CLEVELAND - Dave Burba was so happy to get his 100th major league victory last night, he kissed shortstop Omar Vizquel.
Vizquel's solo homer in the seventh inning - his first since Aug. 27 of last year - put Burba and Cleveland on top, and the Indians went on to post their ninth straight victory, beating the Kansas City Royals 8-4 before 31,537 fans at Jacobs Field.
Shortly after Vizquel socked a 3-2 pitch from Royals reliever Tony Cogan into the seats in left-center field, he was greeted by his teammates near the top step of the dugout.
That's when Burba planted a wet one on Vizquel's right cheek.
“I was pretty excited,” Burba said, blushing.
Burba (5-1) won his fifth consecutive start and is 2-0 against the Royals this season. He allowed four runs and five hits in the first inning last night before settling down to retire 18 of the final 19 batters he faced.
Burba, a 34-year-old right-hander, allowed eight hits in seven innings while striking out seven and walking one. He improved to 10-1 in his past 14 starts dating to Aug. 30 of last year.
“I don't think Dave had what I would call his best stuff tonight, but he had pretty good stuff,” Indians manager Charlie Manuel said. “Once he got it going, he battled like he usually does.
“Early in the game, he was a hitter or two from coming out of the game.”
Burba, a 1992 Ohio State graduate, has pitched into the seventh inning in five of his seven starts. And he is 3-0 at home this year.
But Burba struggled mightily in the first inning last night. Kansas City's Mike Sweeney, Dee Brown and Luis Alicea sandwiched RBI singles around Jermaine Dye's fielder's choice, which also chased home a run.
“The first inning was really weird,” said Burba, one of just six major league pitchers to win 15 or more games the past three seasons. “I don't know what it is about the first inning this year, but I've had my share of problems. I struggled again in the second inning, but I told myself to settle down.
“I just wanted to keep battling and hang in there. I knew if I gave us a chance to score some runs, we'd do it.”
The Indians rebounded in the bottom of the first as Juan Gonzalez belted a three-run homer on a 1-1 pitch from Kansas City right-hander Mac Suzuki.
It was Gonzalez's 10th homer of the season, and his 19th in 45 career games at Jacobs Field.
Cleveland tied the game in the second at 4 when Alicea threw wildly to first base while trying to complete a double play.
The error allowed Einar Diaz to score from third.
The score stayed that way until the seventh, when Vizquel's round-tripper gave the Tribe the lead for good at 5-4.
“Omar's homer was a funny thing,” Manuel said. “He was kind of down in the dugout because he hadn't been playing that good. I told him it only takes one swing to hit a homer and be a hero. He just laughed at me.
“But after he hit the home run, he was happy as heck.”
Said Vizquel: “I was just happy to get a ball I could drive out of the park. And I was looking to get some revenge for some bad plays I made earlier in the game.”
Jim Thome followed up Vizquel's homer in the seventh with a three-run blast to center that measured 474 feet. It was Thome's fourth homer of the season, and came off Doug Henry.
Thome also passed Manny Ramirez and moved into second place on the team's all-time home run list with 237.
“That was some blast by Jim,” Burba said. “That was a nice capper to a strange night.”
The Indians are now 18-4 in their past 22 games after starting the season 3-5. And they have won nine in a row for the first time since 1995.
The Tribe, 4-0 against Kansas City this year, is also 12 games above .500 at 21-9. Cleveland didn't reach that level last year until Sept. 4.
“Things are going our way right now, they really are,” Manuel said. “We're playing good fundamental baseball. We'll try to keep it going during this home stand. There's no reason why we shouldn't.”
NO PROBLEMS SO FAR: Travis Fryman began his throwing program last week and so far he has not suffered a setback. “He's doing his throwing and swinging a bat,” Manuel said.
Fryman has been sidelined since the outset of the season with a partially torn ligament in his right elbow. He is not expected to return to the lineup until at least the end of May.
ON SCHEDULE: Wil Cordero was given permission to leave the team to attend a child custody hearing in Puerto Rico as long as he returned by game time last night.
Cordero's plane landed at Hopkins Airport about 5:30 p.m., giving him time to get to Jacobs Field.