff shot against Mike Hampton in the sixth inning broke a 2-2 tie. The Indians pushed the lead to 4-2 in the eighth when Ronnie Belliard drew a bases-loaded walk from reliever Chris Reitsma.

With three straight losses and seven in their last 10 games, the Braves (31-35) are four games under .500 this late in the season for the first time since 1990. They also matched their low point of the season.

Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said his plan is to “ride it out” because his team is “too good to be losing.”

The Braves lost two of three interleague games in three straight series against Detroit, the Chicago White Sox and Kansas City before falling in their first regular-season meeting with the Indians.

Atlanta’s Rafael Furcal led off the third inning with his fifth homer of the season—and third of the week in interleague play—for a 2-0 lead.

Hampton (1-7) couldn’t hold the early lead. He allowed nine hits and three runs in 5 2-3 innings.

Hampton was pulled after giving up Blake’s homer, two line-drive outs and a single to Lee in the sixth. Angry as he left the field, Hampton tossed a water cooler in the dugout.

“It’s ugly. I don’t think it can get much uglier,” Hampton said. “You prepare yourself in the offseason, you bust your butt during the season to be successful and you have nothing to show for it so far. I don’t have anyone to blame but myself. I understand that.”

The Indians opened the fourth with three straight hits against Hampton, including a single by Victor Martinez that drove in Coco Crisp from second and cut the Braves’ lead to 2-1. Lou Merloni added a sacrifice fly to tie it.

J.D. Drew’s one-out double in the sixth was wasted when Chipper Jones popped out and Lee struck out Andruw Jones on three pitches, bringing boos from some in the Turner Field crowd of 28,000.

There were more boos when pinch-hitter Mike Hessman struck out lookingfollowing a double by Eli Marrero to end the seventh.

Notes

Atlanta won the ’95 World Series in six games. … Cleveland’s Matt Lawton extended his hitting streak to 15 games. … Lee chased Hampton with his first major league hit, a sixth-inning single to left. In his first at-bat in the third inning, Lee worked the count to 3-2 before hitting a sharp liner back at Hampton. The ball hit the heel of Hampton’s glove, and Hampton briefly juggled the ball before making the catch. Lee’s first two interleague starts came at Cleveland, with the designated hitter rule in play. … The only teamthe Braves have never played is Anaheim.

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