CLEVELAND — It had been 21 months since Travis Hafner had four RBI in a game.
That last happened when he was in his penultimate season with the Cleveland Indians and he hit a ninth-inning grand slam to beat Toronto 5-4. Tom Hamilton’s pipes can still be heard announcing that one.
It was one of few Hafner highlights in his final few injury-plagued seasons in Cleveland, though. Last season he had 34 RBI, total, with 12 home runs in 66 games.
Monday in the Indians’ home opener, Hafner drove in four — three on a first-inning home run that took the air right out of a sellout crowd at Progressive Field.
Hafner finished with a game that would remind fans of his pre-injury years: 2-for-3, four RBI, two walks, three runs scored.
After, he was his usual placid self.
“It’s nice to contribute to a win,” he said.
The three-run homer off a flat Ubaldo Jimenez fastball went dead center, into the trees behind the fence.
“I was able to get ahead in the count, and get a good pitch to hit,” he said.
Before the game, Hafner did a large group interview, when he said he never really knew if he was close to returning to Cleveland after the Indians paid $2.75 million to buy out the final year of his contract. He said when the opportunity with the Yankees presented itself, he was eager to take it. The Indians turned to veteran Jason Giambi as their left-handed DH.
It seems classic Cleveland sports that a guy who struggled so much with injuries since 2007 would deflate a home opening crowd in the first inning. Hafner shrugged, but Elias reported he and Jim Thome are the only players to hit home runs against the Indians after hitting 100+ home runs for them.
He has 372 RBI in Progressive Field, third most of any player. He’s hit 203 home runs, 100 in Progressive Field, behind only Thome (190) and Manny Ramirez (132).
And he’s now played four games against the Indians in Cleveland. His line: 8-for-14 (.571), two doubles, one home run and seven RBI.