CLEVELAND — Ben Francisco left no doubt this time and Cliff Lee returned to form as the Indians snapped a seven-game losing streak Saturday with a 5-2 win over the Texas Rangers at Progressive Field.
Francisco hit a three-run home run in the third and Lee looked the part of an American League Pitcher of the Month in a game the Indians desperately needed. A sellout crowd of 40,504 saw the win, the Tribe’s second sellout of the season.
“It was nice to get one over the railing this time,” Francisco said. “I’m seeing the ball well right now, but I was just trying to get the runner home from third. It’s about squaring the bat up and putting it in play. It was nice to get one that counts.”
Robbed of a home run Friday night, Francisco didn’t let anyone question his shot this time, sending a 2-2 pitch by Scott Feldman over the wall in left some 360 feet, well over the railing that got him in trouble the night before.
Trying to rally from a 12-6 deficit Friday, Francisco sent Kameron Loe’s pitch deep to left but third base umpire Damien Beal ruled the ball hit off the wall. Replays showed the ball hitting the railing above the yellow line and ricocheting back. Francisco and Travis Hafner, who was on first to start the at-bat, were left stranded on second and third.
Batting cleanup Saturday, Francisco made sure the three runs scored with a mammoth blast that scored Grady Sizemore and Hafner and gave the Indians a lead they would never relinquish.
“Bennie’s been fantastic,” Indians manager Eric Wedge said. “Everywhere we’ve put him, he’s done fantastic. He just goes up there and eliminates everything and hunts the baseball. All our guys should do that.”
Lee came into the game with the lowest earned run average in the AL (1.37) and did little to lose that title with 62/3 innings of solid, if not stellar, baseball.
The left-hander, who got pelted last Sunday to the tune of six runs — five earned — in a 6-4 loss to the Reds, bounced back against the Rangers.
Lee gave up two runs against Texas — one in the first and one in the second — to record his seventh win of the season against one loss.
“I take it one game at a time,” he said. “What happened last time doesn’t matter. What happened (Saturday) doesn’t matter. I’ve got to focus on the next opponent and go from there.”
After giving up a single to Milton Bradley to start the third, Lee buckled down the rest of the way, and did not allow another hit until Josh Hamilton chased him from the game with two outs in the seventh with a shot back up the box.
By the time Rafael Perez came on in relief, Lee had worked another masterpiece, scattering seven hits in a tidy, 113-pitch, 81-strike performance that included eight punchouts.
Joe Borowski, who hadn’t pitched since April 14, picked up his third save, allowing just a two-out single to Michael Young.
“As far as everything goes, I had the adrenaline pumping and had to pull it back,” Borowski said. “I tried to stay in the moment and get the job done.
“It was good to get out there. I’ve been doing this since 1989 and I still get butterflies being in that situation.”
Jhonny Perelta ended the scoring in the sixth with a 412-foot shot off Feldman (1-2), who gave up five runs — all earned — on six hits in six innings.
The win was exactly what the Indians needed as they were hovering near the top of the AL Central before a 0-for-7 skid knocked them down to third in the standings.
Still in third with Chicago’s 2-0 loss to Los Angeles, the Indians were able to pick up a full game and sit just 3½ back of the White Sox as they head into today’s series finale.
“Whenever you’re in a funk like that it’s always big to get that win and move away from it,” Wedge said. Contact Brad Bournival at email@example.com.
WHO: Cleveland vs. Texas
WHERE: Progressive Field
PITCHERS: Sabathia (3-6, 5.14 ERA) vs. Mathis (1-1, 10.13)
TV/RADIO: Channel 3; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM