Indians 5, Tigers 4
CLEVELAND (AP)—Scott Elarton enjoyed every handshake, every slap on the back and every kind word from his teammates. It all felt so strangely new.
The wait for Elarton is finally over. Once again, he knows what it feels like to win.
“It’s been a long time,” Elarton said. “I don’t know what to say. It’s a different feeling, I know that.”
Elarton (1-2) hadn’t won since Sept. 19, 2003, for Colorado. The right-hander went 0-6 this season for the Rockies, who released him on May 17.
“I don’t base anything on wins and losses,” he said. “But this one feels good. I had a good feeling all day.”
Maybe so, but for six innings it appeared as if Elarton’s winless streak would continue.
But with the Tigers leading 4-3, Blake connected off Jamie Walker (1-4) for his 17th homer to put the Indians ahead, and two innings later Elarton could relax.
“It’s nice to see that number in the win column,” Elarton said. “It’s a win. I can’t complain about a thing. I don’t care if it was 10-9. It’s a win.”
Blake had three RBIs for Cleveland (52-50), which is two games over .500 for the first time since April 27, 2002, when the Indians were 13-11.
Elarton allowed four runs and six hits in a season-high seven innings. He walked one and struck out five before giving way to Rafael Betancourt, who worked the eighth.
Bob Wickman closed Elarton’s long-awaited win by working the ninth for his first save since July 20, 2002, five months before he underwent Tommy John surgery on his elbow.
Wickman missed all of last season, and was only recently reinstalled as the Indians’ closer.
As happy as he was to get the victory, Elarton was just as pleased for Wickman.
“He tried to give me the game ball,” Elarton said. “I said, ‘No, I got a win after I had (shoulder) surgery, so this one is yours.”’
Wickman also appeared in consecutive games for the first time since July 20-21, 2002.
“That’s big,” he said. “That’s what everyone was looking at. I felt good physically, but there was enough adrenaline to keep me going on back-to-backs.”
“When you get in close games, you have to execute in whatever situation it is, pitching, hitting and fielding,” manager Alan Trammell said. “We’ve failed in a lot of areas—far too often. I might be nitpicking, but I want us to be good. If you’re going to get good, that’s what you have to do.”
With the Indians trailing 4-3 and Elarton likely done for the night, Victor Martinez singled with one out in the seventh. Blake, who had an RBI single in the third, went to a full count before pulling his homer into the seats in left.
Blake’s 17 homers match his total from last season.
He also made a nice defensive play in the eighth, grabbing a deflection off Betancourt to throw out Dmitri Young on a close play at first.
Young argued vehemently with first-base umpire Sam Holbrook, who needed Trammell and Tigers coach Mick Kelleher to keep Young off him.
Guillen’s two-run homer, his 17th, gave the Tigers a 4-2 lead in the sixth.
Smith led off with a single and Guillen jumped on Elarton’s first pitch, driving it into the lower seats in right. Elarton has given up 18 homers— eight with Colorado before he was picked up by Cleveland on June 12.
The Indians closed within 4-3 in the sixth on two singles and a pair of walks by starter Nate Robertson.
Elarton gave up some hard outs, but retired the Tigers 1-2-3 in each of the first three innings before Detroit tied it 2-2 in the fourth on Smith’s homer on Young’s sacrifice fly.
Blake’s two-out RBI single made it 2-0 in the third.
Elarton’s 17-start winless streak wasn’t as bad as Matt Keough’s slide. Keough went his first 23 starts before getting a win in 1979 for Oakland. … A stiff neck kept Indians DH Travis Hafner out of the starting lineup for the second straight game. Coco Crisp DH’d for the third time this season. … Indians SS Omar Vizquel moved into a tie for seventh place with Ken Keltner on the club’s career hits list with 1,561. … The Indians are 8-0 when Wickman pitches.