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09/18/10 12:50 AM ET
Triple threat: Choo's three HRs rip Royals
By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com
KANSAS CITY -- If the "luck of the Irish" somehow extends to South Koreans, then perhaps that would explain what got into Shin-Soo Choo on Friday night. Choo was, as manager Manny Acta said, a one-man wrecking crew in the Indians' 11-4 victory over the Royals during the "Halfway to St. Patrick's Day" festivities at Kauffman Stadium. Choo's career-high three homers -- including his third career grand slam -- and seven RBIs helped propel rookie Carlos Carrasco to his first Major League win, earning both men a celebratory beer shower in the visitor's clubhouse. With three blasts to two sides of the field on three distinctly different pitches, Choo became the 12th player in the Majors this year, the 31st Indians player all-time and the first Tribe player since Travis Hafner on July 20, 2004, to hit three homers in a game. "Maybe the best game of my life," Choo said. "I can't forget about this game." Carrasco won't soon forget it, either, for in his ninth big league outing he finally got that long-awaited victory. And he had not only Choo's heroics but his own quality start to thank. "Today," said Carrasco, freshly showered after his beer shower, "I feel great." Just when it appeared a pitchers' duel might be in the works between Carrasco and Kyle Davies, Choo began to light up the gigantic center-field scoreboard in the fourth. After Asdrubal Cabrera led off with a single, Choo connected on Davies' 2-0 offering and belted it out to right for his 17th homer of the season. It was vindication for Choo, who had grounded into a double play in his first at-bat and wasn't happy with his at-bats, in general, in recent weeks. With few other threats in the Tribe lineup, the opposition has been loading him up with a steady diet of breaking balls and changeups -- and Choo admitted the tactics messed with his mind. "I've not been swinging well the last two weeks," Choo said. "So many fastballs I fouled off. A lot of things were on my mind. Tonight, after the ground-ball double play, I talked to Hafner and said, 'Maybe I just see the ball and swing at it.'" When he swung on this night, the Royals felt the impact. "You don't want [their] best hitter to beat you," said Royals catcher Brayan Pena, "and he beat us." Choo wasn't the only one. After his first homer made it 2-0, the Indians weren't done in the fourth. They loaded the bases on walks by Jayson Nix, Jordan Brown and Luis Valbuena. Then, with two out, Lou Marson punched a single to left to score a pair and make it 4-0. Carrasco breezed through the first three innings, but he needed some help from his defense and a pep talk from Acta in the bottom of the fourth. Mike Aviles led off with a double and was headed home on Billy Butler's single to left. But a perfect strike from left fielder Trevor Crowe to Marson nabbed Aviles at the plate for the first out. When Wilson Betemit singled to put two on with one out, Acta headed out to the mound to talk to Carrasco. "I told him he needed to be more aggressive in the strike zone," Acta said. "He had been more aggressive when it was 0-0 than he was with the four-run lead. I told him to get back to attacking the zone." Carrasco did just that, getting Kila Ka'aihue and Pena to ground into consecutive fielder's choices to end the inning. Carrasco walked off the mound pumping his fist. He'd be pumping it again in the top of the sixth, when the Indians broke the game open. Crowe doubled to knock Davies out of the ballgame, Valbuena singled off reliever Bryan Bullington and Marson contributed his third RBI of the night with a single that scored Crowe. One out later, Cabrera was hit by a pitch to load the bases, and up stepped Choo. He took a called first strike before pummeling Bullington's 94 mph fastball 409 feet out to left-center field. It was Choo's second grand slam of the season, and it made it 9-0. This was a major change of pace for Carrasco, a victim of insufficient support in his first three starts this September. Since arriving back in the big leagues on the first of the month, Carrasco had turned in three quality starts -- including 7 1/3 innings of scoreless ball against the Twins last week -- with just three no-decisions to show for his efforts. It was evident Carrasco was in no frame of mind to give up a 9-0 advantage, though the Royals did begin to get to him in the bottom of the sixth. Aviles and Butler ripped consecutive solo shots, and Pena doubled home Betemit to make it 9-3. "The long [top of the] inning might have affected him a little bit," Acta said of Carrasco. That would be Carrasco's final inning of work, but Choo wasn't done going to work for him to nail down the win. In the eighth, reliever Greg Holland became Choo's latest victim when he left a 1-2 fastball over the middle of the plate and Choo smacked it out to right-center field for his 19th homer. "He was in the zone," Acta said. With the game in hand, all that remained to be seen was whether Choo could join the company of Rocky Colavito and just 14 others in history who have hit four homers in a single game. Alas, Choo didn't get the chance. He was on deck when Cabrera made the last out of the Tribe ninth. Still, Choo had made his presence known. "The ball was carrying tonight," Choo said. And Choo was carrying Carrasco and the Indians.