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CIN@CLE: Cabrera homers twice, collects five RBIs

CLEVELAND -- Asdrubal Cabrera will probably cherish what took place on Sunday for a long time. Forget the five hits and the two home runs. It was what happened before the game against the Reds that brought the biggest smile.

Inside a sun-splashed Progressive Field, a couple hours before Cleveland's emphatic 12-4 Interleague win over its in-state rivals from Cincinnati, Cabrera tossed tennis balls to his 3-year-old son, Meyer. Little Cabrera, dressed in a full Indians uniform, wiggled his bat high in the air and swung with all his might.

"I loved that moment," Cabrera said. "He loves to come to play at the ballpark and play with me. I love it, too. I try to enjoy that as much as I can."

The Tribe might consider having Meyer take batting practice more often.

Following their morning together, Cabrera went out and had a career day for the Indians, who shook off a rough two-game patch in Chicago by sweeping away the National League's Reds over this weekend. Behind Cabrera's explosive effort, Cleveland improved to 29-15 overall and 18-4 at home.

Both marks are the best in baseball.

The 18-4 record at Progressive Field matches the best start through 22 games in the franchise's 111-year history. The 2007 and 1995 clubs also stormed out of the gates with the same ledger in front of the Cleveland faithful.

"Asdrubal Cabrera was a one-man show at the plate today," Indians manager Manny Acta said.

Indeed, Cabrera helped ignite a rout for the Tribe, which has had a habit of battling through tightly-contested nail-biters for much of this season. The Indians shortstop collected a career-high five hits, launched two homers in one game for the first time and matched a personal best with five RBIs.

It was practically a perfect day for Cabrera.

"It wasn't a really perfect game today," he countered. "I made two errors."

Fortunately for the Indians, those two miscues -- one throwing and one fielding -- were mere footnotes in light of his overwhelming offensive outpouring.

Cabrera belted a two-run homer to power a four-run outburst in the first inning against Reds starter Edinson Volquez, who hit the showers before the end of the third. The shortstop then clubbed another blast in the sixth inning, mixing in singles in the second, third and seventh innings.

In the process, Cabrera became the first Indians hitter to chalk up five hits in a game since Jhonny Peralta accomplished the feat on Aug. 6, 2008. He also became the first Cleveland hitter to achieve at least five hits and five RBIs in the same game since Victor Martinez did so on July 16, 2004.

"Cabrera just took over," Acta said. "He was remarkable. He was on every pitch, including that last one. He did a great job. I don't even know how he kept it fair. He just had terrific at-bats all day. He continues to play like an All-Star for us."

That "last one" would be Cabrera's RBI single in the seventh, when the Tribe used another four spot to run to a 12-4 lead. That considerable cushion was more than ample in helping Carlos Carrasco (3-2) to the win column after logging six frames against the Reds (25-22), who had not been swept by the Indians since '04.

"They're tough at home. They're believing," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "They're playing good baseball. Am I impressed? Yeah, I'm impressed this series. You can't take nothing away from them. Whatever they needed, they got."

The Indians received three hits from Michael Brantley, who added two RBIs and scored twice. Shin-Soo Choo also drove in a pair in a 2-for-3 showing, extending his hitting streak to nine games. Jack Hannahan added an RBI double and seven players in all crossed the plate at least once.

This day, however, belonged to Cabrera.

A case could easily made that Cabrera has been the Tribe's Most Valuable Player to this point this season. Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner have missed time with injury. Choo and Carlos Santana have performed below expectations. Through it all, Cabrera has given the Indians a steady bat in the No. 2 hole.

"Cabrera being as hot as he's been," Acta said," or as consistent as he's been all season, has been huge. That's what it's all about. It has given other guys more time to contribute here and there. He's been impressive."

Overall, Cabrera has hit .302 with a team-leading nine home runs and 32 RBIs. A year ago, the shortstop managed three homers and 29 RBIs in 97 games during an injury-plagued season. Entering this year, Cabrera had only 18 home runs in 387 career at-bats in the big leagues.

The biggest difference has been health. Cabrera was noticeably hindered when he returned from a broken left forearm in July last season. After taking part in winter ball, and adding a few pounds of muscle over the offseason, Cabrera showed up feeling renewed this season.

"You could see that when this guy came back last year he was very weak," Acta said.

Another factor has been an altered approach.

After some prodding from veteran Orlando Cabrera, who was shocked by Asdrubal's displays of raw power in spring batting practice sessions, the shortstop has picked spots to try to drive the ball hard. When in hitter-friendly counts and less than two strikes, Cabrera keeps his hands low on the handle and swings hard.

His homers on Sunday came on a 1-0 and 3-1 counts, respectively.

"I don't think too much about home runs," Cabrera said. "That's not really my game. I think my high in home runs was six [in 2009]. I'm just trying to hit the ball hard depending on the situation."

The early results have been strong.

"When he gets a pitch in the right count," Acta said, "he lets it fly. So far, so good."

Good enough to merit All-Star consideration among shortstops, perhaps.

"If you're discussing it with me, he's on the top," Acta said. "Probably top five, to be nice to the rest of the guys."

Entering Sunday's game, Cabrera led all American League shortstops in home runs, hits, runs and RBIs. He has now hit safely in 12 of his last 13 games, too. Over that recent stretch, Cabrera has a .396 average with four homers and 11 RBIs.

"Orlando played with me about a week, two weeks ago," Cabrera said with a laugh. "He said, 'Hey, don't forget about the home runs.'"

Two in one game did the trick.

As for Meyer, who will turn 4 years old on Wednesday, he might have had a five-hit day at the plate, too.

"Yeah," Cabrera said. "I think he did."

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