Sowers shuts down Reds as Indians roll
Jeremy Sowers finally got over his middle-inning hump. The Cleveland Indians still have a long climb ahead.
Sowers pitched into the eighth inning for the first time this season, Ryan Garko hit a two-run homer and Victor Martinez added a solo shot to lead the Cleveland Indians to just their second win in 10 games, 9-2 over the Cincinnati Reds on Friday night.
Sowers (2-5), who began the season at Triple-A Columbus, carried a one-hitter into the seventh before the Reds began to make solid contact.
He allowed two runs and six hits in his longest outing since Sept. 9, when he went eight in a win at Baltimore. The left-hander's only previous win this season came on May 25, when he worked five shutout innings of relief as the Indians overcame a 10-0 deficit to beat Tampa Bay 11-10.
"Fortunately, we were able to score some runs and that gave me a chance to be more aggressive and get deeper in the game," Sowers said. "It's definitely a step in the right direction."
The last-place Indians can only hope it's one for them, too. Back from a brutal road trip, they had Grady Sizemore, Travis Hafner and Martinez - Cleveland's top three position players who have all been hurt - in the same lineup for the first time since the last week in April.
Manager Eric Wedge came home to speculation his job was in serious jeopardy, but for one of the few nights in recent memory everything: hitting, starting pitching and even the bullpen came together.
"The past is the past," Sowers said. "Hopefully, we can take advantage of this nice little homestand (nine games) and win some games."
Sowers had been running into trouble in innings four, five and six in previous starts. He was fine the first two times through the order but then ran into trouble. Wedge and pitching coach Carl Willis have been harping on him to stay aggressive and this time he was.
"That was big for him," Wedge said, "and big for us."
The Reds have lost five of six and dropped to 4-9 in interleague play.
"We got beat up," manager Dusty Baker said. "You play the AL and they have some high-octane teams. You don't score runs and it makes it tough to win. Sowers got strike one on us and made it tough."
Garko homered in the fourth off Aaron Harang (5-8) and Martinez added a solo shot in the fifth as the Indians built a 9-0 lead.
Sowers' deep effort allowed the embattled Wedge to stay clear of his combustible bullpen until he absolutely needed. The Indians have blown 13 saves in 26 tries, and wasted leads of five runs or more three times in the past 12 games.
Even with a seven-run lead, Wedge couldn't relax. Jensen Lewis walked the first two batters in the ninth and was lifted for Tony Sipp, who came in and struck out the side.
Following the game, Lewis was optioned to Triple-A Columbus to make room for Jose Veras, recently acquired from the New York Yankees.
Garko's homer made it 4-0, a relatively comfortable cushion in past years for the Indians but not in 2009 with a bullpen that can't be trusted.
Jhonny Peralta singled with two outs before Garko, who had been limited to one start and three pinch-hitting appearances after spraining his ankle and wrist on June 17, pulled his seventh homer into the bleachers in left.
Martinez's 14th homer with one out in the fifth made it 5-0, and the Indians scored two more in the inning to chase Harang. The right-hander was charged with five earned runs and 10 hits in 4 2-3 innings and remains winless since May 25.
"I was trying to be too fine," Harang said. "I was trying to be perfect and when you do that you make mistakes and they end up costing you. That's a team that puts the ball in play and makes things happen. And that's what they did."
Sowers was drafted by the Reds in the first round in 2001, but went to Vanderbilt and was picked by Cleveland in the first round in 2004. ... A few Reds watched videos of late pop star Michael Jackson in the clubhouse before the game. Jackson died Thursday. Occasionally, a player tried to imitate one of the performer's dance moves. "He was an American icon," RHP Nick Masset said. "We all grew up enjoying his music, his dancing, and the way he entertained." ... Baker said RHP Homer Bailey will be recalled from Triple-A Louisville to start Saturday. It'll be the sixth callup for the 22-year-old, a first-round pick in 2004. "He's still ahead of schedule. It took me four or five times before I was up to stay," said Baker, who made his debut at age 19 in 1968. ... Indians INF Asdrubal Cabrera will make a rehab start at Akron on Saturday. He's been on the DL since June 3 with a shoulder injury.