Scoreless streak ends, but Tribe wins

Streak ends, but Tribe wins

CLEVELAND -- Aaron Laffey didn't have to hear one question to know what was coming.

"You guys can find something else to write about now," he told the reporters approaching his locker.

What those reporters won't be writing about anymore is the Indians starters' streak of 44 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings pitched -- a streak that came to an end when Laffey surrendered an unearned run in the second inning against the A's on Thursday afternoon.

But that was the only run Laffey allowed in seven innings of work, and the bats backed him up in a 4-2 victory at Progressive Field that capped a sweep of the A's and an impressive seven-game homestand for the Tribe.

Consider that in the seven games, Tribe starters were 6-0 with a 0.16 ERA in 55 1/3 innings. The scoreless streak was the longest by a Major League starting staff since Jim Palmer, Mike Cuellar, Dave McNally and Ross Grimsley worked 54 straight scoreless innings for the Orioles in 1974.

As a whole, the pitching staff's ERA on the homestand was 0.70. In fact, Indians pitchers allowed a run in only four of the 64 innings that were played against the Blue Jays and A's, and only nine runs total.

How often can you expect to see such a display?

"Rarely, if ever," manager Eric Wedge said.

Laffey's reward for being part of that pitching prowess is that he's going to remain with the Indians for at least a little while longer, rather than getting shipped back to Triple-A Buffalo. The Indians need to promote Jeremy Sowers from Buffalo to make Friday's start, and Laffey was viewed as a potential victim of the axe. Instead, it will go to outfielder Jason Tyner, who was called up earlier in the week and will be designated for assignment Friday.

With a 2-2 record and 1.35 ERA in four starts, the 23-year-old Laffey has certainly earned the right to stick around, as Jake Westbrook continues to work his way back from the 15-day disabled list. And Laffey will make at least one more start -- either May 22 in Chicago or May 23 against the Rangers.

"I knew coming up that I could pitch up here and belonged up here," Laffey said. "I'm doing what I can to keep pitching well. I'm doing all the little things between starts to stay healthy and stay strong."

Laffey looked strong in this outing, though it took him some time to get settled in. After Ryan Garko's RBI double off Greg Smith put the Indians up in the first, Laffey coughed up the 1-0 lead in the second.

With two on and one out, Rob Bowen hit a little dribbler in front of the box that Laffey quickly fielded and tossed into right field. The errant throw allowed Bobby Crosby to score from second.

The streak was over.

"I can deal with giving up a base hit and giving up a run," Laffey said. "When it's an error like that, it's kind of disappointing, especially to break a streak like that. I picked up the ball and kind of rushed it. I had a lot more time than I thought I did."

But the Indians had a lot more time to recover from the unearned run and break the 1-1 tie.

In the third, the Tribe went back ahead on RBI singles from Ben Francisco and Travis Hafner. And in the seventh, Jhonny Peralta provided further separation with his leadoff solo shot off reliever Santiago Casilla.

On the whole, Wedge was pleased with what he saw from the bats in this one.

"Pitching led the way here, and we're still waiting for the bats to come around," he said. "But they're definitely showing signs. Hafner's starting to creep forward and other guys are, too."

The real accolades, of course, are reserved for the pitchers, and Laffey, who settled down after the second, deserved his share. In seven innings, he allowed just that unearned run on five hits with a walk and six strikeouts.

"Early on, it was kind of a struggle for me," he said. "Everything was up in the zone. After the third inning, I sort of got in a groove and started to hit my spots. I just focused on every pitch, trying to repeat my delivery and hit my spots."

Closer Rafael Betancourt wasn't nearly as effective at hitting his spots in the ninth, as he let the A's load the bases on Jack Cust's single and consecutive walks from Crosby and Jack Hannahan. But Wedge wasted no time turning to Masa Kobayashi, who let one run across on a wild pitch but got the last two outs for his second big-league save.

With that, the Indians capped a homestand in which the pitching reigned supreme.

"When you talk about five guys doing it day in and day out, that's pretty impressive," Laffey said. "It's been an incredible week for starting pitching for us."

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.