Aaron Laffey couldn’t remember the last time he had a scoreless outing.
No wonder. It was 20 starts ago, a stretch that included an elbow injury and multiple shuttles back and forth from Triple-A.
Laffey had a career-high seven strikeouts in seven innings, Travis Hafner hit a two-run homer and Ryan Garko added a three-run shot as the Cleveland Indians broke out with a 9-0 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Friday night.
Ben Francisco and Jamey Carroll added solo homers for Cleveland, which is tied with Kansas City for most losses in the AL at 58. The Indians had two homers in their first six games following the All-Star break.
They have won consecutive games for the first time since July 3-4, thanks to their largest shutout win since May 10, 2008.
That 12-0 rout of Toronto was the last time Laffey had a scoreless start.
“I had no idea,” he said. “Too much stuff has happened to me since then.”
Laffey (4-2) used a better-located fastball to go with an improved sinker to allow just three hits. He walked three in seven innings, five days after he allowed three runs in six innings of a no-decision against Seattle. He retired his last 13 batters.
“Tonight was definitely one of those nights I felt all the kinks were out,” he said.
His All-Star catcher was more effusive.
“Man, I think this outing is one of the best I’ve seen,” Victor Martinez said. “He was on, from the first pitch to the last pitch.”
Ryan Rowland-Smith (0-1) allowed four runs in his first start for Seattle since April 10.
The Mariners were shut out for sixth time this season and have scored four runs in their last 29 innings, dating to a 9-7 loss at Detroit on Tuesday. They had four baserunners in the first inning – and still didn’t score.
“I think you set the tone when you have an opportunity and we (fail) that early in the ball game,” Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said.
It’s been a season-long theme in Seattle. The Mariners are next-to-last in runs scored in the major leagues, ahead of only Kansas City. They are a surprising six games over .500 only because of the league’s best ERA. Rumors continue to swirl they are seeking a bat in a trade to stay in contention.
Hours after Indians manager Eric Wedge said he will try out most of the bullpen to find an eighth-inning replacement for traded setup man Rafael Betancourt, Wedge used right-hander Joe Smith to get the first two outs while allowing a hit in the eighth. Lefty Tony Sipp then got Ichiro Suzuki to fly out to the warning track in right to end the inning.
Garko hit his 10th home run of the season in the ninth, off Miguel Batista, to make it 7-0. Carroll followed with his first home run, and second in 150 games since Cleveland acquired him from the Rockies following the 2007 season.
Rowland-Smith had been out for months because of elbow pain and then ineffectiveness in an extended rehabilitation assignment at Triple-A Tacoma. Asked before the game if Rowland-Smith needed to reprove his place in the major leagues, Wakamatsu would only say the Australian has to work deep into games like most of the staff has.
He lasted seven innings, allowing five hits.
Jhonny Peralta led off the seventh with a single. Hafner sent the next pitch into the first row of seats in right-center for his 10th home run to make it 3-0.
Two hard outs later, Francisco hit his eighth home run.
“For his first outing back, I was pretty pleased,” Wakamatsu said of Rowland-Smith.
Seattle-area native Grady Sizemore went 0 for 4 for the Indians to leave his average at .227 – 52 points below the three-time All-Star’s career mark entering this season. … Florida rapper Flo Rida was in the house, honoring his baseball hero Suzuki and trading slang before the game with the Japanese All-Star he includes in some of his lyrics. Flo Rida even wore a new, white Mariners jersey that shone as brightly as the mammoth gold chain around his neck.