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Published: Wednesday, 6/25/2008

Vizquel, Giants squeeze Tribe

ASSOCIATED PRESS

CLEVELAND - Omar Vizquel's heart-tugging return began with a touching video tribute of some of his greatest plays. He ended it with two more.

Vizquel dropped down a suicide-squeeze bunt to drive in a run in the ninth inning and then preserved San Francisco's lead with a backhanded play in the hole during a 3-2 win over the Indians last night in the shortstop's first game in Cleveland in four years and the Giants' first visit since the 1954 World Series.

"It was unbelievable," said Vizquel, whose every move was greeted with cheers by adoring fans. "It was really emotional."

The 11-time Gold Glove winner spent 11 seasons with the Indians, who chose not to pick up his option before the 2005 season. One of the most popular players in Cleveland history, the fun-loving 41-year-old was honored before the game with a well-produced package of his highlights on the stadium's scoreboard.

Fans cheered as Vizquel's sensational stops - some backhanded, some barehanded - were shown and they rose as one to salute the man many of them came to see. As his teammates applauded, Vizquel walked toward the infield grass he once patrolled to tip his cap and bow in thanks.

"I never expected everybody to get up and give me that," he said. "It was really cool."

When he came to the plate in the ninth inning of a 2-1 game, Vizquel was having a forgettable night. He was 0-for-3 and had stranded five runners, leaving the bases loaded in a tie game in the seventh.

But with a chance to atone, Vizquel did just that.

With runners at second and third and one out, Vizquel smartly placed a bunt toward third to score Rich Aurilia, who broke for home on Masa Kobayashi's pitch, making it 3-1.

"He laid it down there perfectly," Indians manager Eric Wedge said of Vizquel's gutsy bunt. "There's not too many guys who get it down like that. Omar's pretty good at that."

"That was crazy," said Jonathan Sanchez (7-4), who went 72/3 innings and won for the fifth time in six starts. "He's a great player."

Brian Wilson was brought in to protect the two-run lead and eventually got his NL-leading 20th save, helped by one of Vizquel's patented defensive stops.

Ben Francisco led off the ninth with a single and went to third on Jhonny Peralta's single. Wilson struck out Ryan Garko before pinch-hitter David Dellucci poked a grounder that was headed toward left. But Vizquel ran it down, speared it with his glove and made a leaping throw to second for the force as Francisco scored to make it 3-2.

Wilson then walked Shin-Soo Choo but fanned Kelly Shoppach to end it.

The Giants took a 2-1 lead in the eighth with an unearned run off Rafael Betancourt (2-4) on catcher Shoppach's throwing error.

Indians starter Aaron Laffey allowed one run and four hits in 62/3 innings.

NOTES: Wedge said that RHP Fausto Carmona, sidelined since May 24 with a sore left hip, and DH Travis Hafner, out since May 30 with a sore right shoulder, are "feeling stronger." Carmona is scheduled to throw in the bullpen later this week. Hafner, who recently visited famed orthopedist Dr. James Andrews, will be evaluated to see if he has regained strength.



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