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09/19/10 2:21 AM ET
LaPorta's slam helps Tribe sink Royals
Big fourth inning goes long way in rain-soaked affair
By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com
KANSAS CITY -- Mother Nature did her part to interfere. But when it's the battle for fourth place in the American League Central, the game must go on. Go on it did, despite three hours and 40 minutes worth of rain delays Saturday night at Kauffman Stadium. Those delays might have outlasted the actual game action, which took 2:57, but they couldn't prevent the Indians from grabbing a 6-4 victory over the Royals on the might of Matt LaPorta's first grand slam. Played with lightning, thunder and even hail on the scene, this game was delayed four times. It started 36 minutes late, was held up for two minutes before the start of the fourth (when the grounds crew began pulling out the tarp, only to be waved off by the umpiring crew), was delayed for one hour and 23 minutes in the bottom of the fourth and was sent into a delay after the sixth that lasted 1:39. The Indians were leading, 5-4, when that fourth and final delay began, and the game was official at that point. But rather than call it, crew chief Derryl Cousins ultimately opted to wait out the storm. Play resumed at 11:39 p.m. local time, with fewer than 200 folks remaining in the stands. "We played nine innings, and nobody got hurt," manager Manny Acta said. "That's the main thing." Ultimately, though, the Indians' early offensive exploits proved to be enough. The Tribe opened the scoring in the top of the fourth against Royals starter Sean O'Sullivan. With a leadoff single, Michael Brantley extended his hitting streak to 18 games, the longest such streak by a Tribe rookie since Larry Doby in 1948. Asdrubal Cabrera followed with another single, and Shin-Soo Choo -- fresh off a three-homer, seven-RBI performance a night earlier -- grounded a single to right to score Brantley and make it 1-0. The big blow, however, was yet to come. Shelley Duncan singled with one out to load the bases, and LaPorta stepped up with two outs, in the midst of a 0-for-15 and 2-for-33 funk. That funk was no more when LaPorta connected on O'Sullivan's 2-1 sinker and sent it hurtling over the center-field wall for a grand slam, which made it 5-0. "It was nice," LaPorta said. "The guys did a good job getting on base, and it was nice to come up big for the team like that." Starter Justin Masterson was one out into the bottom of the fourth when play was halted. By the time it was resumed, Masterson's arm had grown cold. "I knew I was done after an hour [wait]," Masterson said. "I was throwing some balls to stay loose. I wanted to get back out there. I didn't have the opportunity to do that." But as a result, Masterson might have the opportunity to pitch out of the bullpen in the season's final two weeks. The Indians want to cap his innings around the 180 mark, and this shortened start has him at 176 1/3. With Masterson out of the picture, Acta turned to reliever Justin Germano when play resumed. And he found trouble in the fifth. Perhaps as retaliation for Choo getting hit by a Dusty Hughes pitch in the top of the fifth, Germano plunked Lucas May to start the bottom of the inning. Both benches were warned. One out later, Jai Miller's first career home run got the Royals on the board and made it 5-2. The inning got worse for Germano when Jarrod Dyson doubled. Mike Aviles then belted a two-run shot to left to pull the Royals within a run, 5-4. "He left a couple pitches up in the zone," Acta said of Germano, "and their guys didn't miss 'em." With the rain falling and threatening to halt play again, Germano was able to get the last two outs of the fifth without further damage and without the Royals tying the score. That was important, because the game had become officially official, with the Indians in the lead. The Indians preserved that lead in the sixth, when both teams went down in order. And with the rain continuing to fall, the game was halted again. "It was just a miserable night, with all the delays," Royals manager Ned Yost said. Surely, it seemed, the game would be called when the delay stretched toward the hour mark. "We were wondering why it wasn't called," Masterson said. The rain, however, finally let up, and play went on. The game resumed for the start of the seventh. In the top of the eighth, the Tribe manufactured an insurance run off reliever Robinson Tejeda, with Jayson Nix coming through with an RBI single to make it 6-4. "Jayson Nix's RBI was huge," Acta said. "We needed that cushion." Joe Smith, Rafael Perez and Frank Herrmann preserved the cushion, and Chris Perez closed the door in the ninth for his 21st save. "It was a long day at work," Acta said. "The rain seemed to not want to go away at all." Fortunately for Acta's Indians, who have taken the first two games of this series and built a 1 1/2-game lead in the bid for fourth place, their early lead outlasted the elements.