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Published: Thursday, 6/16/2011

COMMENTARY

Indians' bats emerge from long slumber

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST

DETROIT -- Indians manager Manny Acta was not too interested in a report yesterday that Ohio State and Michigan are planning to play an outdoor college hockey game at Progressive Field in Cleveland next January.

"There's no ice in the Dominican [Republic]; I can't even roller skate," Acta said.

Plus, if he wanted to experience a deep freeze, all he had to do was rub up against the wood in his team's bat rack before last night's game against the Tigers at Comerica Park.

The Tribe came in batting just .216 and with only 53 runs scored in the previous 20 games. Cleveland had scored two runs or less 14 times during that stretch. Six of those had been shutouts, including the series opener against Detroit ace Justin Verlander 24 hours earlier.

Of course, Brad Penny isn't Justin Verlander, not on any night and certainly not on this night.

Acta didn't seem to care if his team was going against Penny or Cy Young.

"We're not scoring runs," he said. "Whoever we're facing, we have to get some traffic on the basepaths."

And, finally, that's what the Indians did.

Cleveland rapped out 13 hits and managed 16 base-runners last night in a 6-4 victory.

What a difference a night made, in more ways than one, for both teams.

Verlander is pretty much a lock to get it done in 2 1/2 hours or less. On Tuesday, the time of game in his two-hitter was 2 hours, 24 minutes. Last night, give or take 30 seconds, that's what it took to play five innings, during which the pitchers combined for an astounding, and not particularly pretty, 217 pitches while allowing 18 hits and five bases on balls.

Acta could not have cared less about the aesthetics of the game. His team needed hits and runs. It needed starter Fausto Carmona, wretchedly inconsistent of late, to go at least five innings and hand the bullpen a lead.

The Tribe, bottom line, needed a win to stop the bleeding and move back into a tie with Detroit atop the AL Central.

One game doesn't end a slump, but the Indians could finally feel good about themselves after a long night's work.

Plus, Acta was getting tired of answering questions about what he might do to jump-start his anemic batting order.

"These are the guys who had a seven-game lead [starting play on May 24] and who got us where we are now," Acta said. "We're not going to blow it up just because we hit a rough patch. You can't find players at Giant Eagle. Maybe Target. Does Target have some guys?"

It won't matter, providing the Cleveland hitters can stay on target.

Last night, Orlando Cabrera, who got his 2,000th career hit earlier in the week, added three more. Shin-Soo Choo, who has been struggling from the get-go this season, had a pair of hits, as did Matt LaPorta and Lou Marson. None of the four were hitting above .242 at game time.

After a short turnaround, the two teams will be back at it this afternoon at 1:05.

The Tigers will hope to get back to their winning ways behind Max Scherzer, who has won two straight to improve to 8-2. In fact, he got to eight wins before Verlander.

"He works as hard as any pitcher I've ever had," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "He's got it down to a science. He's young, but he's a very smart guy. He's been very, very good."

Verlander? No, the Tigers' skipper was talking about Scherzer.

So it should be a good test for the Indians to find out if their bats have indeed been de-iced.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.



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