CLEVELAND — The master of persuasion convinced Terry Francona to keep him in the lineup. A four-hit day followed and a winning argument prevailed.
Mother Nature lifted the city’s spirit, Father Time rescued the Indians from harm, and everyone and their cousin joined in on a hit parade that fueled a 9-4 win against the Twins.
PHOTO GALLERY: Click here to view photos from the game
Cleveland weather finally warmed up. So, too, did the Indians’ bats. On a breezy, sun-splashed afternoon, the Tribe totaled a season-high-tying 15 hits to cap a 5-2 homestand. Asdrubal Cabrera, nearly held out of the batting order by his manager, collected four of his own.
“That shows you how smart I was,” Francona said, laughing. “I was going to give him the day off. He talked me out of it.”
Cabrera, Michael Brantley, David Murphy, and Mike Aviles each contributed three or more hits. The outburst marked the first time the Indians have had four players with three or more hits in a game since April 18, 2009, when Grady Sizemore, Travis Hafner, Mark DeRosa, and Jhonny Peralta accomplished the feat in a 22-4 romp at Yankee Stadium.
“Hitting is contagious,” Brantley said. “One hit goes and another hit goes, and you kind of just lean on one another. It was fun to be a part of today. It’s a great win and it’s a happy flight to Tampa.”
Cabrera belted his first home run since April 10 to push Cleveland’s lead to 2-0 in the second. He delivered RBI doubles in both the seventh and eighth innings. He sprinted in to third base on his ultimate base knock, but the official scorer ruled that Cabrera doubled and advanced to third on a relay throw. A triple would have given Cabrera the cycle.
“He worked hard for that,” Brantley said. “Those don’t come every day. He ran the whole time, didn’t look back, didn’t stutter step. I want it for him. He deserves it.”
Brantley clubbed his team-leading sixth round-tripper in the fifth inning. The left fielder tacked three more RBIs onto his season total. He ranks third in the American League with 29.
Aviles finished the series with eight hits in 11 at-bats as he continues to fill in for second baseman Jason Kipnis, who is sidelined with a strained right oblique. The Indians chased Twins hurler Kevin Correia (1-4, 6.34 ERA) from the game with one out in the fifth.
“It’s definitely a good thing when the bats get rolling,” Aviles said. “Our pitchers have been pitching well and give us an opportunity to win. Anytime you can get the bats going and help them out, get a little pressure off them, it’s always a good thing.”
Justin Masterson (2-1, 3.86 ERA) extended the Indians’ string of strong starts. He exited with one out in the seventh inning and the tying runs in scoring position. Scott Atchison, the Tribe’s 38-year-old reliever, cleaned up the late-game mess.
The right-hander induced an RBI groundout and a fly out to preserve the Indians’ advantage. Opposing hitters are batting just .130 (6 for 46) against Atchison this season. The offense responded in the bottom of the seventh with three runs to pad the cushion.
“Scott [came] in and [did] his thing, limiting it to one run,” Masterson said. “Easily, a couple runs could’ve scored there.”
The Indians boarded their flight to Tampa as winners of three straight and five of seven.
“This whole homestand, we played with a lead,” Francona said. “The two games we lost, we lost late. I think we’re playing with a little more confidence, a little more purpose.”
That 0-6 tour through San Francisco and Anaheim, a West Coast swing during which the Indians plated only 13 runs and tumbled to six games below .500, has been erased from the players’ memory banks.
“What road trip? I forgot about it already,” Aviles said. “Sometimes when the road goes a little tough, it’s good to come home and get that home cooking, be back with the families and the home fans and just put those white uniforms back on. It’s definitely a good thing.
“It’s something we needed. Now we go back on the road and hopefully we carry this momentum on the road and continue on the upward swing.”