The Cleveland Indians have found their stride again. Perfect timing, too.
Asdrubal Cabrera hit a three-run homer, Nick Swisher had a solo shot and the surging Indians beat the New York Mets 9-4 on Saturday night.
Cleveland has won four in a row for the first time since it captured eight straight from July 24-Aug. 1. Swisher finished with two hits and two RBIs as the Indians stayed in the hunt for the AL’s second wild-card slot.
”This is such a great opportunity for us and we’re starting to get to the middle of September,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. ”Every time we win, we’re getting closer to where we want to be. It’s a great chance for this team to shine and I think they’re enjoying that.”
Corey Kluber (8-5), the first of seven Cleveland pitchers, allowed two runs in five-plus innings. Kluber, pitching for the first time since Aug. 5 after being sidelined by a sprained right middle finger, was pulled after walking the leadoff hitter in the sixth.
Jonathon Niese (6-7) lost for the first time in six starts since coming off the disabled list on Aug. 11. The left-hander allowed six runs over six innings in New York’s fifth loss in the last six games.
Cleveland began the day just two games back of Tampa Bay for the second AL wild card. The Indians and Orioles are tied with 76-65 records.
The Indians went 1-5 on a road trip to Atlanta and Detroit, but they have won four of five on their current homestand.
”There’s something to be said for just playing through ups and downs,” Francona said. ”That’s really what the season is. And now you get toward the last month, because we’ve endured a lot, every game, every inning is so meaningful.”
Swisher, who hit a grand slam Friday, belted a one-out homer in the second that traveled 402 feet. He also had an RBI double in Cleveland’s five-run first.
”This is the push,” Swisher said. ”It’s been a while since this team’s been in this opportunity. This is where it really counts.”
The Indians jumped all over Niese. Ryan Raburn’s three-run double was the big hit in the productive first. Following Swisher’s double, Carlos Santana added a run-scoring single.
New York responded with Matt den Dekker’s two-out RBI single in the second, and then added three more runs in the sixth. Justin Turner had a two-run double and Juan Lagares singled in a run against Vinnie Pestano.
Cleveland used four pitchers in the inning, which finally ended when Nick Hagadone struck out den Dekker. Thanks to the expanded September rosters, Francona has 15 relievers at his disposal, and he used six against the Mets.
With Cleveland’s lead cut to 6-4, Cabrera put the game away with his home run off Scott Atchison in the seventh. The drive, which curled around the foul pole in right field, snapped an 0-for-19 slump.
”Swish looks like he’s starting to swing it and Cabby had a big, big hit,” Francona said. ”That would be so good to get both those guys hot right about the right time.”
Michael Bourn started Cleveland’s big first inning with a leadoff single. He stole second and scored on Swisher’s double into the left-field corner.
Jason Kipnis then put down a sacrifice and Niese’s throw to first appeared to be in time for the out. Umpire Paul Emmel ruled the throw pulled Lucas Duda off the bag and Kipnis was safe. Mets manager Terry Collins argued the call and Niese was charged with an error.
”That’s why I went out there, because I thought he was out,” Collins said. ”Paul said (Duda) never touched the bag. If you don’t touch the bag…. I haven’t looked at the replay so I don’t know what happened.”
Santana singled for a 2-0 lead and Yan Gomes’ single loaded the bases. After Cabrera flied out, Raburn sent a liner into the gap in right-center.
Niese settled down after the shaky start, allowing two hits over the final 4 2/3 innings. He had pitched well since coming off the DL, where he spent nearly two months with a partially torn rotator cuff. Niese was 3-0 with a 2.14 ERA in his first five starts after being sidelined.
Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy was hitless in four at-bats, ending his 10-game hitting streak. Lagares extended his hitting streak to a career-high 12 games.
NOTES: Mets 3B David Wright (strained right hamstring) will rejoin the team next week in New York to continue his rehab. Wright, who has been working out in Florida, hopes to play again this season. The seven-time All-Star hasn’t played since Aug. 2. … The Indians have no timetable for when OF Michael Brantley will rejoin the team. He returned to his home in Florida to be with his wife, who is expecting their first child. … Francona said RHP Justin Masterson (strained left oblique) will get treatment for the next several days before the next course of action is decided. … RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka (0-3, 10.95 ERA) will start for the Mets in Sunday’s series finale. He pitched most of the season at the Indians’ Triple-A team in Columbus, but was released at his request last month. RHP Danny Salazar (1-2, 3.00 ERA) starts for the Indians. … New York has called up RHP Frank Francisco from Triple-A Las Vegas. The veteran hasn’t pitched for the Mets this season.