KANSAS CITY -- Tribe first baseman Matt LaPorta broke out of his 0-for-15 slump in dramatic fashion, launching his first career grand slam in Saturday's 6-4 victory over the Royals.But the fact that such funks have been rather commonplace for LaPorta speaks to the learning curve he is experiencing at the Major League level. LaPorta has had several stretches this season in which his bat seems to disappear, only to reemerge thanks to the kind of raw power he displayed with that poke. Consider this: Four of LaPorta's last seven hits have been home runs. That's a testament to LaPorta's power. The problem, of course, is that those seven hits have come in a 17-game span. He entered Sunday's series finale in a 3-for-36 stretch. "[The struggles] are helping me get better," LaPorta said. "Everything is all good when you don't have to overcome anything. But for me, it's been nice to go through struggles, because you learn from your mistakes and you learn how to keep your head up through those tough times." Manager Manny Acta had given LaPorta a two-day breather to clear his head before his Saturday heroics. The Indians hope the grand slam was a sign of things to come.
Masterson to finish season in Tribe 'pen
KANSAS CITY -- The plans for Tribe right-hander Justin Masterson have undergone several renovations in recent weeks. The one constant has been that the Indians want to cap his innings around the 180 mark this year, but the way he's getting to that threshold has fluctuated frequently.The latest development is that Masterson will, indeed, finish the year in the bullpen. But first, a little background. Masterson was pulled from the rotation and placed in the bullpen a week and a half ago so that he could stretch out his remaining workload to the end of the season while pitching in high-leverage situations. Then, Mitch Talbot got hurt, and Masterson was called into emergency relief duty last Sunday against the Twins, working seven innings. With Talbot out for one turn through the rotation, Masterson was given Saturday's start, with the expectation that he'd toss around seven innings, hit the 180 mark and call it a year. But the rain that halted play for one hour, 23 minutes in the bottom of the fourth Saturday night also halted Masterson's start. Because of the long delay, he didn't come back out when play resumed, and his innings count is now at 176 1/3. So, what's the plan now? "Tuesday is the first day he'll be available out of the 'pen," manager Manny Acta said. Masterson, who has a 1.45 ERA and .213 average against in his last five appearances, is all for any scenario that keeps him active. "I just go with the flow," he said.
Laffey back after Columbus wins crown
KANSAS CITY -- Even at the Triple-A level, champagne tastes pretty sweet.Tribe left-hander Aaron Laffey, freshly promoted from Columbus, can attest to that, having been a part of the Clippers' run to the International League title, which was capped by Friday's clinching 13-2 win in Durham. "We destroyed the Durham visitor's clubhouse," Laffey said. "There was an inch of standing champagne and beer on the floor of the clubhouse. We definitely made sure to do it right. [Pitching coach Charles] Nagy said it best. 'Any time you get a chance to celebrate, do it.'" Laffey was the only Columbus player promoted in the wake of the title, though more players will come after Columbus faces Pacific Coast League champ Tacoma on Tuesday in Oklahoma City for the Triple-A title. "A lot of guys down there are in their first year in Triple-A, so it was awesome for them to get that experience," Laffey said. "Now they get to go out to Oklahoma City and play in that one-game playoff. I think that's a pretty cool idea for them to have the winner from each league face each other and come up with an actual champion for all of Triple-A baseball." Laffey, meanwhile, is back to pitching out of the Tribe bullpen after getting shut down in mid-July with left shoulder fatigue. "I feel really good," he said. "I feel strong. I'm where I need to be. I'm looking forward to getting the chance to throw a couple more times before the end of the year."
Michael Brantley's hitting streak rolled on with his seventh-inning single in the Indians' 6-4 loss to the Royals on Sunday. The streak is now at 19 games, the longest active streak in the Majors and the longest by a Tribe rookie since Larry Doby hit in 21 straight in 1948. It's the longest streak by an Indians player since Casey Blake hit in 26 straight in June 2007. ... Indians designated hitter Travis Hafner was pulled from Saturday's 6-4 win over the Royals during its fourth and final delay to avoid complications with his right shoulder. The last time the Indians had a game that stopped and started several times, Hafner began to experience soreness in the shoulder, and manager Manny Acta said he wanted to avoid that this time around. Acta gave Hafner the day off Sunday but said it was a standard day off and not shoulder-related. ... So, how do you kill three-hours, 40-minutes worth of rain delays? For the Indians, college football was the key. Tribe players said they were glued to the tube while waiting out the storms that held up the action at Kauffman Stadium on Saturday night. "Luckily, football was on for us," Trevor Crowe said. "You just pig out on some snacks and hang out." ... The delays led to the rare sight of a cleaning crew wiping down seats and picking up trash in the upper deck in preparation for Sunday's game, all while Saturday's game was still taking place.