Choo helps Cleveland snap 10-game road skid
But he’s perfectly clear on how his former team, the Seattle Mariners, feel about him. In fact, he remembers the day they decided he was expendable.
“July 26, 2006, I think,” Choo said.
He’s right. July 26, 2006, was the day the Mariners traded Choo to the Indians. That made his two doubles and a home run on Saturday even sweeter in Cleveland’s 9-6 win over the Mariners, snapping the Indians’ 10-game road losing streak.
This weekend is Choo’s first trip back to Safeco Field since the trade that sent him east and brought Ben Broussard to Seattle, another of the moves by former Mariners’ general manager Bill Bavasi that didn’t bring the expected results. Choo was injured and in the minors most of last year, then underwent Tommy John surgery on his left elbow in September. Only now is Choo getting close to matching where he was when the trade happened—he was among Seattle’s top prospects.
Choo ripped a two-out, two-run homer in the first, belted an RBI ground-rule double in Cleveland’s six-run third and added another double in the eighth. His only mistake was an awkward slide into first base on an infield grounder in the fourth that sent him tumbling over the bag.
“I explained to him he never needs to do that again,” Cleveland manager Eric Wedge said.
The Indians last road win came June 21 against the Dodgers when CC Sabathia was still Cleveland’s ace, and he even added a homer that day. The 10-game skid was Cleveland’s longest road slump since 1991 when the Indians dropped 12 straight away from home.
Choo led the way on Saturday, but he certainly wasn’t alone in providing the Indians’ offense with some pop. Cleveland had 10 hits in the first five innings. Seven of those came in the third inning, including five doubles, as the Indians jumped out to a 9-1 lead and sent Seattle starter Miguel Batista packing after recording just six outs.
The eight-run advantage was a lead that even Cleveland starter Jeremy Sowers couldn’t squander, as the young lefty finally won in his 10th start with the Indians.
Sowers (1-5) got double plays to end the first and second innings with a runner at third both times, then made just one mistake thereafter when Seattle’s Raul Ibanez homered on a 3-2 pitch in the third. Ibanez hit a grand slam on Friday night and has only increased his attractiveness to hitting starved teams looking to add a left-handed bat before the trade deadline.
Otherwise, the Mariners offense was punchless against Sowers, who pitched six solid innings, giving up four runs and five hits. He struck out three and walked three.
“It could have been better, but it could have been a whole lot worse, too,” Sowers said. “Lately, I’ve been figuring out some stuff more.”
Ichiro Suzuki hit a two-out, two-run homer in the ninth for Seattle, his first extra-base hit since June 14, a span of 136 plate appearance. It was the longest streak without an extra-base hit in his career.
Choo started the season on the disabled list. He rejoined the Indians on May 30. Most days he feels around 85 or 90 percent of how he was two years ago when the trade occurred. Other days “I feel really bad.”
“Not like sore, but feel tired, uncomfortable, stiff,” he said. “But that’s normal after the surgery.”
Choo was just 4-for-34 in his last 10 games entering Saturday, but jumped on an 1-0 pitch from Batista with two outs in the first for his fourth homer. The inning was kept alive when Suzuki had Jhonny Peralta’s shot bounce out of his glove as he made a small leap to catch the liner. The play was ruled a hit and Choo then homered.
In the third, Choo added a ground-rule double on a deep fly ball to right-center that center field Willie Bloomquist said he lost in the sun on a bright, blue sky afternoon. Choo’s double was the last of three consecutive doubles by the Indians. Ben Francisco and Peralta doubled before Choo, and Franklin Gutierrez and Jamey Carroll both doubled later in the third. Cleveland had five consecutive hits during one stretch and seven hits total in the inning.
“They did a good job of stringing it together and found some gaps,” Wedge said.
Batista (4-11) may be bound for the bullpen again after another poor start. He gave up the first five hits to start the third and matched his career high with eight earned runs allowed in two-plus innings. Batista has not won as a starter since May 11 and his only win in the last two months came two weeks ago in a relief appearance against Detroit.
Both teams wore uniforms from the 1989 season as the Indians’ team notes said, “for no apparent reason.” … Indians DH Grady Sizemore walked four times, the most by any Cleveland batter this year. … Seattle RHP J.J. Putz could be activated for Sunday’s game, or he could be making another rehab appearance at Triple-A Tacoma. Manager Jim Riggleman was unsure before Saturday’s game of the plan with Putz, who has been on the DL since June 13.