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CIN@CLE: Buck's two-run shot gives Tribe the lead

CLEVELAND -- If this does turn into a storybook season for the Indians when it is all said and done, the tale playing out at Progressive Field will lack one important element. There is no clear protagonist.

What Cleveland has working is a cohesive unit that insists on spreading the wealth. On Saturday, it was Travis Buck's turn to play the role of hero. He did just fine, launching a critical two-run home run that sent the Tribe to a 2-1 Interleague victory over the Reds.

As the sellout crowd roared and the stadium shook, there might as well have been a cape flowing from Buck's shoulders as he sprinted around the bases.

"We continue to find a new hero on a daily basis," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "Today, Travis Buck got the big hit."

Buck's seventh-inning shot set the table for Josh Tomlin's sixth win of the season after the starter compiled seven strong innings. Shutdown frames from setup man Vinnie Pestano and closer Chris Perez sealed the victory. Their combined effort helped baseball's best team improve to 28-15 on the year.

Playing in Cleveland's house, the Tribe's in-state rivals from Cincinnati have received a first-hand look at the way the Indians like to do things. On Friday night, it was an eighth-inning drag bunt from rookie Ezequiel Carrera that drove in the go-ahead run. One day later, it was Buck's blast in the seventh.

Cleveland now boasts a 17-4 record in front of its local audience.

"Tribe at home late," Pestano said. "Seven, eight and nine. That's when we score our runs, so just hang with us."

Pestano was only half-kidding.

While Saturday's win over the Reds (25-21) did not fall into this category, consider that the Indians have claimed 10 victories this season in their final at-bat. That was tied for the most in baseball. Seven of those wins, including four of the walk-off variety, have come at home.

Along the way, eight different players have driven in the go-ahead run for the Indians in the last at-bat wins.

"[They're] getting whatever hits they need," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "Today they needed a two-run homer, and that's what they got."

That does a lot for a team's confidence.

"We can't wait to get to the ballpark every day," Buck said, "because we expect to win."

The latest edition of the Showdown of Ohio included a tightly contested pitchers' duel between Tomlin (6-1, 2.41 ERA) and Reds right-hander Homer Bailey (3-1, 2.08). Tomlin scattered two hits among the first 20 hitters he faced, while Bailey relinquished just one hit within his first 19 confrontations.

"You can definitely feel," Tomlin said, "when a pitcher is out there and he's on his game, that you've got to be on your game as much as he does."

Finally, in the seventh inning, Tomlin flinched.

The Indians starter hit Brandon Phillips with a pitch and allowed a base hit to Jay Bruce. With one out in the books, Scott Rolen then connected for a sharply hit grounder that Cleveland second baseman Orlando Cabrera was unable to corral cleanly.

"He just booted it," Acta said.

Cabrera recovered in time to retire Rolen at first, but the missed chance at an inning-ending double play allowed Phillips to score. Suddenly, a dominant Bailey had a 1-0 lead to use as he saw fit.

In the bottom of the seventh, however, Bailey surrendered a leadoff single to Asdrubal Cabrera before retiring Shin-Soo Choo and Carlos Santa consecutively. That brought Buck to the plate.

"Our plan was to stay away," Bailey said.

So far, that strategy had worked well against Buck.

Hitting in the fifth hole in place of injured designated hitter Travis Hafner, Buck had grounded out to third base in the second inning and flied out to left field in the fifth. Both times, Bailey enticed Buck to swing on pitches that were over the outside corner.

After the second at-bat, Acta called over to Buck in the dugout.

"You could tell he had a little fire in him," Buck said.

Acta's message was simple. He wanted Buck to stop falling prey to the pitcher's plan and start waiting for an offering he could pound with authority. It was something Buck had in his mind when he settled into the batter's box in the seventh inning for a third meeting with Bailey.

"He just wanted to throw sinkers away," Buck said. "I hit a ground ball weakly and a lazy fly ball to left. Hitting in those run-producing spots in the order, you've got to be able to pick your pitches to be able to drive it."

Buck received the perfect type of pitch right out of the gates.

"That ball was supposed to be in," Baker said. "It went back over the plate. He didn't miss it."

Buck sent the ball rocketing hard over right-center field, where it barely cleared the wall and bounced up into the seats. The two-run blast -- Buck's first home run since April of last season -- propelled Cleveland to a 2-1 lead that it would not surrender.

Pestano made sure of it by striking out the side in the eighth.

Perez notched his 12th save of the season in the ninth.

Another day, another hero.

"That's what good ballclubs do," Buck said. "And we consider ourselves a good ballclub. Yeah, we're young, but we're not using that as an excuse. We think we have unbelievable potential here."

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