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04/18/10 5:45 PM ET
Choo grand as Tribe completes sweep
Outfielder hits slam, drives in five to cap big weekend
By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com
CLEVELAND -- Ah, Choo. What more could the fans in attendance at Progressive Field the past few days do but bask in the beauty of all that Shin-Soo Choo did to help guide the Tribe to a four-game winning streak? On Sunday, Choo capped a heroic homestand by contributing five RBIs, including the second grand slam of his career, to a 7-4 victory over the White Sox that got his Indians back to .500. It was the third game-changing hit for Choo in the Indians' four-game winning streak. "Choo," said manager Manny Acta, "was a one-man wrecking crew." The stats bear that out. Over the past seven games, six of which came at home, Choo batted .545 (12-for-22) with four homers and 12 RBIs. "I feel like I played this way in Spring Training," Choo said. "I didn't put pressure on myself [in the spring]. The first three or four games, I put pressure on myself. But I talked to some guys and the hitting coach [Jon Nunnally], and they told me not to worry too much. I'm trying to see the ball and hit the ball." And thanks to Choo's hits on this day, starter Fausto Carmona didn't have much to worry about, either. Carmona went six effective innings to notch his second win of the season. He cruised through the game's first four innings before running into some trouble in the fifth. But by then, he had quite a cushion to work with. In the first inning, Choo sparked a three-run outburst against Gavin Floyd by lining a single to right with two on, scoring Asdrubal Cabrera. Mark Grudzielanek, filling in for Travis Hafner at the designated-hitter spot, came up with the bases loaded and ripped a two-run single to right to make it 3-0. Those were the veteran Grudzielanek's first RBIs in the big leagues since July 29, 2008, as he didn't play at this level last year. But the biggest hit was yet to come, as Choo took his performance to another level in the second. The Indians loaded the bases with none out, and Choo smacked Floyd's 1-0 slider into the seats in right-center field to make it 7-0. It was his first grand slam since Aug. 3, 2006, and it was a big one. "I wasn't looking for a slider," Choo said. "I was just trying to see the ball and put a good swing on it." When he did, he sent some good vibes into the dugout. "I was very happy," Carmona said. Carmona wasn't as happy in the Sox's three-run fifth, when he gave up, in succession, a one-out single to Alex Rios, a single to Mark Teahen, an RBI double to Omar Vizquel, an RBI single to Alexei Ramirez and a run-scoring fielder's choice to Juan Pierre. Carmona then issued his first walk of the afternoon to Gordon Beckham and really seemed to be teetering. But he got Mark Kotsay to ground out to end the inning and get back on track. He went on to post a scoreless sixth. The key for Carmona was issuing 19 first-pitch strikes. "When you throw a first-pitch strike," he said, "it makes it more easy to throw the next pitch." Carmona is pitching well. In his first three starts of the season, he has gone at least six innings each time. He had some notable control issues in his first two starts, but the damage off him has been limited to eight runs on 12 hits in 20 innings. "That's very important for us," Acta said of Carmona's performance thus far. "You don't want to rely on the back end of your rotation. Carmona and [Jake] Westbrook are the key. And the fact that Fausto doesn't believe he's going to get beat by guys swinging the bat gives us a lift." With Carmona out of the picture after six, Acta needed a lift from his relatively well-rested bullpen. Rafael Perez was summoned in the seventh after a week off and let the only two batters he faced reach base, but Aaron Laffey and Joe Smith picked him up. In the ninth, Tony Sipp was asked to finish the Sox off with the Indians holding a 7-3 lead. But the struggling Sipp gave up a pair of singles and was saved by Choo's diving catch of a Beckham liner. Closer Chris Perez came on to mop up the potential mess and get the last two outs, one of which was a Carlos Quentin sac fly. "We're playing good baseball," Chris Perez said. "We're finding ways to win. That's the sign of a good team. I'm not saying we're a good team yet, but we're getting there. This was a big sweep for us." Acta, obviously, agreed. The Indians were really reeling when they dropped the first two games of this homestand to the Rangers to fall to 2-6. But Choo's three-run homer in the eighth inning of Thursday's 3-2 win over Texas was a boost that the Tribe has been riding since. "I felt it was important we come home and play good baseball, because we're heading on the road to face three teams [the Twins, A's and Angels] that are playing well," Acta said. "It was extremely important for us to play this way at home." And on this homestand, nobody played better than Choo. "I like to help the team," he said. "Four-game winning streak. That's what I want."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.