Indians slam Jays bullpen with loss

Indians slam Jays bullpen with loss

TORONTO -- It was deja vu all over again for Andy Marte.

For the second straight night, the Indians third baseman was at the plate with the bases loaded in the eighth inning of a tight game against the Blue Jays. Marte was again facing a hard-throwing Toronto reliever, and, just like he did on Monday, Marte swung at the first pitch.

The only difference in the two evenings was the result. Marte hit his first career grand slam, a 411-foot blast to center, to lead Cleveland to a 7-2 win over Toronto.

It was a bit of redemption for Marte, who popped out to second with the bases loaded in the eighth inning of Monday's 4-3 loss to the Jays. Marte said he regretted swinging at the first pitch against Jays closer B.J. Ryan, whom he had never faced, but he said he had batted against Tuesday's reliever, Jeremy Accardo, during Spring Training.

Clearly, the prior knowledge paid off.

"I was looking for the fastball," Marte said. "I saw the hitter before me, he was trying ... the straight fastball, and I was ready for it. I was just trying to hit the ball hard somewhere and put it in play."

Indians manager Eric Wedge was proud of how his rookie third baseman didn't let the previous night's disappointment affect him, and Wedge wasn't even upset over the fact that Marte -- again -- swung at the first pitch.

"It's a different game," Wedge said. "He's a very intelligent player. He's very aware of what he's doing out there and you saw a big difference from night to night. He hit a ball about as well as you can hit it -- squared it up and drilled it to center field. It was great for him and it was huge for us."

Marte's homer highlighted a bat-around inning for the Tribe that saw 11 Cleveland hitters combine for five hits against Accardo (1-1) and Brian Tallet. First baseman Ryan Garko got things going with a double to the right-field corner, and pinch-runner Franklin Gutierrez later scored after an infield single from Shin-Soo Choo and an RBI fielder's choice from designated hitter Casey Blake. Gutierrez's run tied the game, 2-2, and two batters later, Marte went deep.

"A lot of good things happened in that inning," Wedge said. "You look at Garko and his hustle, driving the ball the other way. Then you look at Choo's hustle at first. And Gutierrez, the way he got home on that ball that jammed Casey. It was a great read, great hustle and an even better slide. So, a lot of good things happened before Andy got into that ball."

The inning was an explosion for the Indians (66-71), who had managed only five hits in the previous seven innings against Toronto ace Roy Halladay. Before the eighth, the game was a pitchers' duel between Halladay and Cleveland starter Jeremy Sowers.

In the end, it was the Tribe rookie who came out on top against the former Cy Young Award winner. Sowers held Toronto (72-67) to two runs on five hits in seven innings to extend his undefeated streak to nine starts. Over that span, Sowers (7-3) has a 1.93 ERA, seven quality starts, and a perfect 6-0 record. His 2.39 ERA since the All-Star break is the lowest of any pitcher in the American League with over 50 innings pitched.

Sowers said he was happy with his performance, but was quick to give credit to his teammates.

"These guys around me, they're picking me up," Sowers said. "I've left the ballgame a couple of times down, and they've either tied it or gotten the lead to help me out. It's awesome to see your team pick you up after you give up a couple of runs.

"Marte needed that hit a lot, I think, to get some confidence going. He saw the first pitch and crushed it. I don't think you can hit that ball any better."

In fact, Marte is apparently confident enough that he has his eye on teammate Travis Hafner's Major League record-tying mark of six grand slams this season.

"What can I say," he said with a laugh. "I'm trying to follow Hafner. He's the man."

What a difference a day makes.

Mark Polishuk is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.