Tribe takes advantage late to top Royals
Sizemore belts tiebreaking three-run dinger in eighth inning
CLEVELAND -- The concept of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat had been lost on the Tribe before Thursday.Well, actually, the Indians were familiar with the concept, but only because they'd seen their opponent pull it off a couple times. So what made the Tribe's 5-2 matinee victory over the Royals special was that it came on a day in which virtually nothing was going right for the Indians at the plate, where Gil Meche limited them to five hits in 7 1/3 innings, and in the field, where three errors were committed. Cleveland shook all this off, capitalized on some good fortune and Grady Sizemore's three-run homer in the eighth resulted in a three-game series victory at Progressive Field. "To take that game is big," Sizemore said. "We took the series. We haven't done that yet." Yes, in addition to improving to 1-8 in games they trailed after seven innings, the Indians also notched their first series victory of the young season. And against a division foe, no less. "That means a great deal to us," manager Eric Wedge said. "That's what we needed to do." The Indians needed to wake up late in this one, because everything that transpired before the bottom of the eighth made it appear as though fate was conspiring against them. Or maybe that was just Meche, who was brilliant through seven innings. The Tribe's only run off Meche came in the second, when Shin-Soo Choo doubled and stole third, and catcher John Buck's attempt to nab him at third bounced into left field, allowing Choo to score. Ben Francisco would also double that inning, but that would be the Tribe's last baserunner until the eighth. Meche set down 16 in a row. "When he's on, he's tough to hit," Wedge said of Meche. "And he was on today." Tribe starter Anthony Reyes was a little off at times, as evidenced by his four walks allowed. But he made pitches to get himself out of trouble -- not all of which was self-inflicted. In six innings, Reyes allowed just a pair of runs on six hits with five strikeouts. The Royals got to Reyes with a run in the third. In the fifth, with two runners in scoring position and the game tied at 1, Billy Butler grounded back to the mound, and Reyes threw to first to get the out. But when Coco Crisp streaked toward home, Ryan Garko's throw to the plate was errant. It bounced in the grass and skipped away from catcher Victor Martinez, allowing Crisp to score and make it 2-1. That wasn't the only error made behind Reyes. It was just the only one that led to a run. In the fourth, Ben Francisco lost a fly ball in the sun, allowing Mike Jacobs to reach and load the bases with none out. But Reyes was unflappable, retiring the next three batters in order. "I want to pick up my teammates," Reyes said. "If they make an error, it's my job to pick them up." Reyes' teammates didn't pick him up at the plate. So when he left after six, the Tribe was trailing, 2-1. Jensen Lewis came on in relief to work two scoreless innings, preventing the Royals from tacking onto their lead in the top of the eighth, when Trevor Crowe fumbled the ball after fielding a Mark Teahen double. The Indians, then, went to bat in the eighth, still very much in the game. The only problem was that nothing that had taken place to that point inspired much confidence that they'd be able to take this game over. Or, at least, that was the view from the outside. "Just because you didn't do anything the first seven innings doesn't mean you throw in the towel," Garko said. Garko went up to bat in the eighth looking to knock Meche out of the game. His leadoff double was certainly a nice start. What followed, though, was another seemingly costly mistake. Pinch-runner Tony Graffanino advanced to third when Francisco put down a beautiful bunt toward third. But when Meche's throw to first on the play went wild, Graffanino tried to score, only to be gunned down by second baseman Alberto Callaspo, who had backed up first on the play. "Graffanino was overly aggressive there," Wedge said. "I think he thought the ball got further away than it did." The Indians weren't done, however. Travis Hafner came through with a pinch-hit single to put two on with one out, and Asdrubal Cabrera reached and Francisco scored when Callaspo booted a bouncer toward second. That was the fifth error committed between the two teams, and it was easily the most damaging. With the score now tied at 2, the Royals brought in left-handed reliever Ron Mahay to face Sizemore. "That was a big situation for our team and for me," Sizemore said. "We were struggling to score runs. I wasn't necessarily looking to hit a homer. I was just trying to get a base hit." Instead, he hit a homer. Mahay hung a slider on an 0-1 pitch, and Sizemore, in Mahay's words, "reached out and touched somebody" with a three-run shot to right. Kerry Wood then worked a perfect ninth for his third save. "They had us shut down all the way through," Wedge said of the Royals. "But our guys took it to the end there."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.