November 22, 2014

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Westbrook helps Indians snap skid

CLEVELAND — Things returned to status quo for the Indians on Thursday.
Starting pitcher Jake Westbrook looked like himself for one of the few times this season.
Cleveland’s offense, which ranks near the top in the big leagues, generated activity for much of the game.
And the Indians, one of the majors’ best teams at home, won at Jacobs Field after entering the day with just two wins in their last nine games at their home park.
It all added up to a 5-0 victory over the Rangers, who were looking to record their first three-game sweep of the Indians in Cleveland since 1992.
“For us to be at our best, we have to do it in all areas of our ballclub,” said Indians manager Eric Wedge, whose team snapped a season-long four-game losing streak to pull within a half game of first-place Detroit, which was idle Thursday.
Wedge is fond of saying it all starts with his starting pitcher, and that was certainly the case in the series finale.
Shaking off a sticky beginning, Westbrook worked his finest outing of the season, shutting Texas out on five hits through six innings to get a long-awaited win.
“That’s kind of the way I expect myself to pitch,” said Westbrook, who pitched well his last time out, but still got the loss against Minnesota’s Johan Santana. “Early in the season, I didn’t do that. The last couple, I’ve pitched the way I’m capable of pitching.”
Westbrook, who worked his first scoreless outing of the year, won for the first time in eight starts since leaving the disabled list with an abdominal injury. It was his second win of the year with his first coming on April 27 — a day after the NFL Draft and a day before the Cavaliers traveled to Washington for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
“That’s tough, but that’s the way it goes,” said Westbrook, who walked just one and struck out five. “That’s the way this year’s going. I hope I’m able to finish strong and make something positive out of it.”
The Indians, who have struggled to score runs as of late — 10 during the four-game losing skid — and have needed homers to get the majority of them, reverted to small ball to turn things around.
Cleveland’s first run off Rangers starter Kason Gabbard came in the third and was manufactured by a walk and a sacrifice bunt. Their second in the fifth was courtesy of Grady Sizemore’s sacrifice fly. The Indians went up 3-0 after Victor Martinez was hit by a pitch, moved to second on a wild pitch and to third on a base hit from Ryan Garko before scoring on an infield single from Kenny Lofton, who beat out a grounder to short.
Cleveland did go deep for its final run of the game — a solo homer to right from Martinez — but used a sacrifice fly from Casey Blake to score its fourth.  
“When wins are tough to come by, you have to scrap for whatever you can get,” Blake said. “Whatever it takes to win games right now.”
Sizemore celebrated his 25th birthday with a big day at the plate, going 2-for-3 with a pair of RBIs. With Travis Hafner getting the day off, Sizemore filled the designated hitter role for the second time in his career.
He also played a part in the Indians’ first run in the seventh, moving Josh Barfield to third to score on Blake’s sacrifice fly.
“He stepped up,” Wedge said. “Talk about a complete game. Maybe he felt like he needed to do a little more, because he wasn’t playing center.”
The Indians hit the road for seven games against Minnesota and Chicago on the heels of a 3-7 homestand that cost them in the American League wild-card race and prevented Cleveland from gaining ground on Detroit, which has struggled as bad as their division counterpart.
Many of the Indians felt that if they had to endure their longest losing skid of the season, it came at an opportune time.
“That’s just part of the game,” Lofton said. “I’d rather have things happen (like this) during this time, than things happening in September.”
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7137 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com.