braves 5, indians 4
Indians waste Blake HR, can’t solve Wickman
CLEVELAND — Shades of 1995?
Friday night’s game between Atlanta and Cleveland sort of fit the bill. It featured both ninth-inning heroics at Jacobs Field and the Braves coming out on top, as Yunel Escobar’s two-run double powered the National League team to a 5-4 interleague win.
The Indians, who lost four games to two in the ’95 World Series to the Braves, looked like they had grabbed the game by the throat when Casey Blake led off the eighth inning with a clutch home run to the Home Run Porch to put the Tribe ahead 4-3 and extend his hitting streak to 24 games at the same time.
Blake, who has hit safely in every game since May 20, equaled the streak Matt Williams put together in 1997.
“I really don’t care about that hitting streak,” Blake said. “It’s just something to talk about I guess. If we had won tonight, it might have been more fun to talk about it.”
There was little fun for the Tribe in the ninth, however, as C.C. Sabathia came up empty in an attempt to finish off his 10th win of the season. Instead, left fielder David Dellucci twice had to dive for long drives only to come up empty, the second blast giving Escobar the game-winning RBIs.
Then, to add a little insult to injury, former Tribe closer Bob Wickman struck out the side for his 12th save of the season.
“Everybody was so fired up after Casey came through with that big hit in the eighth,” said Sabathia, who dropped to 9-2 after being pulled with one out in the ninth after Escobar’s double. “That’s why this (defeat) is so disappointing.
“Tonight it was all on my shoulders and I take all the blame.”
Sabathia, who had not given up a run since May 31 against the Detroit Tigers, ran his scoreless streak to 22 innings. He has worked into the ninth inning in each of his last three starts.
“He seemed to get better as the game went on,” Indians manager Eric Wedge said. “The way he pitched in the seventh and eighth, he was the guy. That was the best he’d pitched the whole game.”
Wickman stayed true to the form he showed throughout his years with the Indians, making it interesting before finally pinning down the victory. He surrendered a single to No. 9 hitter Josh Barfield, balked Barfield to second and walked David Dellucci before striking out Blake to end the game.
“It was fairly strange facing (Wickman),” Blake said. “Wick and I were really good friends when he was here. I faced him during spring training and we had fun with it.
“That wasn’t too much fun out there tonight.”
Wickman, who entered the game to a chorus of boos from the 34,848 in attendance, pumped his arm after striking out Blake. His energy was evident as he threw fastballs with more velocity than he ever seemed to while wearing an Indians uniform.
“Yeah, I noticed that … we might want to get him a drug test,” Blake said with a laugh. “I’m sure he might have had a little more adrenaline going tonight because of the (crowd) reaction and coming back here. Why wouldn’t he?”
The Indians got on the scoreboard first thanks to an RBI single by Victor Martinez in the first inning, and an RBI single by Ryan Garko and a run-scoring fielder’s choice by Barfield in the fourth.
Sabathia was the victim of both bad luck and bad fielding decisions during the middle innings.
After Atlanta left fielder Matt Diaz singled to right to lead off the fifth, Jarrod Saltalamacchia reached with a broken-bat bloop single that fell in front of a charging Trot Nixon in right field. Chris Woodward — the Braves’ No. 9 hitter who entered the game with a .210 average — then floated a soft liner off the glove of leaping shortstop Jhonny Peralta to get the Braves their first run.
Things got worse in the sixth inning as the first four Braves batters reached safely with singles. Chipper Jones hit a solid shot to right before Andruw Jones followed Saltalamacchia’s lead with a broken-bat blooper that fell in front of Grady Sizemore.
Jeff Francour followed with a soft liner up the middle that looked like a potential double-play ball. Instead, Peralta and Barfield both slowed thinking the other would make the play and the ball rolled between them and into center field to score Chipper Jones.
Diaz followed with a bunt attempt that jumped off the bat, but fell in front of a diving Blake. The third baseman whiffed on several attempts to pick the ball up off the infield grass, and by the time he got a grasp on the ball no one was covering second or third base.
Brian McCann then hit a sacrifice fly to tie the game.
“(Sabathia) broke some bats and they fell in,” Wedge said. “When you throw hard like he does, that’s going to happen from time to time.”
Contact Shaun Bennett at 329-7137 or email@example.com.
WHO: Cleveland vs. Atlanta
TIME: 3:55 p.m.
WHERE: Jacobs Field
PITCHERS: Byrd (6-2, 4.50 ERA) vs. Smoltz (7-3, 2.83)
TV/RADIO: Channel 8; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM