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CWS@CLE: Hafner belts a two-run homer to right

CLEVELAND -- There was joy in Pronkville on Tuesday afternoon. Such is usually the case when designated hitter Travis Hafner, the man being paid to launch home runs, does precisely that.

In Game 1 of Cleveland's doubleheader with Chicago -- a showdown for second place in the American League Central -- Hafner wasted little time clearing the fence. His first-inning blast off Gavin Floyd set a powerful tone for the Tribe's 4-3 victory at Progressive Field.

"We played long ball," manager Manny Acta said.

Cleveland belted three home runs -- one each from Hafner, Asdrubal Cabrera and Kosuke Fukudome -- in the opener of the twin bill to reach the break-even mark again with a 76-76 record. The trio of blasts, which served as souvenirs for fans in the right-field seats, helped Fausto Carmona to a win after a six-inning effort.

As solid as Carmona was in his quest to defeat a White Sox club that had battered him early and often in a couple of early-season disasters, this game was defined by the homers. For Hafner, the two-run shot gave hope for a continued return to health. For Cabrera, the solo shot served as a milestone.

Cabrera's blast off Floyd to lead off the fourth inning was his 24th of the season, and it tied Jhonny Peralta's franchise record for homers in one season by a shortstop. The 24 home runs by Cabrera also mark the most in baseball history by a Venezuelan-born shortstop. Alex Gonzalez previously held that distinction, with 23 a year ago and in 2004.

"I'm really happy about that," Cabrera said with a smile.

Acta was happy, too.

"He's had a great season," Acta said. "He has struggled a little bit in the second half, but those numbers are great. I'm so happy that he was able to tie the record."

Cabrera exited the game after his final at-bat in the eighth inning after straining his back on a swing. He said it is not an oblique issue, and he was already feeling improved after receiving postgame treatment. Acta is hoping Cabrera can return to the lineup soon for a shot at breaking the team's home run record for a shortstop.

"I hope he's OK," Acta said, "and that he can have one more week to take a whack at it."

Hafner, 34, came off the disabled list on Sept. 11 after dealing with an injury to his right foot that has hindered him since late April. The final three weeks of the season were going to serve as a test, helping the team's medical staff determine if offseason surgery was necessary.

The Indians are hoping for a healthy and productive Hafner in 2012, considering he will still be under contract for $13 million.

Hafner has looked fine while running the bases and has reported no serious lingering problems. He looked fine after giving a 2-1 pitch from Floyd a ride to deep right. Of course, trotting around the bases is probably a great way to help in the healing process.

"It feels fine running, hitting, everything," Hafner said. "It feels really strong. It feels really good, so I don't see it being an issue."

Hafner's blast propelled the Indians to a two-run lead, though it proved to be short-lived when the White Sox (74-79) answered with a two-run burst against Carmona in the second. Cabrera then gave the Tribe a one-run lead with his fourth-inning shot, and Fukudome added an important insurance run with a shot off Floyd in the fifth.

"They weren't terrible pitches," said Floyd, who has surrendered a team-high 22 home runs this season. "They just kind of got the right part of the bat on the ball. So you just take it for what it is. I'm sure it could easily be fly balls. Today it wasn't."

Carmona (7-15) earned his first win in seven starts -- a winless streak that dated back to Aug. 22 -- after limiting the White Sox to three runs on seven hits during his time on the hill. This is the same Chicago team that plated 18 runs in eight innings against him over their first two meetings this year.

"Fausto did a nice job of battling the whole time," Acta said. "He had some traffic on the bases and was helped a couple of times by double plays, but you've got to give him credit. He didn't crumble in any of those situations."

And the Indians' offense took advantage of the few chances they received.

"We just got some good pitches to hit," Hafner said. "We were able to put some good swings on and hit a few home runs. Other than that, we didn't get a whole lot. We were able to hit some balls out of the park."

Which is what Pronk loves to do most.

A two-run single versus a two-run blast?

"I'll take the homer every day," he said with a grin. "If the RBIs are the same, I'll take the homer. I think everybody likes homers."

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