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Published: Thursday, 7/29/2004

Back in the groove: Tribe wins as Elarton holds on

BY DONALD EMMONS
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

CLEVELAND - Scott Elarton never gave up hope even though the setbacks continued to pile up every time he stepped on the mound.

The Cleveland right-hander never stopped believing he deserved better than what his previous 17 starts had brought forth.

Elarton, who joined the Indians in June after starting the year with Colorado, earned his first victory of the season after Casey Blake tagged a game-deciding two-run homer in the seventh to lift Cleveland to a 5-4 win over Detroit last night before 23,213 at Jacobs Field.

Elarton (1-2) pitched seven

innings, allowing four runs on six hits while striking out five and walking one.

The win snapped an eight-game personal losing streak as he registered his first American League win.

The decision was Elarton's first victory since Sept. 19, 2003.

"I've always felt confident," he said. "But it's nice to get the monkey off my back."

He had to earn the win the hard way, giving up home runs to Jason Smith and Carlos Guillen. He was on the verge of another defeat when Guillen's two-run blast in the sixth gave the Tigers a 4-2 lead.

However, Cleveland's bats, primarily Blake's, came through for the Indians' hard-luck starter whose contract was purchased by Cleveland on June 12.

Blake, who went 3-for-4 and drove in three RBIs, connected

on a 3-2 pitch thrown by Detroit reliever Jamie Walker (1-4) for his 17th homer of the season.

"I just want to help the team," Blake said. "When you're slumping I feel like I want to do anything to help."

By taking two of three games from the Tigers, the Indians (52-50) raised their record two games over .500 for the first time this season.

The last time Cleveland owned a record of at least two games over .500 came at the end of the 2001 season when the Indians finished the season 91-71.

"Anytime you're moving in the right direction it's positive," Cleveland manager Eric Wedge said.

"I was very pleased tonight. We missed some opportunities early, but Scott [Elarton] didn't give in and they created more opportunities [later]."

Cleveland reliever Bob Wickman earned his first save of the season after closing out the ninth without allowing a hit. It was his first save since July 20, 2002.

Wickman, who missed all of the 2003 season, pitched for the second straight night after spending most of the season on the disabled list with a right elbow sprain.

"He was very impressive," said Wedge. "It was a one-run ballgame and he was real good out there.

"He's still working his way back into pitching shape, but I'm very happy with what we're seeing."

Nonetheless, it was an evening for Elarton to enjoy the most. He never quit competing even after giving up the home runs.

"He's been a pro throughout all of this," Wedge said. "He's a strong presence in the clubhouse. I like the way he handles himself on the field and off the field and he's still coming."

Matt Lawton stroked a run-scoring single off Detroit left-hander Nate Robertson to give the Indians a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Blake made it 2-0 with a base hit in the third that allowed Omar Vizquel to score.

But Detroit, which has slipped to 47-54 overall and has dropped seven of its last 10 games, would climb back.

Smith led off the fourth by connecting on a 0-1 pitch for his fourth home run of the season. The Tigers tied the score at 2-2 on a Dmitri Young sacrifice fly that allowed Carlos Guillen to score easily from third.

The score remained tied until the sixth when Guillen recorded his 17th homer of the year.

Robertson (9-5) pitched six innings, allowing three runs on nine hits. He left the game with a 4-2 lead only to end up without a decision.

NOTES: Elarton's 17-start winless streak wasn't as bad as Matt Keough's slide. Keough went his first 23 starts before getting a win in 1979 for Oakland. ... A stiff neck kept Indians designated hitter Travis Hafner out of the starting lineup for the second straight game. Coco Crisp was the designated hitter for the third time this season. ... Indians shortstop Omar Vizquel moved into a tie for seventh place with Ken Keltner on the club's career hits list with 1,561.

Contact Donald Emmons at:

demmons@theblade.com

or 419-724-6302.



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