for this game

Indians clinch AL Central with win over A's

Sep 23, 2007 - 10:21 PM By Todd Krepop PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

CLEVELAND (Ticker) -- The Cleveland Indians are back on top.

Jake Westbrook pitched seven solid innings and Grady Sizemore had four hits as the Indians clinched its seventh American League Central Division title with a 6-2 victory over the Oakland Athletics on Sunday.

Cleveland (92-63) became the first team in baseball to clinch its division and the second team to punch its ticket to the postseason. The Boston Red Sox clinched a playoff spot Saturday.

"I'm so very proud of these guys and the city of Cleveland should be proud of them," Indians manager Eric Wedge said. "They do it the right way, with respect."

It was the first divisional title for the Indians since the 2001 season. Cleveland used to be the dominant team in the AL Central, winning the division six times in a seven-year span. Despite that success, the Indians were not able to win their first World Series since 1948 - losing in 1995 to the Atlanta Braves and 1997 to the Florida Marlins.

Cleveland held a 1 1/2-game lead on the Detroit Tigers entering play on August 25. But what looked like could be a race to the end of September, turned out to be laugher as the Indians have won 22 of their last 28 games - including a three-game sweep of the Tigers earlier in the week.

"Every good team goes through a stretch run where they play great baseball," said Indians ace C.C. Sabathia, who guaranteed the Indians would win the division in early August. "We hadn't gone through a stretch like that."

Sabathia, along with Kenny Lofton, are the only players that remain from the 2001 team.

"This is just as special as the first time for me," said Lofton, who was acquired from Texas before the trading deadline. "I think to the young kids, being their first time through this ... it lets them know how special this team really is.

"When I got the chance to come back to Cleveland, I knew this team had a chance ... but I don't think some of the guys here really understood how good they were. Now, they do. This is a team of winners."

Westbrook (6-9) set a new a career high with nine strikeouts as he allowed two runs and four hits. Westbrook's performance mirrored what has been a key to the Indians success this season - starting pitching that goes deep into games.

"It was fun for us to get it done here," Westbrook said. "I wanted to go out there and give us a chance to win the ballgame."

The Indians starters have pitched 979 innings this season - most in the majors. The ability of the starters to go deep has allowed the Tribe to keep a bullpen, which has been another strength this season to remain fresh.

Rafael Perez got the first two outs in the eighth before giving up two hits. Rafael Betancourt came in and struck out Nick Swisher on the eighth pitch of the at-bat to get out of the jam and preserve the Indians 6-2 lead.

Betancourt then worked a scoreless ninth for his second save of the season and set off a celebration at Jacobs Field.

"Every time you get the last out of the game, it's special," Betancourt said. "To get the last out and get into the postseason, I don't know how to describe it."

Leading 2-0, Cleveland put together a four-run fourth to take control of the game. Jhonny Peralta and Jason Michaels led off the inning with back-to-back singles. Two batters later, Casey Blake doubled off of Athletics' rookie starter Dallas Braden into the left-center gap to score two runs.

"To get a chance to be part of this team is the highlight of my career so far," Blake said. "To be able to play every day and be a leader of this group means a lot to me. Being part of a playoff run and now a world championship run is just so very, very special."

Sizemore followed with a triple down the right field line and surprising rookie Asdrubal Cabrera blooped an RBI single to left, extending the Indians lead to 6-0 and ending Braden's afternoon.

"We're a family," Sizemore said. "A lot of these guys came up together. It's just a great feeling. We worked hard all season to be in this position."

Braden (1-8) was not originally scheduled to start Sunday's game, but was inserted into the rotation after Rich Harden was scratched on Saturday. He allowed six runs and eight hits in 3 1/3 innings against an Indians team that was intent on celebrating at home.

"We really wanted to win it at home," Wedge said. "That means a lot to us. Hopefully, we can provide a few more exciting moments here this year."

Cleveland took the 2-0 lead in the second on an RBI grounder by Michaels and Sizemore's run-scoring single and would not look back.

"We jumped out and scored a couple of runs early and Westbrook got us deep into the game," Wedge said.

