Cleveland shows character in close win
Sizemore helps keep club alive, sends Indians past Royals
KANSAS CITY -- Grady Sizemore had one thought when the Indians were down to their final strike Sunday afternoon: Just stay alive.
With a 2-2 count, Sizemore lofted a fly ball into short center field off Joakim Soria. David DeJesus ran in and tried to make a diving, game-ending catch, but he was unable to come up with the ball. Sizemore made it to second base.
"Just fighting," Indians manager Eric Wedge said of Sizemore. "That's what he is doing. That is what you have to do."
That's what Cleveland did the rest of the game. Sizemore's double led to Asdrubal Cabrera's game-tying single. Two innings later, Cleveland scored two runs on RBI singles from Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez and won, 5-3, over Kansas City at Kauffman Stadium.
The Indians, a team that isn't clicking on all cylinders, still finished 6-3 on a nine-game road trip and won all three series. They remain 2 1/2 games ahead of the Tigers in the American League Central.
"I think that is what helps you get ready for a pennant race," closer Joe Borowski said. "You have to win close games. You are not always going to be able to have blowouts all the time. You are going to be able to get games where you scratch and fight the entire game to pull them out. I think it just helps to build character in the team."
It's character that continues to yield victories. Down, 3-2, entering the ninth inning, Cleveland was on the verge of losing another low-scoring game, dropping a series to the sub-.500 Royals and losing a game in the standings.
The situation didn't look any better as Soria, Kansas City's rookie closer with a 2.54 ERA, retired the first two batters.
But Sizemore kept the game alive.
Soria threw three straight fastballs and went ahead 1-2 in the count. Sizemore fouled an offspeed pitch off and took a ball.
"I was just trying to fight it off and try and put it in play," Sizemore said. "The situation was where we were just trying to get something going."
Sizemore hit the sixth pitch of the at-bat into short center field. DeJesus was playing deep in the "no-doubles" defense and couldn't make the catch.
Sizemore, hustling all the way, finished in scoring position.
"I knew it was going to be a tough play, and if he dives and misses it, then you have to be at second base," Sizemore said.
"It changes in a minute and a half, and it's a totally different game," Wedge added. "That's why you fight to the last pitch, and Grady is every bit of that."
|"You have to fight and grind and find a way to get it done and win ballgames. That's what we are doing."|
|-- Indians manager Eric Wedge|
"He has been playing great," Pronk said. "He has been a big spark for us, and he almost looks like he has been up here a long time."
Two shutout innings from Rafael Betancourt bridged the game to the 11th. Overall, the bullpen trio of Rafael Perez, Betancourt and Borowski tossed five shutout innings and allowed just one hit in relief of Fausto Carmona.
"There were outstanding again," Wedge said.
After Betancourt shut down Kansas City in the 10th, the offense came through in the 11th against Joel Peralta and John Bale.
Franklin Gutierrez walked to lead off the inning, and Casey Blake sacrificed him to second. Bale, who had thrown three shutout innings against Cleveland on Friday, relieved Peralta and hit Sizemore with a pitch. Cabrera flied out to deep right, and Blake moved to third base.
"That's huge," Hafner said of Cabrera. "That's tough to do for anybody. He put together two good at-bats in the ninth and there in the 11th."
Hafner followed with another strong at-bat. He laced a single to center that scored Gutierrez and broke the tie. Martinez tallied an insurance run with another hit.
"You have to fight and grind and find a way to get it done and win ballgames," Wedge said. "That's what we are doing."
Borowski, one who often makes save opportunities interesting, topped off the comeback with a perfect inning for his career-best 37th save.
"Nice, dull, boring save," Borowski said with a laugh. "Those are fine, too. It's easier on everybody. ... It's definitely very satisfying, and hopefully I can add to it if we keep playing well and keep getting opportunities."
Conor Nicholl is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.