Indians 6, Blue Jays 4

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CLEVELAND (AP)—Grady Sizemore’s star isn’t merely rising, but hurtling across the sky at warp speed.

Cleveland’s leadoff hitter homered, doubled twice and scored three runs to help Paul Byrd bounce back from a brutal outing, lifting the Indians over the Toronto Blue Jays 6-4 Monday night.

The perpetually hustling Sizemore, who in his second full season has emerged as one of baseball’s rising stars, leads the league with 75 extra-base hits, two more than Boston’s David Ortiz.

Sizemore also leads the league in runs (107) and doubles (46), is among the leaders in several other offensive categories. If the center fielder’s uniform isn’t dirty, then the game probably hasn’t started.

“If he’s not the best all-around player in the league, he’s near the top,” Indians manager Eric Wedge said. “He’s just a great all-around player who works as hard as anyone we have. One thing people don’t see is his mental toughness. And just the way he plays the game, and the effect it has on his teammates.

“I’ll take him over anybody.”

Ryan Garko added a pair of RBI doubles off A.J. Burnett (6-6) as the Indians, who have failed to live up to expectations following a 93-win season in 2005, improved to a major league-best 14-5 since Aug. 9.

Reed Johnson had three hits for the Blue Jays.

Byrd (9-6) didn’t make it out of the first inning of his previous start, getting banged around for nine runs—three earned—and eight hits at Kansas City on Wednesday. He escaped with a no-decision when the Indians, trailing 10-1 after the first, rallied to win 15-13.

This time, the right-hander stayed around long enough to get a cheap win, allowing three earned runs and 10 hits in five-plus innings.

Fernando Cabrera replaced Byrd in the sixth and got out of a bases-loaded jam and worked a scoreless seventh. Rafael Betancourt pitched the eighth and Tom Mastny hit a batter with two outs in the ninth before getting his fourth save in four tries since being handed the closer’s job.

“Cabrera picked me up,” Byrd said. “I didn’t deserve the win. He should have gotten it.”

Sizemore’s 20th homer—he hit 22 last year—put the Indians ahead 6-4 in the sixth. The 24-year-old, who plays all out all the time, drilled a 2-1 pitch from Burnett over the wall in center.

Six of Sizemore’s last seven hits have gone for extra bases, and his hard-nosed style has made an impression on everyone in Cleveland’s clubhouse.

“I cant say enough about Grady,” said Byrd. “Whether he goes 0-for-5 or 5-for-5, he plays the same way. He plays hard. He dives, risks injury. He signed a big contract at the beginning of this season and I don’t think it’s a secret that some guys, after they get a big contract, get a little too comfortable. Not Grady.

“The way he plays the game, you’d think he was in the last year of his contract, not the first. Everyone on our team should learn from him.”

If not for the Indians being out of contention, Sizemore, who is also a favorite among Cleveland’s female fans, would be a part of any MVP conversation.

“He’s and up-and-coming star,” said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. “I’ve seen enough of him in the last year to know that.”

Sizemore the praise in stride.

“I’m just trying to improve all the time,” Sizemore said. “There are a lot of things I could do better.”

Three doubles, two intentional walks and a sacrifice fly helped the Indians snap a 2-2 tie and score three runs in the fifth.

Sizemore led off with his second double and scored when Jason Michaels thumped a two-base hit off the left-field wall. The Blue Jays put Travis Hafner on, and one out later, Garko’s RBI double made it 4-2.

Gibbons then chose to walk Shin Soo-Choo but Jhonny Peralta followed with a sac fly, scoring Hafner.

The Blue Jays trimmed it to 5-4 while chasing Byrd in the sixth. Vernon Wells doubled, Troy Glaus singled and Lyle Overbay’s base hit made it 5-3. Gregg Zaun’s single loaded the bases and knocked out Byrd.

Cabrera came on and got Bengie Molina to hit into a double play, scoring Glaus to pull the Blue Jays within one.

Notes

Sizemore needs one triple to become the first player in Cleveland history to have two straight seasons of double digits in doubles, triples, homers and stolen bases. … Indians RHP Fausto Carmona, sent to Triple-A Buffalo to work on his mechanics following his colossal flop as a closer, will start for the Bisons on Tuesday. Carmona is scheduled to make two starts in the minors before rejoining Cleveland as a starter. He’ll likely replace rookie LHP Jeremy Sowers in the rotation. Sowers has already pitched 170 innings and the Indians don’t want to risk him breaking down. … Overbay has an AL leading 20 doubles since the All-Star break.

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