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CLE@TOR: Sizemore hits a two-bagger to plate Santana

TORONTO -- The Indians' recipe for success this season has been simple: strong pitching, solid defense and well-timed hitting. Over the past week, that combination had gone missing and Cleveland began to look vulnerable and very beatable.

On Tuesday night, the Tribe found its formula, one that has had the club atop the American League Central standings for the past 55 days. In a 6-3 win over the Blue Jays, the Indians enjoyed a strong outing from Mitch Talbot, some slick plays around the infield and an awakened offense.

"Those are the kind of things that got us here," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "Playing good defense and pitching."

They are also the things that Cleveland lacked of late.

In their previous seven games, the Indians lost six and struggled to mount much in the way of offense. A few of the team's starters suffered through rough performances and the defense made mental errors -- not to mention the kind that actually wind up in the box score -- leading to unnecessary runs.

The silver lining throughout the recent funk is that the Indians -- still the AL's best team at 32-20 -- did not lose any ground within their division. The Tribe has also avoided any losing streaks of more than three games.

The recent stretch was trying, but perhaps it was also motivating.

"Maybe just the sense of going into a hole," Talbot said, "hopefully we just turned it on."

It is too early to tell if the Indians have indeed snapped out of their collective cold spell, but Tuesday's win in Toronto was undoubtedly a positive sign. On Monday, Cleveland absorbed an 11-1 rout at the hands of Toronto in the type of game that could easily crush a club's spirits.

The fact that the Tribe rebounded, and did so against hard-throwing right-hander Brandon Morrow, boosted the team's morale up a few clicks. Cleveland pounded out seven extra-base hits and received multihit showings from Michael Brantley (3-for-5), Grady Sizemore (2-for-4) and Carlos Santana (3-for-3).

"We hit a few speed bumps there," Indians third baseman Jack Hannahan said. "It's a long season. You're going to have your ups and downs. I think it was big that we kind of bounced back after a game like [Monday's].

"That shows you what kind of team we have, to be able to bounce back like that."

Hannahan helped pave the way to the win column.

In the third inning, Hannahan made a spectacular leaping grab on a line drive off the bat of Jayson Nix, which looked destined for at least a single. Later in the same frame, Hannahan made an incredible stop on a rocket of a grounder off the bat of slugger Jose Bautista.

Hannahan gloved the ball on his knees and flipped it to second baseman Orlando Cabrera for an inning-ending forceout.

"Hannahan has done a great job for them over there," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. "Bautista scalds one over there to third, and he looked like Patrick Roy."

The bigger defensive play came in the fourth inning. With runners on first and second base, Eric Thames drilled a pitch from Talbot down the first-base line. Instead of a run-scoring double, Thames was robbed of a hit with a diving grab by first baseman Matt LaPorta.

Talbot was still smiling after the game.

"They played great," Talbot said. "I probably would've given up a few runs if the guys at the corners, Hannahan and LaPorta, didn't make a couple plays. I think that helped a lot."

Talbot (2-1) earned his first victory since April 11 -- he spent six weeks on the disabled list earlier this year with a right elbow strain -- after limiting the Blue Jays (28-27) to one run on six hits over 6 2/3 innings. His lone blemish was tacked on his pitching line after his exit.

Toronto struck for a pair of runs -- one was aided by a throwing error by Orlando Cabrera -- after reliever Joe Smith took over for Talbot in the seventh inning. Yunel Escobar added a solo homer off Indians lefty Tony Sipp in the ninth. The Blue Jays' late push, however, went for naught.

That was due to Cleveland's early explosion against Morrow.

Santana and Sizemore connected for consecutive doubles to put the Indians up, 1-0, in the second inning. Brantley tripled and later scored on an RBI single from Asdrubal Cabrera in the third. In a three-run fifth, Santana and Sizemore clubbed back-to-back doubles again, and Orlando Cabrera drove in a run with a base hit.

The result was a 6-0 advantage and a trip to the showers for Morrow, who fanned nine in his turbulent five frames. As good as that showing was for the Indians, though, the team felt it could have done better. The Tribe ended 4-for-16 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10 baserunners.

"There were times that we thought we could've tacked on a couple of more runs," Acta said. "But we hit a few extra-base hits that really helped today, and we did it against a very tough guy."

And the Indians looked like themselves again.

"Absolutely," Talbot said. "Defensively, we looked alive. Offensively, we looked alive. When a guy got on, we moved him over and got him in. That's what we were doing early in the season.

"Hopefully we're getting on track and getting ready to go." Comments