Rookie Daric Barton hit a two-run homer in the sixth for the A's, who have lost six of their last seven games.

"Obviously, I give congratulations to the Cleveland Indians," Oakland manager Bob Geren said. "Their front office did a great job. Eric Wedge is a friend of mine so I'm happy for him. You could feel the excitement in the air for them."








  • AL
    FINAL
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
    - - - - - - - - - - - -
    OAKLAND 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 2 6 0
    CLEVELAND 0 2 0 4 0 0 0 0 x 6 10 0 (FINAL)

    BATTERIES: OAK - DALLAS BRADEN, SANTIAGO CASILLA (4TH), LENNY DINARDO (6TH),
    ANDREW BROWN (7TH) AND ROB BOWEN
    CLE - JAKE WESTBROOK, RAFAEL PEREZ (8TH), RAFAEL
    BETANCOURT (8TH

    Sep 23 4:01 PM


  • AL
    AT CLEVELAND - SCORING UPDATE
    TWO-RUN HOME RUN BY DARIC BARTON (2) TO RIGHT WITH 2 OUT IN
    THE 6TH OFF JAKE WESTBROOK SCORED DONNIE MURPHY.
    CURRENT SCORE: OAKLAND 2, CLEVELAND 6
    DUE UP FOR OAKLAND: N SWISHER (.266, 0-FOR-2)

    Athletics vs. IndiansSep 23 2:52 PM


  • AL
    AT CLEVELAND - SCORING UPDATE
    SINGLE BY ASDRUBAL CABRERA SCORED GRADY SIZEMORE.
    SITUATION: 4 RUNS IN, A CABRERA ON FIRST, 1 OUT
    CURRENT SCORE: OAKLAND 0
    CLEVELAND 6 BOTTOM, 4TH
    DUE UP FOR CLEVELAND: T HAFNER (.255, 0-FOR-2)

    Athletics vs. IndiansSep 23 2:19 PM


  • AL
    AT CLEVELAND - SCORING UPDATE
    TRIPLE BY GRADY SIZEMORE SCORED CASEY BLAKE.
    SITUATION: 3 RUNS IN, G SIZEMORE ON THIRD, 1 OUT
    CURRENT SCORE: OAKLAND 0
    CLEVELAND 5 BOTTOM, 4TH
    DUE UP FOR CLEVELAND: A CABRERA (.283, 0-FOR-1, SAC)

    Athletics vs. IndiansSep 23 2:16 PM


  • AL
    AT CLEVELAND - SCORING UPDATE
    DOUBLE BY CASEY BLAKE SCORED JHONNY PERALTA AND JASON
    MICHAELS.
    SITUATION: 2 RUNS IN, C BLAKE ON SECOND, 1 OUT
    CURRENT SCORE: OAKLAND 0
    CLEVELAND 4 BOTTOM, 4TH
    DUE UP FOR CLEVELAND: G SIZEMORE (.274, 2-FOR-2, RBI)

    Athletics vs. IndiansSep 23 2:14 PM


  • AL
    AT CLEVELAND - SCORING UPDATE
    SINGLE BY GRADY SIZEMORE SCORED JHONNY PERALTA.
    SITUATION: 2 RUNS IN, G SIZEMORE ON FIRST, F GUTIERREZ ON THIRD, 2 OUT
    CURRENT SCORE: OAKLAND 0
    CLEVELAND 2 BOTTOM, 2ND
    DUE UP FOR CLEVELAND: A CABRERA (.285, 0-FOR-0, SAC)

    Athletics vs. IndiansSep 23 1:36 PM


  • AL
    AT CLEVELAND - SCORING UPDATE
    GROUND OUT BY JASON MICHAELS SCORED RYAN GARKO.
    SITUATION: 1 RUN IN, J PERALTA ON THIRD, 1 OUT
    CURRENT SCORE: OAKLAND 0
    CLEVELAND 1 BOTTOM, 2ND
    DUE UP FOR CLEVELAND: F GUTIERREZ (.272, 13 HR, 36 RBI)

    Athletics vs. IndiansSep 23 1:31 PM