CLEVELAND (AP)—Indians pitcher Aaron Laffey was pleased he was able to keep the ball down during key spots. Kansas City manager Trey Hillman was upset with his team’s approach at the plate.
The result was an impressive night for Cleveland’s defense.
Grady Sizemore hit a three-run homer and the Indians turned double plays in six straight innings in an 8-7 victory over the Royals on Tuesday.
“Our defense was unbelievable,” Laffey said.
Sizemore connected in Cleveland’s four-run fourth inning as the Indians built a 6-1 lead, but it was the six double play balls that saved the day for the Tribe.
Laffey (1-0) gave up a run in the first—the only run he allowed in seven innings—and was helped by double-play grounders in the third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh. Coco Crisp bounced into an inning-ending double play in the seventh after the Royals loaded the bases.
“The double plays played big for us,” manager Eric Wedge said.
The six double plays tied a club record for the Indians and set a team mark for the Royals.
Kansas City’s big eighth inning cut it to 6-5 but Victor Martinez hit a two-run homer in the bottom half.
Laffey, who recorded his first win since July 10, began the season at Triple-A Columbus, but was called up when Scott Lewis went on the disabled list with a sore left elbow. The left-hander started against the Royals last Wednesday, allowing two runs in 5 1-3 innings.
Laffey pitched his way out of the Indians’ rotation last season and was sent to the minors on July 26, where he spent the rest of the season. He didn’t pitch in September because of a sore elbow and was beaten out by Lewis for a spot in the rotation in spring training.
“I pitch to contact, so I have to rely on my defense,” Laffey said. “It’s definitely a confidence builder that I can keep the ball on the ground and get double plays.”
Hillman took a different point of view.
“Six double plays, that’s tough to do in one game,” he said. “That’s frustrating. We didn’t make enough adjustments. We have to be more patient in those situations.”
The game was played in front of 11,408 fans, the smallest crowd in the history of Progressive Field, which opened in 1994.
Sidney Ponson (0-2) allowed six runs in 3 1-3 innings and fell to 0-8 with an 8.96 ERA in 15 career appearances against Cleveland.
One-out singles by Ben Francisco and Asdrubal Cabrera started Cleveland’s fourth-inning rally. Sizemore hit a 1-0 pitch to right for his fifth homer. Sizemore is 4-for-8 with two homers lifetime against Ponson.
Kansas City rallied in the eighth against the Indians’ beleaguered bullpen. Joe Smith started the inning, but allowed a single to pinch-hitter Brayan Pena, an RBI double to DeJesus and a walk to Billy Butler. Masa Kobayashi gave up RBI singles to Mark Teahen and Mike Jacobs before Lewis retired Alberto Callaspo on a sacrifice fly and ended the inning with Cleveland’s final double play.
The bullpen has been a problem throughout the early part of the season for the Indians, who made an adjustment after the game. Left-hander Zach Jackson, who had been their long man, was demoted and lefty Tony Sipp was called up from Triple-A Columbus. Sipp will serve as a matchup reliever in late situations.
Teahen also singled in a run in the first but the Indians tied it in the bottom half when Sizemore scored on Olivo’s passed ball.
Ponson is 0-5 in eight outings at Progressive Field.
Royals RHP Brian Bannister was called up from Triple-A Omaha to start Wednesday night. RHP Doug Waechter was placed on the disabled list with an elbow strain. … Bannister takes the rotation spot of LHP Horacio Ramirez, who was sent to the bullpen. He pitched 1 2-3 scoreless innings against Cleveland. … Travis Hafner is 5-for-8 with four walks lifetime against Ponson. … Cleveland RHP Jake Westbrook, who is attempting to come back from Tommy John surgery, threw a 60-pitch bullpen session in extended spring training Monday.