With win over Sox, Tribe looks solid
Struggling Indians impress in all facets in series opener
CLEVELAND -- The energy was back. The fire was back. And the Indians were back in the win column Monday night at Progressive Field.One day after team leader Victor Martinez said the club was lacking energy and fire, and hours after manager Eric Wedge acknowledged the increasing speculation over his job security, the Indians delivered a much-needed 9-4 victory over the White Sox in the opener of a three-game set. The offense went to work early and often against Gavin Floyd. Carl Pavano turned in a start that was much more effective than his final line (four runs on 10 hits over 6 1/3 innings) would indicate. And Mark DeRosa made a stellar defensive play that kept the White Sox from making a game of it. If you're an Indians fan, it was a night that probably left you saying, "Who are these guys, and can they please come back for more?" "It felt like a real baseball game for once," DeRosa said. "To go out and play like we're capable of was good to see." The Indians haven't seen many games like this in '09 and particularly of late. They had lost four in a row and eight of 11 coming in and had sunk to the dubious distinction of having one of the worst records in all of baseball. But the Indians and Wedge have long insisted they are better than their record indicates. And for one night, at least, they proved it. "That's what we're talking about," Wedge said. "That's the type of baseball we need to see." They saw it immediately in this one. An offense that labored all weekend in a three-game sweep at the hands of the Tigers came to life with two runs in the first. Grady Sizemore got it going with a leadoff single, Asdrubal Cabrera drew a walk, and Shin-Soo Choo's single and DeRosa's double each scored a run. It was the first time the Tribe scored in the first inning since April 29, a span of 10 games. But the Indians weren't done. They added four more off Floyd in the fourth, with Choo again coming through in the clutch with a two-run single and Jhonny Peralta adding a two-run single. Peralta would also strike with an RBI single in the Tribe's three-run sixth off Floyd and the Chicago 'pen, and he finished with three hits for the second successive day after a two-game benching. "I feel better," Peralta said. "With two days off, I tried to work to go inside the pitch and hit to right field, and it helped." All this offense certainly helped Pavano, who effortlessly worked four scoreless before giving up a pair in the fifth. The damage would have been worse had DeRosa not made a beautiful diving snag of a hard-hit grounder by Alexei Ramirez for the inning's second out. One run scored on the groundout, but it surely would have been a two-run double if not for DeRosa's play. "[Ramirez] likes to stand in the front of the box, and I cheated him down the line," DeRosa said. "I'd rather give up a single [to my left] than a ball in the corner." Pavano would probably agree with that rationale. And on this night, he enjoyed having DeRosa's play and the offensive heroics working in his favor. "I can't complain," Pavano said. "They were swinging the bats, getting guys on and driving guys in. It was fun to watch." But Pavano admitted he pitched a little too aggressively with the early 6-0 lead, and that helped lead to the Sox's two runs in the fifth and two in the seventh inning, which he did not complete. The Sox notched four straight hits off him in that seventh before Aaron Laffey took over and kept the game from getting interesting. "This is a game I need to go deeper in," Pavano said. "I could have been smarter with some pitches. I was more aggressive than I should have been." Still, Pavano pitched well enough to keep the Indians ahead, and that's all that was asked of him. The offense staked him to an early lead and kept adding on, and that's all that was asked of it. The defensive play, highlighted by DeRosa's stab, was solid. And the bullpen's effort, led by Laffey and finished off by Rafael Betancourt, was refreshingly uncomplicated. It was a win in all facets and a win on the board. "Any win right now is big," DeRosa said. Indeed, the Indians still have a lot of ground to make up, and they've only won successive games one time this season, way back on April 15 and 16. So while this win was nice, a pair would be real progress. "We don't need to talk about it," Wedge said. "We just need to do it."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.