Indians 5, Reds 3

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CLEVELAND (AP)—Kelly Shoppach took a chance with a risky throw, and helped the Cleveland Indians match the best home start in their 107-year history.

Shoppach made a big play by throwing out Cincinnati’s Ryan Freel trying to steal third base in the eighth inning, and Paul Byrd remained unbeaten at Jacobs Field as the Indians beat the Reds 5-3 on Sunday.

“It was one of those do-or-die plays,” Cleveland’s catcher said. “I was a little lucky, I guess.”

The daring throw—which Shoppach later second-guessed despite the favorable outcome—soothed Byrd’s uneasiness and got Reds manager Jerry Narron ejected for the first time this season.

“Shoppach’s throw changed the game,” said Byrd (4-1). “I had a bad feeling until that happened.”

The Indians’ 16-4 home start tied the mark set by the 1995 club, which went 54-18 at home on the way to Cleveland’s first World Series appearance in 41 years.

Byrd, who improved to 4-0 at home, allowed three runs and nine hits over seven-plus innings. He left with a 5-2 lead after consecutive singles by Chad Moeller, Ryan Freel and Norris Hopper loaded the bases in the eighth.

Ken Griffey Jr. then hit a sacrifice fly to center off reliever Aaron Fultz, scoring Moeller to make it 5-3.

On the first pitch from reliever Rafael Betancourt, Freel took off and Shoppach came up firing—putting the ball right on the bag, where third baseman Casey Blake made a diving stop to keep it from getting past.

“Actually, I never had to tag him,” Blake said. “The ball was right there and he slid into it.”

Narron and Reds third-base coach Mark Berry weren’t as sure.

“Mark had the best angle and he sure didn’t think he was out,” Narron said. “The umpire (Gary Darling) was behind the play. He called it the way he saw it, but that’s not the way we saw it.”

Shoppach questioned his own decision to get Freel, who in the third inning was picked off second base by Byrd. The catcher said he considered another pickoff, but didn’t get the chance as Freel took off.

“It was a scary play,” Shoppach said. “I really shouldn’t have thrown it, but it worked out good.”

Betancourt then struck out Brandon Phillips to end the threat.

Joe Borowski worked the ninth for his 13th save in 15 tries.

Actually, Cleveland is 14-3 at the Jake and 2-1 at Milwaukee’s Miller Park. An April series was moved there because of cold weather.

“We haven’t played at home as much and I think the guys appreciate being here,” manager Eric Wedge said. “The fans have really been great despite the weather.”

Jhonny Peralta hit his 10th homer to start Cleveland’s four-run fourth against Aaron Harang (5-2). The Indians’ first six batters in the inning reached safely. Peralta’s ninth homer in his last 23 games tied it 2-2, then Josh Barfield had a two-run double and scored on a single by Shoppach to make it 5-2.

Phillips extended his career-high hitting streak to 22 games with a second-inning homer for Cincinnati, but Reds rookie outfielder Josh Hamilton was not with the team.

Hamilton, who has made an inspirational comeback from drug and alcohol abuse, was sent to Cincinnati to be examined by Reds doctors. He had been treated and released at Lutheran Hospital Saturday for a stomach ailment.

The Reds have lost nine of their last 11 road games and 13 of 17 overall.

Phillips led off the Reds’ second with his eighth homer. A sacrifice fly by Juan Castro later in the inning made it 2-0.

Cleveland cut it to 2-1 in the third on an RBI groundout by Blake.

Harang allowed five runs and nine hits over five innings—the sixth time in 10 starts this season that the right-hander allowed five runs. He was activated from the bereavement list to make the start. He had been in San Diego with his ailing grandfather.

Notes

Indians CF Grady Sizemore was caught stealing second in the fourth after opening the season 15-for-15. … Peralta didn’t hit his 10th homer last season until July 31, in Cleveland’s 88th game. … Byrd is 4-1 in 14 career appearances against Cincinnati. … The crowd of 32,524 put the weekend total at 102,016, the most to see a three-game series in Cleveland between Ohio’s intrastate rivals since 127,512 attended in 2001. … Byrd has not allowed a walk in his last 30 2-3 innings.

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