ST. LOUIS (AP)—Unlike his last start, there was no quit in C.C. Sabathia.
Eight dominant innings from the left-hander, who was battered in his last outing, helped the Cleveland Indians win consecutive games for the first time since the beginning of June and send the St. Louis Cardinals to their eighth straight loss with a 3-1 victory on Tuesday night.
“I felt like a kid throwing a baseball,” Sabathia said. “I was having fun. Just to get back out there and be pitching, it felt awesome.”
Ronnie Belliard hit a two-run homer in the first for the Indians, who clinched their first series win since taking three of four from the Chicago White Sox from May 29-June 1. On Monday, they snapped a 10-game losing streak in series openers. On Wednesday, they’ll go for a sweep of the Cardinals, whose last eight-game slide was July 4-16, 1988.
“This team, it’s not going to be down too much longer,” Cardinals starter Anthony Reyes said. “Once we get that little click, it’s going to be scary what this team’s going to be able to do.”
The Indians, who are 9-15 this month, last won consecutive games on May 31-June 1. They’re 10-3 all-time against the Cardinals, including 6-2 in St. Louis.
“The pitching is starting to settle in and we’re starting to swing the bats a little bit,” manager Eric Wedge said. “A lot of good things.”
Sabathia (6-4) allowed nine runs in 2 1-3 innings against the Cubs in his last start, the run total equaling his career worst, and had been 0-3 with a 10.24 ERA in four starts this month. He muffled the Cardinals, allowing one run and five hits with four strikeouts and no walks.
After his last outing, Sabathia apologized for briefly quitting and said “What’s inexcusable? For me not to make pitches, for me to be giving up.”
After beating the Cardinals, he said teammates understood that it was just frustration.
“You know what, those words came out of my mouth but that’s not what I meant,” he said. “Everybody in here, all my teammates, knew what I meant so it really didn’t affect me at all.”
David Eckstein had three hits and an RBI for the Cardinals, who have been outscored 67-28 during the slump, although they still lead the NL Central by 1 1/2 games. They’re 0-6 since getting Albert Pujols back from a side injury.
“It’s the same group of guys that lost one of the best players in the game for two weeks and played like heroes,” manager Tony La Russa said. “Now, we’re in a lull and can’t make anything good happen.
“The same guys who were heroes are the same guys who are going to rebound and make start making good things happen.”
Reyes, making his fifth career start and first since losing on a one-hitter to the White Sox, allowed two runs and four hits in five innings. He was trailing after the first two batters, a full-count walk to Grady Sizemore followed by Belliard’s fifth homer that put the Indians ahead 2-0.
The Cardinals cut the deficit to one in the third on Hector Luna’s leadoff double off the third base bag and Eckstein’s two-out RBI single.
Reyes (1-2) worked out of a bases loaded jam in the fifth, which was delayed 18 minutes by a brief rainstorm, getting Victor Martinez on an infield pop-up for the third out.
“I was a little shaky with command,” Reyes said. “I was just doing the best I could to put the ball in places where they couldn’t do too much damage.”
Bob Wickman got the last three outs for his 11th save in 13 chances. It came in his 744th appearance, tying him with Willie Hernandez for 50th on the career list.
Sizemore doubled in the third and is 13-for-35 (.371) during a nine-game hitting streak. He’s among the league leaders with 41 extra-base hits, by far the most by a leadoff hitter. … The Cardinals have been outhomered 22-8 over the last 11 games. They have no long balls the last four games. … The Indians are assured of only their second series win since May 23. They had been 1-8-1 since then. … Three of Reyes’ four starts have come in interleague play. He beat Kansas City earlier this season. … The last time the Cardinals lost nine in a row was in 1980 when they dropped 10 straight from May 15-25.