Lee Is Too Much for Orioles, Indians Stay in Wild-Card Hunt

Casey Blake
Even when the Orioles connect off of Indians starter Cliff Lee, the defense is there to bail him out. Casey Blake is shown here leaping to steal a hit away from Miguel Tejada. (Tony Dejak - AP)

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Associated Press
Sunday, August 21, 2005

CLEVELAND, Aug. 20 -- Soon, the Cleveland Indians could be looking at the division standings again.

Cliff Lee remained unbeaten since July 8, pitching seven superb innings as the Indians stayed with rest of the AL wild-card pack by beating the Baltimore Orioles, 6-1, on Saturday night.

Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez each hit a two-run homer off Rodrigo Lopez for the Indians, who trail wild-card pacesetter Oakland by 1 1/2 games. Cleveland (67-56), which is 11 games over .500 for the second time, is 8 1/2 games behind AL Central-leading Chicago -- the closest the Indians have been since June 19.

Suddenly, a division crown that seemed impossible is at least worth talking about.

"We just want to keep plowing, man," Manager Eric Wedge said. "We just need to keep going. They know they control their own destiny."

Lee, who has lost just once since June 1 (a span of 14 starts), allowed one run and four hits, but only two after the first inning. The left-hander hasn't lost in his last seven starts, going 4-0.

Although the Indians have gained ground on the White Sox, Lee isn't so sure they're within striking distance.

"Honestly, it's going to be pretty hard to catch them," Lee said. "They are going to really have to fall apart. A more realistic goal for us is the wild card and as long as we keep winning, I think we're in."

The Orioles made four errors and bobbled several other balls, perhaps still feeling the effects of a 5-4 loss in 10 innings on Friday. Interim manager Sam Perlozzo wasn't upset by his team's shoddy effort.

"I don't concern myself too much with the errors," he said. "We've been playing good fundamentally lately. Errors are going to happen."

Lee gave up two singles and a run in the first, and then nothing until the sixth. The one batter who did reach, Brian Roberts, was thrown out trying to steal second.

Lee also got help from right fielder Casey Blake, who made a leaping catch at the wall in the first to rob Miguel Tejada, and third baseman Aaron Boone, who went up to snare a line drive by Javy Lopez in the seventh.

Hafner's 19th homer, his first in 76 at-bats, gave the Indians a 3-1 lead in the first. It was the first homer for Cleveland's designated hitter since he returned from the disabled list on Aug. 3 after he was struck in the face with a pitch by Chicago's Mark Buehrle on July 16.

Grady Sizemore led off with a double and moved up one out later when Rodrigo Lopez fired a pickoff attempt into center field for an error. Jhonny Peralta followed by ripping an RBI double inside the bag at third.

Hafner, who battled headaches and dizziness following the beaning, then hit a high shot into the seats in right.


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