Indians 6, Orioles 1
CLEVELAND (AP)—Soon, the Cleveland Indians could be looking at the division standings again.
Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez each hit a two-run homer off Rodrigo Lopez (12-7) for the Indians, who came in trailing wild-card pacesetter Oakland by 2 1/2 games. Cleveland (67-56), which is 11 games over .500 for the second time, is 8 1/2 games behind AL Central-leading Chicago—the closest the Indians have been since June 19.
Suddenly, a division crown that seemed impossible is at least worth talking about.
“We just want to keep plowing, man,” manager Eric Wedge said. “We just need to keep going. They know they control their own destiny.”
Lee (13-4), who has lost just once since June 1 (a span of 14 starts), allowed one run and four hits, but only two after the first inning. The left-hander hasn’t lost in his last seven starts, going 4-0.
Although the Indians have gained ground on the White Sox, Lee isn’t so sure they’re within striking distance.
“Honestly,” he said, “it’s going to be pretty hard to catch them. They are going to really have to fall apart. A more realistic goal for us is the wild card and as long as we keep winning, I think we’re in.”
The Orioles made four errors and bobbled several other balls, perhaps still feeling the effects of a 5-4 loss in 10 innings on Friday. Interim manager Sam Perlozzo wasn’t upset by his team’s shoddy effort.
“I don’t concern myself too much with the errors,” he said. “We’ve been playing good fundamentally lately. Errors are going to happen.”
In his first full season in the majors, Lee went 10-1 in the first half of 2004 before tiring and falling apart. The lefty had an 0-3 record in August but bounced back to finish 14-8—respectable, just not what it could have been.
This season, though, Lee has been steady since opening day with only a few no-decisions tarnishing an otherwise spotless resume. Last Sunday, he pitched eight shutout innings but came away with nothing in a 1-0 loss to Tampa Bay.
Lee gave up two singles and a run in the first, and then nothing until the sixth as he retired 13 of 14. The one batter who did reach, Brian Roberts, was thrown out trying to steal second.
Lee also got help from right fielder Casey Blake, who made a leaping catch at the wall in the first to rob Miguel Tejada, and third baseman Aaron Boone, who went up to snare a line drive by Javy Lopez in the seventh.
“I thought it was gone,” Lee said of Tejada’s shot. “After that, I felt like things were going to go my way.”
Hafner’s 19th homer, his first in 76 at-bats, gave the Indians a 3-1 lead in the first. It was the first homer for Cleveland’s designated hitter since he returned from the disabled list on Aug. 3, almost one month after he was struck in the face with a pitch by Chicago’s Mark Buehrle.
Grady Sizemore led off with a double and moved up one out later when Rodrigo Lopez fired a pickoff attempt into center field for an error. Jhonny Peralta followed by ripping an RBI double inside the bag at third.
Hafner, who battled headaches and dizziness following the beaning, then hit a high shot into the lower seats in right.
The Indians, who let Rodrigo Lopez off the hook by blowing other early scoring changes, finally strung some hits together in the fifth to score three runs and go up 6-1.
Peralta reached on third baseman Melvin Mora’s throwing error, and after Hafner just missed hitting his second homer of the night, Martinez connected for his 15th this season to make it 5-1.
Ben Broussard blooped a broken-bat double to right, and Aaron Boone followed with a soft RBI single.
The Orioles took a 1-0 lead in the first on Mora’s RBI single.
Indians OF Coco Crisp went 0-for-5 and stranded eight. … Lopez won his three previous starts. … Baltimore is 3-20 in its last 23 games at Jacobs Field. … Orioles 1B-DH Rafael Palmeiro sat out his fourth straight game with a sprained right ankle. Palmeiro is unlikely to play again until Tuesday, when Baltimore opens a seven-game homestand. … The start was delayed 57 minutes by rain. … Roberts set an Orioles record with 10 steals in April and has 24 this season, but only eight in his last 77 games. … Indians 2B Ronnie Belliard missed his second game in a row with a strained neck and shoulder, sustained when he crashed into an umpire on Thursday.