CLEVELAND (AP)—After completing a three-game sweep of Kansas City, the Cleveland Indians promised to maintain a calm demeanor when they start a key series Monday in Chicago.
“Why change anything now?” outfielder Coco Crisp said after getting three hits in Sunday’s 11-0 rout of the Royals. “We want to win every game, not just three in Chicago. But we’re not going to get all worried about it.”
The Indians headed to Chicago with a 1 1/2 -game lead over New York in the AL wild-card race and are 3 1/2 games back of the White Sox in the AL Central.
Aaron Boone, who had two hits and made two stellar plays at third base, said the Indians are determined despite a laid back appearance.
“We realize there is more at stake, but I promise you we’ll go there with the same attitude,” said Boone. “That’s just the way this team is.”
Cleveland has won five straight and 12 of 13, and the Indians are a major-league best 33-11 since July 31. Chicago held a 15-game lead on Aug. 1.
“This is fun,” Indians manager Eric Wedge said. “I love to watch these guys play, how they go out and compete day after day. They’ve earned the right to be where they are.”
Sabathia (14-10) struck out eight and walked none, improving to 8-1 with a 1.99 ERA since Aug. 5. Fernando Cabrera struck out two in a perfect ninth.
“This is exciting,” Sabathia said. “But the pressure is on the other guys. We have no sense of urgency. We don’t have to do anything—except go out and keep playing like we have been.”
Sabathia said the club’s calmness stems from Wedge and the 2004 season, when Cleveland got within one game of the division lead on Aug. 15 and then lost nine of 10.
“I thought we’d be in this spot last year,” Sabathia said. “But we got a little too high and then way too low. Now, everybody believes in one another. That’s a little bit from Wedge, a little bit from what we’ve learned.”
Royals starter Jose Lima (5-16) likes Cleveland’s chances, too, after giving up eight runs and nine hits over four innings.
“They want to show the world they can do it,” he said. “They’re a great ballclub. They do it all. The Indians are for real. It’s going to be tough to beat them now.”
Lima lost for the eighth time in nine starts. He has allowed 30 homers in 30 games and matched his career high in losses, set when he went 7-16 for Houston in 2000.
Kansas City dropped to 48-99, the worst record in the majors, and is on the verge of losing 100 games for second straight season and third time in franchise history.
“This year has been like a nightmare,” Lima said. “It’s been real tough, every start hurts.”
Hafner’s two-run homer put the Indians ahead with two outs in the first, and Peralta’s three-run homer capped a six-run fourth that made it 8-0. Broussard added a two-run homer in the seventh off Chris Demaria.
Kansas City put two runners on at the same time only once. After Emil Brown hit a one-out single in the seventh and Justin Huber beat out a two-out dribbler in front of the plate, Sabathia retired Matthew Diaz on a lineout.
Diaz had two hits for Kansas City, while Broussard and joined Crisp with three of Cleveland’s 16 hits.
Boone took a hit away from Huber with a diving stop in the fifth and retired leadoff hitter Chip Ambres in the sixth with a nifty short-hop scoop and throw that brought fans to their feet.
Rookie Franklin Gutierrez, in the game as a defensive replacement, tracked down a ball hit to the warning track in center by Ambres to close the eighth.
Indians 2B Ronnie Belliard missed his third straight game with a strained abdominal muscle. … Cleveland has 46 homers in its last 25 games. … Broussard has six homers in his last 17 games. … Crisp is hitting .413 (26-for-63) with four homers and 12 RBIs in September. … C-1B Ryan Garko, who hit .303 at Triple-A Buffalo, struck out in his major league debut as a pinch hitter in the eighth for Cleveland. … Diaz has hit .429 (6-for-14) since being recalled by the Royals from Triple-A Omaha.