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COL@CLE: Hafner powers a two-run shot in the sixth

CLEVELAND -- Redemption is sweet. Getting burned is sour. Getting burned twice would be toxic.

Chris Perez nearly left Progressive Field on Wednesday with a taste in his mouth bitter enough to make a lemon seem bland.

Instead, he finished off the Indians' 4-3 victory against the Rockies, failing to retire pesky Seth Smith for the second straight night, but nonetheless nailing down the three necessary outs in the ninth inning to cap another solid start by Josh Tomlin.

In the final frame of Tuesday's contest, Smith sent Perez's hanging slider into the seats in right-center field to give the Rockies a 4-3 lead they wouldn't relinquish. After Perez set down Jason Giambi and Troy Tulowitzki on strikes in the ninth Wednesday, Smith entered the batter's box looking to make lightning strike twice.

He nearly did.

Smith smoked a fastball off the right-field wall, missing a game-tying homer by mere inches. By the time Shin-Soo Choo chased down the baseball after it caromed, Smith stood at second base.

"I thought it was too low to go out," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "Boy, [Smith] was a pain for us this whole series. He can really hit a fastball."

Perez got Ty Wigginton to line out to center field to end the ballgame. Wigginton had already homered twice off Tomlin (9-4, 3.95).

"I want to have their best hitters up at the plate with the game on the line," Perez said. "Tonight they hit 3-4-5, so I got what I wanted. After last night, I definitely wanted to try to break [Smith's] bat or end the game on a strikeout, but luckily I got Wigginton out."

Perez's scoreless ninth wrapped up another ho-hum outing for the Indians' bullpen. Before Smith's home run Tuesday, the Tribe 'pen had shut out the opposition for 27 consecutive innings. After Tomlin added another exhibit to his model of consistency, three Cleveland relievers combined to strike out six batters in 2 2/3 innings.

"We know if we can get into the sixth or seventh inning with the lead, that we have a pretty good chance to win the game," Tomlin said.

Tomlin -- now tied for the American League lead in wins -- worked swiftly and efficiently, throwing 86 pitches over 6 1/3 innings. He allowed three runs on five hits and didn't walk a batter. Tomlin pitched at least five frames for the 27th straight start, the second-longest streak to begin a career in Major League history, behind Boston's Daisuke Matsuzaka (28).

"With Tomlin, I know what I'm going to get. ... I've never had to go out there and get him before the fifth," Acta said, pounding his fist on his desk to embellish the "knock on wood" superstition. "He makes our job easier."

Wigginton proved to be Tomlin's kryptonite, as the first baseman took the pitcher deep twice, both times cutting an Indians' lead to one run. His two-run shot in the seventh inning ended Tomlin's night.

"Both pitches were right down the middle," Tomlin said. "He's a mistake killer. You leave the ball up to him, he's going to hurt you. He hurt me twice."

On Tuesday, Rockies starter Jhoulys Chacin baffled Indians hitters with what Tribe skipper Manny Acta termed "effectively wild" pitching. Chacin carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning.

This time around, the Indians got to the Colorado staff a bit earlier.

Left fielder Travis Buck led off the third inning with a double to right field. He scored on Grady Sizemore's RBI single two batters later. Then, Rockies starter Jason Hammel (4-7, 4.13) gifted the Indians a run with a two-out balk, scoring Jack Hannahan.

"I can honestly tell you I forgot what I was throwing," Hammel said. "I just picked up that runner at third, looked home, started my motion and forgot what I was throwing. It was between a fastball and a slider. I just forgot. Never happened before."

Designated hitter Travis Hafner continued his surge since returning from the 15-day disabled list Friday. "Pronk" powered a two-run homer just inside the right-field foul pole in the sixth inning to boost the Indians' advantage to 4-1. Hafner has five hits, two home runs and seven RBIs in five games since rejoining the ballclub.

The Indians closed their six-game Interleague homestead at 4-2. Just as importantly, Acta said, they head out on a nine-game road trip on a winning note after losing a pair of one-run games to Colorado the two previous nights.

Cleveland has an off-day Thursday, meaning the Tribe can savor that sweet taste of redemption for an extra 24 hours.

"With the game on the line again and the same guy up, that's why we play," Perez said. "He's gotten the best of me two nights, but we still got the 'W' today, so that's important. And luckily he's in the NL, so I won't face him again unless it's the World Series." Comments