Francisco, Blake power Tribe to victory
Outfielder hits go-ahead homer after third baseman's big night
ARLINGTON -- Casey Blake was feeling a bit nauseous Monday night."I was a little lethargic," Blake said. "My stomach was queasy." So you can only imagine how Rangers starter Doug Mathis was feeling when Blake torched him for seven early RBIs. But Blake's offensive outburst was merely the catalyst, not the clincher, in the Indians' 13-9 win over the Rangers on a typically muggy night at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. On most nights, the seven runs Blake drove in with two-run homers in the second and third innings and a three-run double in the fourth would have been plenty of support for the Tribe's pitching staff. Of course, the Texas heat is no ordinary weather, and the hitter-friendly confines of this facility often make for some unusual evenings, as starter Aaron Laffey found out. It was Laffey's shaky outing, in which he coughed up the 8-3 lead afforded him by Blake's burst, that compelled the Indians' bats to wake up from their slumber and close this one out late, with two-run blasts from Ben Francisco and David Dellucci finally putting it away. By the time the three-hour, 41-minute affair was over, manager Eric Wedge, overwhelmed by offensive fireworks rarely seen from this club, could only wipe his brow and breathe a sigh of relief. "That," Wedge said, "was a long ballgame." It began in earnest when Blake came up with Dellucci on second and none out in the second inning. All Blake was looking to do was move the runner over to third. Instead, he slapped a fly ball to right-center field that kept carrying and crept over the wall. "[Mathis] threw me a slider, I went with it, and it went into that jet stream," Blake said. "It just gives you confidence." Blake carried that confidence into the third inning, when he came up one on and two out and worked himself into a 3-0 count against Mathis. Rather than taking, Blake was hacking. He deposited Mathis' fastball over the out-of-town scoreboard in left for his second two-run blast of the night. "I figured, 'Why not be aggressive?'" Blake said. "It was a 3-0 fastball, middle in. Everyone gets amped up when it's a 3-0 count. I tried to stay as relaxed as I could." Perhaps Blake's stomach began to relax after those homers, because he looked quite comfortable against Mathis in the fifth. This time, he came up with the bases loaded and two out. He ripped a 3-2 pitch down the right-field line to bring everybody home on a double and knock Mathis out of the game. It all added up to quite a night for Blake, who has nine hits, three homers and nine RBIs in his last 24 at-bats. "Casey's been hitting the ball really well," Dellucci said. "He always gives you good at-bats. Tonight he was able to find holes." But it wasn't difficult to find holes in Laffey's performance. He did not pitch well with the five-run lead in his back pocket. In the fifth, Laffey gave up a leadoff double to Ian Kinsler, who then came around and scored on a Michael Young single. The Rangers loaded the bases on a base hit from Josh Hamilton and a Milton Bradley walk. "I went back and looked at the video of the fifth inning," Laffey said. "It looked like, on all the base hits, I didn't make a bad pitch." But Laffey did, definitively, make a bad pitch to Marlon Byrd with two out. It was a flat, first-pitch sinker that Byrd turned into a game-tying grand slam, and it was the pitch that would define Laffey's first rough start of the season. "It was just one of those days," Laffey said. "Everything came out of the box tonight." Luckily for Laffey, hits kept coming out for the Tribe as well. In the seventh, with one on and two out, the Rangers brought in Joaquin Benoit to face Francisco, and one pitch was all it took for Francisco to pound a two-run homer to left. An inning later, Benoit gave up a one-out double to Jhonny Peralta, followed immediately by Dellucci's two-run shot to center. Benoit went on to walk four batters in succession to bring home yet another run. "It was good to keep it going," Wedge said of the offense. "You could feel it. You knew we had to keep scoring." Scoring hasn't exactly been the Indians' specialty this season. But Blake set the tone early, and the rest of the bats followed suit. "I was proud of the way we kept adding on," Blake said. "It was nice to pick up the pitchers. They've been picking us up all year. This can only help our confidence. That's what this game is all about." And sometimes it's all about performing even when your stomach is upset. "Hopefully," Blake said with a smile, "I'll feel the same way tomorrow."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.