November 25, 2014

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Lofton earns a pie to the face after his winning return

INDIANS 10, TWINS 4

CLEVELAND — Nobody knows what it’s like to be a Cleveland Indian more than Kenny Lofton.
But Lofton learned what it means to be a member of the 2007 squad when he was given his first victory pie in the face during a television interview Friday night following the Indians’ 10-4 victory over the Minnesota Twins.
“He got the pie,” starting pitcher Paul Byrd said. “Trot Nixon initiated him. He didn’t even see it coming. It was one of the best of the year.”
Lofton, who the Indians acquired earlier in the day in a trade with the Texas Rangers, had an impressive debut — his third with the Tribe — going 3-for-5 with an RBI in the No. 2 spot. He also had three putouts in his first career appearance in left field.
“It was a little emotional at first,” Lofton said. “I was trying to calm myself down when I got my first at-bat and it was tough.
“I was fine after that.”
Lofton took a called third strike in his first at-bat — before which he got a rousing standing ovation and tipped his helmet to the Jacobs Field crowd — and then beat out a bunt for a hit to load the bases with no outs during the Indians’ big six-run third inning.
He singled to left field to drive home Josh Barfield in the sixth, and singled through the hole at shortstop in the seventh.
“He had a good game,” Indians manager Eric Wedge said. “The bunt-for-hit was big for us. He kept it rolling down the line and swung the bat well. I was really pleased for the Cleveland fans and for Kenny that (the fans) reacted that way.
“Obviously he’s done a lot of great things here and he’s off to a great start here for us this year.
“He was a big part of this win.”
Other parts included right fielder Nixon, who broke out of a hitting slump with a 3-for-4 performance, shortstop Jhonny Peralta, who belted a pair of home runs that accounted for half of the Indians’ runs, and Byrd, who was lights-out through six innings as the Indians built a 10-0 lead and put the game away.
The Twins got on the scoreboard in the seventh with Jason Kubel’s two-run home run, then added two more runs in the eighth after Byrd walked the bases loaded with no outs.
“We got in a groove early and we scored a bunch of runs right off the bat which really helps me relax, settle in and keep pounding the strike zone with fastballs,” Byrd said. “Overall, I’m a little frustrated because we were winning 10-0 after six and I wanted to give our bullpen the night off, but the wheels fell off again late. I have a little work to do to figure out how to get rid of that. But I’m glad we had a big cushion when I did struggle.”
The two-homer game was Peralta’s first since he hit a pair of home runs against the New York Yankees on July 4 of last season. It was only the second time this season an Indian has hit multiple home runs in a game, with Victor Martinez belting a pair on June 1 against the Tigers.
“(Peralta) really separated for us early with that three-run shot and obviously got another one later on,” Wedge said. “It’s good to see him swing the bat. He can drive the ball out of the ballpark anywhere.”
Peralta, who had gone 76 at-bats without a long ball, said he’s been working on his swing, but he may have received another kind of help to break the skid.
“Kenny Lofton is a good guy and I like the way he plays baseball,” Peralta said. “He brings me good luck, too. So hopefully he’ll bring good luck to the team.”
Lofton has certainly brought a fair amount of success to the organization during his career. He was a big part of the Indians’ success during the mid-90s through 2001, when the Indians made five postseason appearances — including the 1995 World Series — with the veteran in center field.
“I’ve always felt like I’m at home here,” Lofton said. “Even when I came to Cleveland and I was on the visiting side, I still felt a real comfort zone. Now that I’m back with the Tribe it’s an even better feeling.”
Lofton hopes the feeling continues through the remainder of the season and culminates with his first world championship. It will take him meshing with his new, younger teammates so that he can be comfortable and they can learn from his 19 years of major league experience.
His postgame “facial” was a big step in the right direction.
“It tastes pretty good actually,” Lofton said of the cream pie. “It was strawberry. I had my back turned and I’m trying to do a nice interview and it’s live. All of a sudden I see the camera guy flinch, and that made me flinch and there it was.
“I might have to get some more player of the game (awards) so I can taste some more strawberry.”
Contact Shaun Bennett at 329-7137 or sbennett@chroniclet.com.

TONIGHT
WHO: Cleveland vs. Minnesota
TIME: 7:05
WHERE: Jacobs Field
PITCHERS: Westbrook (1-6, 6.20 ERA) vs. Santana (11-8, 2.94)
TV/RADIO: SportsTime Ohio; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM

072807hug.jpgAP
The Tribe’s Jhonny Peralta gets ready to receive a hug from Victor Martinez after Peralta drilled a three-run home run off Twins starter Boof Bonser in the third inning Friday at Jacobs Field. Peralta had two homers and five RBIs.