Tribe bats get back on track
Offensive slump halted with nine-run outburst in KC
KANSAS CITY -- After weeks of different lineup permutations and combinations brought little success, manager Eric Wedge found a new solution on Saturday night.
Wedge resorted back to his usual 2006 and early 2007 lineup, an order that created one of the elite offenses in the American League. That lineup scored seven runs in the first two innings off Kyle Davies, and helped the Indians win, 9-4, over the Royals at Kauffman Stadium.
"It was good to see them come out and put up the types of at-bats and hit the ball the way they did," manager Eric Wedge said. "Our guys up top led us, and the guys at the bottom of the order did a great job, as well."
Coupled with Detroit's loss to the Yankees, the Indians took a 2 1/2-game lead in the AL Central. The revamped lineup led the way.
Grady Sizemore returned to his usual leadoff spot. Travis Hafner went back to hitting third and Victor Martinez batted fourth. Kenny Lofton, the leadoff hitter in eight of the past nine games, batted seventh for the first time since Aug. 3.
Cleveland, which ranked 13th in the American League in second half runs, resembled the same team that pounded pitching staffs over the last year and a half. The Indians collected 17 hits, their highest output since May 30, and the nine runs marked the second-highest run total since July 27.
Sizemore, Hafner and Martinez -- the three offensive leaders -- collectively batted 6-for-13, with two homers, three doubles, four RBIs and six runs scored.
Lofton surpassed another career milestone and fashioned his second three-hit game in his third tour with the Indians. He also finished with two doubles and two runs scored.
Franklin Gutierrez, Casey Blake, Asdrubal Cabrera and Jhonny Peralta also enjoyed multi-hit games. Every player except Ryan Garko collected at least one hit. The offensive onslaught enabled Aaron Laffey, recalled from Triple-A Buffalo, to cruise to his second Major League win.
"It's about our lineup," Wedge said. "One through nine. It's about what's best for us to go out there and score as many runs as [we] can. ... I think the lineup that you saw out there today was probably the most successful for us over the past year and a half than any other lineup."
With help from a little smoke, the hits started immediately. Sizemore, who had been shuffled between the leadoff spot and the No. 3 hole in recent contests, led off the game with a curling liner to right field. Emil Brown probably could have made the catch under normal conditions.
However, smoke from the pregame fireworks display still wafted over the field and partially blocked Brown's view. Brown had a late break on the ball, and Sizemore cruised into second with a double.
"I didn't see it at all," Brown said. "It wasn't the sun and it wasn't the seats. I just didn't see it all. If it'd come right at me, it'd hit me right in the face."
Cabrera hit an RBI single, but was thrown out trying to advance to third base. However, Hafner followed with a walk and Martinez laced a double to right. Brown had trouble corralling the carom, and Hafner scored easily.
"It's always good to go out and score some runs and get some hits," Lofton said. That's what it's about. We had been hitting the ball hard, but just right at people. Today, we got some balls to fall."
Cleveland scored two more in the second on solo homers by Sizemore and Martinez. The blast was just the second Martinez has hit since July 17. It marked just the third time this month Cleveland enjoyed a multi-homer game. The seven extra-base hits -- including five doubles -- were its most in the second half.
"We are talking about approach and consistency, and putting ourselves in a position where we can create opportunities, and take advantage of them," Wedge said.
Laffey certainly took advantage. The left-hander made his third Major League start and improved on his two previous performances. His right wrist absorbed a liner in the second, but Laffey remained in the game.
He eventually worked a career-best six innings and tossed his first career quality start. Using a fastball and changeup effectively, Laffey induced 14 ground ball outs and didn't allow a single fly ball out.
"I threw the sinker, and [was] throwing the changeup behind the sinker at different speeds," Laffey said. "They both kind of had a late, down action to them, so that really helps. We bust[ed] guys in and then we went away, and we got guys to pound it into the ground."
And the revamped lineup took care of the rest.
Conor Nicholl is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.