Indians offense erupts in Arlington
Steady stream of production led by Garko, Francisco
ARLINGTON -- The flags were once again flapping atop the center-field scoreboard and billboards at Rangers Ballpark on Wednesday afternoon, into the evening and late into the night."You don't even have to look at the flags, because you can hear them," manager Eric Wedge said. "And the wind never tailed off. It was as strong late as it was early." The same goes for the Indians' suddenly vociferous offense, which has taken advantage of the hitting-helpful conditions at this ballpark to take two of the first three games of this four-game series with the Rangers. Wednesday night's 15-9 win featured a steady stream of production from up and down the lineup, with the biggest contributions coming in the form of Ryan Garko's career-high six RBIs and Ben Francisco's career-high five hits. Playing in these parts has been a prescription medication, of sorts, for an Indians team that has labored at the plate all season. "It's just fun," Garko said. "It's the opposite of what we've gone through in Cleveland, where the wind is blowing straight in from right-center field and it's freezing cold." The bats have been anything but cold in this series. The Indians have scored 35 runs in the three games while batting .381 after entering the series with the lowest team batting average in the American League. In fact, this is the first time all year the club has cranked out double-digit hit totals in three straight games. The outpouring of offense was enough to eliminate any ill effects that could have been caused by a rough outing from Cliff Lee. Lee, who sizzled in April and early May but has come back down to earth a tad recently, was hoping to put up zeros, but even he knew that was an unrealistic expectation in this ballpark. "The ball definitely flies here," Lee said. "If they hit it even remotely decent, it has a good chance to go out. But it's even for both teams. It's one of those deals where we're going to score runs, they're going to score runs and it's just a matter of who's going to score the most." And so the runs began to come early. The Tribe gave Lee an early lead by posting four runs off Sidney Ponson in the second. Lee, however, gave it right back when he gave up four runs in a third inning explosion capped by Milton Bradley's two-run homer. The Indians didn't stay down for long. Grady Sizemore's solo shot in the fourth erased the 5-4 deficit, and Garko's RBI single gave the Indians the lead again. Lee gave up that lead, too, when Brandon Boggs touched him for an RBI triple in the fifth. The fifth would be Lee's last inning of work, but the Indians exploded against reliever Elizardo Ramirez in the top of the sixth to put Lee (9-1) in line for the win. Garko stepped up with the bases loaded and ripped a grounder through the middle to bring in a pair. Then David Dellucci brought everybody home with a three-run blast to right-center field to make it 11-6. "Obviously, we did a much better job with runners in scoring position," said Wedge, whose club was 8-for-13 in those situations. "But it's been a lot more consistent contact the last week or so. Now it's translating to runs. The consistency of our at-bats is starting to come along, and that's really the key to having success offensively." And the key to winning in this park against a hot-hitting Rangers team is to never stop piling on. In the seventh inning, the Indians did so against Ramirez with Victor Martinez's RBI double, a two-run single from Garko and an RBI single from Casey Blake. "Their offense is so good," Garko said of the Rangers, "that you've got to keep pouring it on." Rangers manager Ron Washington was just as complimentary toward the Tribe bats. "They may not be having a good offensive year," Washington said, "but this is only the third month of the season. There are three months to go. Those guys over there are known for swinging the bat, and tonight they did." It was a good thing they did, because the Rangers still managed to threaten this aluminum bat-type ballgame in the ninth, bringing in three runs off freshly promoted reliever Rick Bauer. Indians closer Joe Borowski was forced to get up and start warming in that inning, as a once-impossible comeback actually became plausible. "You've got to go all the way through," Wedge said of these games. The Indians made it through, and they've got their third win in six games to show for it. And if that wind keeps those flags flapping Thursday, more runs might be right around the corner.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.