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CLE@KC: Hafner unloads on a solo homer to right

KANSAS CITY -- The Indians made a statement with their offense over the weekend and Travis Hafner delivered the symbolic exclamation point.

In Cleveland's 13-7 victory over the Royals on Sunday, Hafner launched the most majestic of his team's four homers. Hafner's 456-foot blast to right field in the fifth inning off Luis Mendoza traveled so far that it wound up as a souvenir inside Rivals Sports Bar, which is located high above the wall. No word on whether it came down in somebody's order of chicken wings.

It was the first homer to land in the Rivals establishment since Kauffman Stadium was renovated in 2009. In short, Hafner got all of it and then some.

"I was able to stay back on an off-speed pitch and backspin it," said Hafner, who finished 3-for-4. "I think there have been some [homers] before that measured in the 470s, but that's about as good as I can hit 'em."

Shelley Duncan, Casey Kotchman and Jason Kipnis joined Hafner in the home run parade, as the Indians put up runs in bunches and applied the finishing touches on a three-game sweep. Right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez, making his return from a five-game suspension, labored through five innings, but got the win thanks to robust offensive support.

"The first three innings, it was hard to get in a good rhythm," said Jimenez, who refused to use rustiness as an excuse. "I didn't have command with my fastball."

With the Tribe leading, 10-4, Jimenez took the mound for the fifth having thrown 96 pitches. He managed to get through the fifth unscathed while throwing 16 pitches, and therefore was rewarded with his first win of the season.

"The fastball command was much better in my last two innings," Jimenez said.

Although the Indians had to ask their bullpen for heavy duty in the final two games of the series, they still managed the series sweep thanks largely to a blossoming offense. The Indians scored eight or more runs in each game, marking the first time they've accomplished that feat in the opening three road games of a season.

"It was great for us confidence-wise," Hafner said. "We feel like we have a good offense, with a bunch of guys capable of hitting 15 to 20 homers. We feel like we can keep it going from here."

The Indians batted just .179 on their five-game homestand to open the season. But they got it rolling on Friday with a seven-run first inning, and had three more innings of four or more runs as the series continued.

"Something we started last year was just worrying about having a quality at-bat," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "It's not basketball. The clock is not going to run out. The two-out rally is something we take pride in."

The Indians were down 3-0 in the third and had two out and none on when Michael Brantley hit a chopper up the middle. Royals second baseman Chris Getz ranged behind second and made a strong off-balance throw that resulted in a bang-bang play at first.

Brantley was called safe and Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer was adamant that the call was missed. Capitalizing on that opportunity, the Indians went on to score six runs.

"He was out, a hundred percent," Hosmer said. "It's a big play for us six runs later. It's a great play by Getz. It definitely caught everybody off-guard, but it's a big break for them and it hurt us big-time."

Kansas City manager Ned Yost said that regardless of the Brantley call, his club should have been able to avoid giving up a big inning.

"There are times when you get calls and times when you don't," Yost said. "If mistakes are made, you still have to cover it, and we didn't cover it."

The Indians sensed another key moment when the usually sure-handed Hosmer dropped Duncan's foul popup after a long run toward the railing. Duncan promptly made the Royals pay by depositing a three-run homer into the left-field seats.

"Certainly, you have to take advantage if you get any extra outs," Hafner said. "We swung the bats really well this series, but the key is that we've got to be consistent with it." Comments