Blake’s ninth-inning homer rallies Indians to 5-4 win over Royals
CLEVELAND (AP)—Casey Blake didn’t mind the pummeling or the pie.
Blake hadn’t homered in 36 games—a span of 144 at-bats since Aug. 1—when he stepped to the plate against Riske, one of his former Indians teammates. Blake wasted no time, pulling a ball over the wall in left field to help Cleveland lower its magic number to 10.
After rounding the bases, Blake was greeted at home plate by his teammates, who first pounded him on the head and then plastered him with a whipped-cream pie—an early season fad that is quickly becoming a Cleveland tradition.
“It’s cool. I just hope nobody hurt their fists punching me,” Blake joked. “You know, when you hit steel like that. It’s a good feeling. It’s been a long time since that has happened to me.”
Franklin Gutierrez hit a two-run homer in the seventh as the Indians, who haven’t been to the playoffs in six years, improved to 16-4 since Aug. 25. Cleveland also won for the 12th time this season in its final at-bat at home.
“I kind of felt it in the dugout. I knew we were going to win this game,” said Indians starter C.C. Sabathia, who struck out a career-high 13 in seven innings and got a no-decision. “I just had a feeling someone was going to get a big hit.”
Blake seemed to be an unlikely candidate with just one homer since the All-Star break.
“I’ve been working on some things,” he deadpanned. “It seems like they (homers) come in spurts and hopefully this starts another one.”
Riske (1-4) also gave up Victor Martinez’s leadoff homer in the eighth that tied it 4-4, a shot that also came on the right-hander’s first pitch.
“It was two pitches,” Riske said. “One (Martinez’s) wasn’t hit very good. The other one was hit really good.”
Riske didn’t want to Blake to be able to extend his arms, but missed his intended target.
“I was trying to throw a fastball low and away and missed completely,” he said. “He made me pay.”
Joe Borowski (4-5) pitched a scoreless ninth for Cleveland, which maintained its 5 1/2 -game lead over second-place Detroit. The Tigers, who beat Minnesota 4-2, will visit Jacobs Field for three games starting Monday.
Royals rookie Brian Bannister held the Indians to a pair of first-inning singles in six innings and outperformed Sabathia, who padded his Cy Young resume with another solid performance.
The Indians have had just one Cy Young winner, Gaylord Perry in 1972.
“I could care less about any individual honors,” Sabathia said. “I just want to win the division and pitch in the playoffs again. That’s it. That’s all I want.”
Bannister was in line for his fifth win in six starts before Kansas City’s bullpen let the Indians back in it. The Royals have lost eight of nine.
“It seems like every game we play here is like this,” manager Buddy Bell said. “We’re a pitch away or a hit away from a win. This is a tough loss.”
Trailing 4-1 after doing next to nothing against Bannister, the Indians closed within a run in the seventh on Gutierrez’s homer off reliever Joel Peralta.
Kenny Lofton singled with one out and Gutierrez drove a 1-0 pitch over the wall in left for his 12th homer. Bell brought in left-hander John Bale, who walked two before striking out Travis Hafner to preserve Kansas City’s lead.
But the Royals’ advantage vanished quickly in the eighth on Martinez’s 22nd homer. Like Blake, he connected on Riske’s first pitch, sending a towering shot toward right that barely cleared outfielder Mark Teahen’s glove and the wall.
Martinez’s seemed to carry in the wind.
“I love him to death,” Riske said of his former batterymate. “But I think he got some help.”
Sabathia had gone 10 consecutive starts without allowing more than two earned runs, the longest such stretch for an Indians pitcher since Perry in 1974.
Aside from two walks, Sabathia overpowered the Royals the first time through their lineup. He didn’t allow a hit until the fourth, when Billy Butler dropped a soft, two-out single into left-center.
But the Royals hit Sabathia hard in the fifth, scoring four runs—all with two outs—to open a 4-1 lead.
Royals DH Mike Sweeney strained his groin on a fifth-inning double and was replaced in the seventh. … Sabathia has 198 strikeouts, the most by an Indians left-hander since Sam McDowell’s 304 in 1970. … Indians GM Mark Shapiro had nothing but praise for Twins GM Terry Ryan, who announced his resignation after 13 seasons with Minnesota. “My respect for him may be greater than for any other exec in the game,” Shapiro said. “Character, integrity, work ethic, sincerity, the things that matter to me, he personifies a lot of those things. And he succeeded without compromising any of those standards or values.”