Strange day at the Jake ends with win
Indians play small ball, get strong outing from Westbrook
CLEVELAND -- Few Indians players knew it was Grady Sizemore's 25th birthday when they arrived at Jacobs Field early Thursday morning.
"No gifts, it's rough," Sizemore said with a laugh. "I didn't go around announcing it."
Well, maybe he got one present. Manager Eric Wedge informed Sizemore before the game he would be starting at designated hitter.
Omen or not, so began a day of oddities at the yard on Thursday afternoon as the Tribe snapped a four-game skid by topping the Rangers, 5-0, in front of 27,250 at Jacobs Field.
Sizemore started at DH for just the second time in his career, a brilliant Jake Westbrook won for the first time in three months, the Indians offense produced via small ball and the rainstorm of the year flooded the field moments after the final out.
Welcome to bizarro world.
And it all began with Sizemore, who went 2-for-3 with a pair of runs and a sacrifice fly.
"Talk about a complete game," Wedge said. "Maybe he felt like he needed to a little bit more because he wasn't playing center."
Sizemore wasn't a big fan of Wedge's gift. Frankly, he didn't know what to do on the bench. He rode the bike some to stay loose, but mostly, he paced anxiously around in the dugout.
Sizemore set the tone with his single to lead off the game, but also in the small-ball way he advanced to second and third.
Two of the Indians three runs against Texas' recently acquired starter Kason Gabbard, who the Tribe faced earlier this week, came on Sizemore's sacrifice fly to left field and Kenny Lofton beating out a two-out, run-scoring chopper to first base.
Josh Barfield even put down a sacrifice bunt -- in the third inning. For a team that's often relied on the long ball, it was a clear sign that Wedge was looking for a new way to spark the Indians' struggling offense.
"When wins are tough to come by," third baseman Casey Blake said, "you have to scrap for whatever you can."
Said Wedge: "You know you are going to have to scratch and claw for every run."
Little clawing was necessary with the way Westbrook pitched.
The 29-year-old right-hander turned in his second straight superb start after a disappointing first month back from the disabled list. Working with good command -- he threw 67 of his 103 pitches for strikes -- Westbrook held the Rangers scoreless on five hits while striking out five over six innings.
And after skirting trouble in a rocky first inning, Westbrook pitched as well as he has all year. Only once following the first inning did Westbrook even allow a runner past first base.
"His stuff was good," Wedge said. "He's throwing the ball the way Jake throws the ball, the way we're accustomed to. Another great day for him. It's good to see him stringing it together."
It was Westbrook's first win since April 27, a span of eight starts.
"Yeah, that's tough," Westbrook said, laughing. "But that's the way it goes. ... I feel real strong [now]. I feel real confident. That's the way I expect myself to pitch."
That, however, may have been the day's only predictable outcome.
Fittingly, torrential rains began to pummel Jacobs Field minutes after the final out, and it made for quite the scene. The entire field became submerged, the outfield featured a river flowing from left to right-field and dirt from the uncovered infield carried onto the grass to give the outfield a brown tinge.
It was quite the birthday for Sizemore.
David Briggs is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.