Laffey, homers power Tribe to victory

Laffey, homers power Tribe to victory

CLEVELAND -- The Indians finally had a starter reach the seventh inning Tuesday.

Now, maybe they'll have to ask the members of their rotation to go eight.

An 8-7 victory over the Royals in front of a small crowd at Progressive Field upped the stock of Aaron Laffey, who induced five double plays and worked seven strong innings, and included another strong showing from the offense, which was keyed by a three-run homer from Grady Sizemore and a late two-run shot from Victor Martinez.

But it didn't inspire any more confidence in the bullpen, which nearly coughed up the 6-1 lead Laffey left behind in the eighth.

In short, the Indians won, but they had to hold on for dear life to do so.

"Right now, we're fighting through it, no doubt about it," manager Eric Wedge said. "We've got guys down there working to try to figure it out and take advantage of opportunities."

When it comes to taking advantage of an opportunity, no one's done a better job than Laffey, who is filling in for an injured Scott Lewis. Laffey faced the Royals for the second time in six days and only improved on an already strong showing. He became the first Tribe starter to last seven innings this season, and he only allowed a run on seven hits with three walks, two strikeouts and a hit batter over that span.

The key for the sinkerball-tossing Laffey was the double-play tally. He forced a double-play ball in each inning from the third through the seventh.

"[Getting double plays] is definitely a confidence-builder," he said. "I threw quality pitches to get a double play. Five double plays is definitely a career high for me. It helped that my defense was unbelievable behind me."

His offense helped, too.

The Indians battered Royals right-hander Sidney Ponson for six runs on eight hits with four walks and two strikeouts in 3 1/3 innings. Up, 2-1, after three innings, the Indians broke the game open with a four-run fourth highlighted by Sizemore's three-run blast to right after singles from Ben Francisco and Asdrubal Cabrera.

Laffey had little trouble protecting the five-run lead. He was in danger of coughing it up when the Royals loaded the bases in his seventh and final inning of work, but he got Coco Crisp to ground into a 5-3 double play to end the inning.

"He pitched an outstanding ballgame," Wedge said of Laffey. "He was putting the ball on the ground all night. For him to get us through seven innings, especially when you saw what happened after that, was a separator for us."

What happened after Laffey left was nothing short of ugly.

With a 6-1 lead, Wedge gave right-hander Joe Smith his promised shot at facing left-handed batters. The result was that Smith gave up a leadoff double to pinch-hitter Brayan Pena and an RBI single to David DeJesus. The lone right-hander Smith faced was Billy Butler, and Smith walked him.

In came Masa Kobayashi, who entered the game with, by far, the bullpen's best ERA at 1.35. But thrust into a tight situation, Kobayashi buckled, giving up back-to-back singles to Mark Teahen and Mike Jacobs, the latter of which scored another run.

Next up was Jensen Lewis, who took the loss in two games in New York over the weekend because of his inability to keep the ball in the park. This time, with runners on the corners, he came through. Alberto Callaspo's sacrifice fly scored a run, but it was an out, nonetheless. And Miguel Olivo hit into the Royals' sixth double play, ending the inning with the Indians now clinging to a 6-5 lead. The six double plays turned by the Tribe tied a club record.

"Jensen picked us up," Wedge said. "We needed that, and he needed that, too."

As for everything that transpired before Lewis came on, Wedge's experiment with new faces in the eighth was an ill-fated one. For that, Smith took the blame.

"There's no way a five-run lead should come down to a one-run lead," Smith said.

Fortunately for the Tribe, the offense didn't let it remain a one-run lead for long. In the bottom of the eighth, Mark DeRosa drew a walk off Juan Cruz and the hot-hitting Martinez capped a four-hit night by taking Cruz deep with a two-run blast to right to make it 8-5.

"That ended up being a big home run," Wedge said.

Indeed, it did, for in the ninth, closer Kerry Wood, pitching in a save situation for just the second time this season, coughed up a two-run homer to DeJesus before getting the final out. Wood is cut some slack because of the rust he's likely accrued in being used for just 4 1/3 innings of work this season.

"It happens," Wedge said of the homer. "He was being aggressive. He's a smart guy. He knows what the situation is there. He was going right after those guys."

As for the rest of the 'pen, this victory only served to promote further concern. And in the wake of the win, the Indians promoted left-hander Tony Sipp from Triple-A Columbus to add another option to the mix.

"We're going to need all those guys down there," Wedge said. "You've got to make pitches to get people out. We feel we have some strong competitors down there, and they're going to work to get through this."

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