CLEVELAND – For one of the few times this season, everything fell into place for the Indians.
Cleveland got a positive outing from starting pitcher David Huff on Sunday, some timely hitting and flawless defense, and even mixed in a quality effort from its bullpen, which included beleaguered closer Kerry Wood.
It all added up to a 4-3 victory over the Reds that ended the Indians’ season-high six-game losing skid, while preventing Cincinnati from recording its first-ever sweep at Jacobs/Progressive Field.
It all starts with starting pitching, and Huff didn’t exactly get off to a good one, allowing a two-run home run to Scott Rolen four batters into the game.
But Huff used Rolen’s long ball to propel him on to better things, allowing just one more run – another homer to Rolen — over the remainder of his six-inning effort, to snap a personal five-game losing streak.
“It kind of fired me up a little bit and I started making pitches,” said Huff, who won for the first time since a complete-game victory over the Rangers in his second start of the season (April 15). “I had a game plan going in and I just stuck with it.”
Huff (2-6, 5.25 ERA) has pitched better over his last two starts after some prodding from Acta to be more aggressive with his fastball.
“David pitched better with his fastball today,” Acta said. “He had good pop on his fastball and used it effectively. If he can command that fastball and be aggressive with it, he has the stuff to pitch effectively up here.
“We need him to continue to pitch that way.”
The Indians wasted little time emerging from the early deficit, scoring twice to tie it in the bottom of the first off Reds starter Homer Bailey.
Bailey, who left the game in the third inning with tightness in his right shoulder, allowed the first three batters he faced to reach base – Travis Hafner driving in the first run with an infield single.
Shelley Duncan, who was making his first start since being promoted from Triple-A Columbus, tied it with a two-out base hit up the middle.
The Indians forged ahead 3-2 in the third on a sacrifice fly from Russell Branyan before the Reds tied it again on Rolen’s second homer in the top of the sixth.
That’s when the Indians got opportunistic again.
With two outs in the bottom of the inning, Jhonny Peralta lined a single into left-center field that scored Trevor Crowe with what wound up accounting for the winning run.
“Jhonny was huge, getting that game-winning hit,” said Acta of the third baseman, who has struggled offensively for much of the season.
A trio of relievers – Chris Perez, Tony Sipp and Wood – kept the one-run lead intact.
Perez retired the first two batters he faced in the seventh before hitting Orlando Cabrera with a pitch and walking Brandon Phillips.
Sipp picked up Perez by retiring the dangerous Joey Votto on a fly ball to left to end the seventh, then faced the minimum in the eighth, striking out Jonny Gomes and getting a double-play ball from Jay Bruce, after walking Rolen to start the inning.
That left it up to Wood, who had struggled since leaving the disabled list and failed miserably in his first save opportunity Wednesday.
Things were different for the veteran right-hander this time, Wood retiring the first batter he faced and allowing a single to Ryan Hanigan before striking out pinch hitter Laynce Nix and getting the final out on a Cabrera liner to right fielder Shin-Soo Choo that ended the game.
“It was good to see Woody do that because that puts our bullpen in a really good situation when those three guys are throwing well,” Acta said.
The victory ensured that the Indians would not go winless on the homestand, which began with four straight losses, including a two-game sweep from the Royals.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or firstname.lastname@example.org.