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Backed by bats, Carmona lifts Indians

Backed by bats, Carmona lifts Tribe

CLEVELAND -- Minutes removed from a homer that extended his career-high hitting streak, Casey Blake laughed when asked if he already had his eyes on the game's most immortal record.

"How many more [games] do I need for [Joe] DiMaggio?" Blake asked after Cleveland's 8-3 win over Kansas City on Thursday afternoon. "A lot of people are probably shaking in their boots."

Told he needed 40 more, reality apparently set in.

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"No, that's probably never going to be broken," he said.

Or at least, "not until the end of this year with Casey," chimed in clubhouse neighbor and second baseman Josh Barfield.

Yes, the clubhouse was a joyful one after an afternoon of more modest achievements lifted the Tribe past the Royals in front of 19,315 at Jacobs Field.

And why not?

Fausto Carmona returned to his brilliant form of weeks past, tossing seven innings of one-run ball in picking up his seventh win.

Behind him, Jason Michaels and Franklin Gutierrez each homered to anchor a bottom third of the order that drove in four runs and scored just as many, while Blake's eighth-inning drive into the left-field bleachers extended his hitting streak to 16 games. And the Tribe's recently silenced offense, as a whole, put up its biggest showing in six days.

But most importantly for the Indians, they won a series against Kansas City. They not only claimed the series' rubber match, in fact, but now lead the all-time series, 245-244.

Even Carmona was in a joking frame of mind following the effort.

When a reporter asked the 24-year-old right-hander if he deserved to be an All-Star, Carmona hardly needed a translator.

He laughed and shook his head: "Not even thinking about that," he said.

But he certainly pitched like one on this day.

Mixing a few more changeups than normal with his devastating sinker, Carmona was in command throughout. So in control was Carmona that just one baserunner reached second through six innings.

Even when Carmona gave up a triple and a pair of hits in the seventh inning, he calmly worked out of it.

"As he keeps going, you can see he has a really good feel for the game," manager Eric Wedge said. "Obviously, he's pitching with a lot of confidence right now."

The start was a welcome return to dominance that Carmona made look so effortless earlier this season.

Carmona hadn't exactly been struggling mightily lately. But he had allowed at least three runs in each of his last three starts. And last weekend against Detroit, Carmona was battered for five runs over six innings.

Whereas last year, this minor skid may have left him feeling the pressure, Carmona coolly stuck with what's made him so successful. He stayed under control, impressed Wedge by his "tempo" and confidently relied on his best stuff -- Carmona's sinker produced most of his 11 ground-ball outs.

"I know when to tell myself to slow down," Carmona said through first-base coach Luis Rivera. "I feel a lot more under control than last year."

And the Tribe's bats felt a lot better, too. After being shut down by a pair of unknowns in the series' first two games, Cleveland's offense exploded for five runs in the eighth.

The resurgence was best illustrated by Blake, who put up what Wedge called "maybe his best at-bat of the season."

Facing hard-throwing reliever Zack Greinke after going 0-for-3 to start his day, Blake fouled off pitch after pitch after pitch. Finally, on Greinke's 13th offering, Blake drove a fastball into the left-field bleachers.

The streak would live on.

"Maybe his best-at bat of the season," Wedge said. "It just goes to show you that these guys don't give away at-bats. They don't go down until the game's over. To finish it off this way, that's pretty good stuff."

Now just 40 more games and the real party can begin.

David Briggs is an associate reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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