July 2, 2016

Mostly clear

Indians: Matt LaPorta delivers winner; Shin-Soo Choo to DL

CLEVELAND – Matt LaPorta looks like a different player since his latest recall from Triple-A Columbus. He and the Indians couldn’t be happier with this one.

The projected star who has struggled for the majority of his big league career is now producing. His latest effort was a two-out RBI single in the 10th inning to lift the Indians to a dramatic 5-4 victory Saturday night over Oakland at Progressive Field.

With runners on first and second, LaPorta fouled off a 3-2 pitch from former Cleveland reliever Craig Breslow before grounding a ball back through the middle to send the Indians to their sixth win in seven games.

“It was nice to see LaPorta come through again,” said manager Manny Acta.

It wasn’t all good news for the Indians, who announced after the game that they will place their top run producer, Shin-Soo Choo, on the disabled list with an injured right thumb. Outfielder Michael Brantley will be called up today from Columbus to replace Choo on the roster.

LaPorta coming through has been a familiar sight for the Indians as of late. In seven games since being promoted from Columbus, LaPorta, who opened the season with the Indians, is batting .360 (9-for-25) with three home runs and seven RBIs.

“Obviously it makes me feel great that I’m contributing to the ballclub now,” said LaPorta, who went 3-for-5 with a pair of RBIs Saturday night. “I’m playing well.”

The A’s rallied to tie it with a run in the seventh off Rafael Perez. It was the second time Oakland came from behind, but the Indians kept coming.

Carlos Santana struck out to start the 10th before Travis Hafner laced a double to center to put the winning run on base. Hafner was replaced by pinch runner Anderson Hernandez, with the A’s electing to intentionally walk Austin Kearns. Jhonny Peralta followed with a deep drive to center before LaPorta won it.

“Those were great at-bats from Hafner and LaPorta,” Acta said.

Even without Choo, things appeared to be aligned well for the Indians, who were facing Clayton Mortensen – a right-hander called up from Triple-A to make his first start of the season in place of an injured Dallas Braden.

It took the Indians just two batters to score, with Jayson Nix following a leadoff single from Trevor Crowe with his first home run for Cleveland and second on the season.

But Cleveland scored just two more runs off Mortensen, one on an error from left fielder Gabe Gross, who overran LaPorta’s RBI single in the fourth, allowing Peralta to score from first behind Kearns to put the Indians in front 4-3.

Jake Westbrook pitched well enough to win, allowing two earned runs on four hits over six innings.

The right-hander allowed all of his runs in a three-run third for Oakland, which scored an unearned run on one of two errors in the inning by shortstop Jason Donald.

A’s shortstop Cliff Pennington landed the big blow in the inning, following Donald’s first error with a two-run triple. Pennington scored on Donald’s second error to put Oakland in front 3-2.

“That happens,” said Westbrook of the errors. “I have to do a better job after he makes the first error. I should have done a little better job of bearing down against (Pennington).

“I felt like early on I was pretty good. It was just a matter of locating in the third inning. I feel like I battled and gave us a chance.”

The Indians are in the midst of their most effective stretch of the season. It comes on the heels of a disappointing interleague road trip that saw them lose seven of nine games. They are 5-1 on the homestand.

“I feel like we’re playing pretty good baseball,” Westbrook said. “Even on that road trip, we were in most of those games. We just couldn’t get the big hit. I feel like we’re doing that on this homestand. Hopefully we can keep it going and get on a little roll.”

Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com.