He hit one for the second time in three days Monday night, driving a three-run shot off Joakim Soria(notes) in the eighth inning and sending the Cleveland Indians past the hapless Kansas City Royals 10-6. Travis Hafner(notes) also had a big night for the Indians with a three-run homer and an RBI double in a 3 for 5 outing.
“I feel better, I feel good at the plate,” Valbuena said through an interpreter. “I feel like every game I start, something good is going to happen.”
Valbuena, who had a walk-off home run in a 4-3 victory over Seattle on Saturday night, hit Soria’s fastball for his eighth home run after KC took a 5-4 lead in the seventh on Yuniesky Betancourt’s(notes) sacrifice fly off Jeremy Sowers(notes).
Soria (3-2), who does not usually come in before the ninth, started the eighth and gave up singles to Jhonny Peralta(notes) and Hafner ahead of Valbuena, who started the year in Triple-A and was recalled on May 2.
“He gets big hits. He likes being up there in key situations and he’s been swinging the bat very well,” manager Eric Wedge said. “You’re seeing a young man who is continually getting better over the course of the season, continuing to get a better feel for this league and different situations, different ytpes of games.”
Soria, an All-Star closer in 2008, blew his third save in 23 chances and Kansas City lost its fifth in a row.
“I was ready,” Soria said. “It was just a bad night. I tried to hit the outside corner (on Valbuena) and the ball came down the middle.”
Hafner, only four home runs away from breaking into Cleveland’s all-time top 10, drove Gil Meche’s(notes) 3-0 pitch 403 feet over the fence for a 3-0 lead in the fourth. After the Royals took a 4-3 lead in the fifth, Hafner’s double scored Shin-Soo Choo(notes), who had tripled.
Sowers (5-9) retired the first nine batters and had faced the minimum through four innings before giving up four runs in the fifth, including two on John Buck’s(notes) double. Brayan Pena(notes) walked leading off, then Alberto Callaspo(notes) singled and Mark Teahen(notes) had an RBI single ahead of Buck. Betancourt’s sacrifice fly put the Royals on top 4-3. He gave up five runs on six hits in seven innings, walking two and striking out two.
“He had the one bad inning,” Wedge said. “Other than that, I felt like he threw the ball well. He had a hiccup, no doubt. But he was able to come back after that and I think that says a lot. Before, he would have trouble getting back on track. But he got back on track.”
Royals manager Trey Hillman said Soria was ready to come in.
“He’s the best guy in the bullpen. He’d had four days of rest. I’d do it again,” he said.
Meche went seven innings and allowed four runs for the third straight start.
NOTES: With 158 home runs, Hafner is four away from Ken Keltner for 10th in Cleveland history. … The Royals designated for assignment LHP Ron Mahay(notes) and purchased the contract of RHP Yasuhiko Yabuta(notes) from Triple-A Omaha. … Cleveland LF Matt LaPorta(notes) made a terrific play on Mitch Maier’s(notes) pop fly in the third inning, sliding on his backside to catch the ball.