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Published: Tuesday, 4/1/2008

Indians cash in: Blake's bases-loaded hit lifts Cleveland past Sox

BY MAUREEN FULTON
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

CLEVELAND - Unlike last year, the Cleveland Indians didn't have to deal with snow in their first home game yesterday at newly renamed Progressive Field.

But like so many times last year, a game full of seesaws ended with the Indians winning in their last at-bat.

The Tribe beat the White Sox 10-8 on opening day, starting their defense of the American League Central division with a frenzy.

"The fans certainly got their money's worth today," Casey Blake said. Blake's bases-clearing double in the eighth was the difference, breaking a 7-7 tie after the Indians lost a five-run lead. Blake hit a 1-2 pitch from Octavio Dotel off the left-field wall, just missing a grand slam by a few feet but driving in three runs.

Last season, the Indians won 23 games in their final at-bat.

"Good teams, they're in position to do that, and they believe they're going to get it done," Blake said. "Especially late in the game, we had a lot of belief in ourselves to win the game."

There was nearly nonstop offense coming from one side or the other, a couple close calls that went the Indians' way, and even a little excitement from closer Joe Borowski in the ninth inning. The Indians overcame that plus an injury to their all-star catcher Victor Martinez to pull out the victory.

"We picked it up where we left off," Tribe manager Eric Wedge said.

Cleveland put up seven runs in the second inning off Mark

Buehrle to take a five-run lead, but the White Sox inched back. Jim Thome had two-run homers off C.C. Sabathia in the first and third innings, and the White Sox got another run in the sixth off Sabathia after he walked two in a row.

Jensen Lewis relieved him and struck out the next two batters to end the inning. But more trouble came in the seventh when Lewis and Rafael Perez struggled. Perez gave up a two-run double to Paul Konerko, and Rafael Betancourt relieved him.

In the eighth, Betancourt found himself in a major jam with the bases loaded and nobody out, but somehow slipped out of it. The first out came when backup catcher Kelly Shoppach tagged out Joe Crede at home on a throw from shortstop. Crede argued the call vehemently and had to be held back.

"[The tag] was very little, maybe just enough to move his jersey," Shoppach said.

The next two outs came on one play. Thome grounded to second, and Indians shortstop Jhonny Peralta had a chance for the double play, but Orlando Cabrera touched Peralta's knee on his slide. The umpire ruled intentional interference and called Thome out at first.

White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen came out to argue, but afterward told reporters he thought the umpire made the right call after seeing the replay.

The Indians started the bottom of the inning with two consecutive singles, and Blake finished it off.

"Their pitchers did a good job of coming in and shutting us down for a while, but we were persistent, we kept at it," Shoppach said. "We got some runners, and Casey came up with a big hit."

Borowski gave up a solo home run to Jermaine Dye in the top of the ninth and walked another batter, but last year's AL saves leader earned another yesterday.

The Indians hit two home runs in a seven-run second inning that ended on a sour note with Martinez injuring his hamstring trying to steal second.

Before that, Franklin Gutierrez hit a three-run shot, and Grady Sizemore had a solo homer.

Gutierrez went 3-for-3 in his first major-league opening day, and Blake said he was the player of the game. Upon hearing that, Gutierrez laughed. "He was the hero," Gutierrez said. "He was the man of the day."

Contact Maureen Fulton at:

mfulton@theblade.com

or 419-724-6160.



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