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06/12/09 1:00 AM ET
Fly-off winner: Bird helps Tribe beat KC
Choo's game-winning single in 10th gets boost from seagull
By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com
CLEVELAND -- A feather lay in Progressive Field's outfield grass as the Indians celebrated their 10-inning, 4-3 victory over the Royals on Thursday night. It was a souvenir, of sorts, left behind by the seagull struck by Shin-Soo Choo's game-winning, line-drive single off Kyle Farnsworth. And perhaps it's a suitable symbol for a Tribe team that finally has a feather in its cap. The ball that struck a bird will get all the attention, but what the Indians will take away from this win is the sense of satisfaction that comes with a late rally and the sense of optimism that comes with back-to-back series victories against American League Central opponents. They are back out of the AL Central cellar and hoping to keep pushing their way forward. "Our guys have been playing better baseball for a while now," manager Eric Wedge said. "They're working hard to put up good at-bats and make pitches." The Indians knew they'd have their work cut out for them against early AL Cy Young Award candidate Zack Greinke. And his 7 1/3 innings of work had the Tribe on the doorstep to defeat in the eighth. "When you're facing Greinke," first baseman Ryan Garko said, "you know it's going to be a tough one." But the Tribe toughed this one out, and that began with strong efforts from starter Jeremy Sowers and reliever Greg Aquino. Sowers turned in an effective, albeit brief, outing. He needed 99 pitches to get through five innings, but the only damage came on the two runs the Royals put together in the fifth. In all, Sowers gave up six hits with one walk and continued to show improvement in terms of his ability to remain sharp the second and third time through a big league lineup. All Sowers has to do now is get those outs a little more efficiently. "Ideally, I'd like to extend my innings more," he said. "I'm running into trouble with high-pitch innings. But we kept the game close." It was a 2-1 game when Sowers left. The Indians had staked him to a 1-0 lead on Victor Martinez's RBI single off Greinke in the third, but the Royals had brought home a pair in the fifth on David DeJesus' RBI double and Billy Butler's RBI groundout. Aquino did his best to keep it close by working three effective innings in which he allowed just a Miguel Olivo solo shot in the eighth. Still, that blast seemed to be quite a bit of insurance in this tight tilt. Then came the bottom of the eighth, and the entire tenor of the ballgame took a turn in the Tribe's favor. With one out, Mark DeRosa, who reached base in all five of his plate appearances, ripped a single, and Martinez followed with a walk. The Indians had done what they hoped to do, chasing Greinke from the game. It was up to Choo to deliver the big knock against left-hander John Bale. Instead, Choo sent a grounder to first for what looked to be a 3-6-1 double play. "As soon as I hit it, I was thinking I would have to run hard to avoid the double play," Choo said. He avoided it, all right, thanks to a wide throw to Bale at first from shortstop Tony Pena. DeRosa scored to make it 3-2, and the wide throw home from second baseman Alberto Callaspo, who backed up the play at first, allowed Choo to advance to second. Up came Jhonny Peralta, with the tying run in scoring position. The Royals sent in closer Joakim Soria, and Peralta lifted a high fly to left that seemed destined for the bleachers. "When he hit it, I thought it was out of here," Wedge said. "It hung up there for a little bit." The ball kicked off the 19-foot wall in left for the game-tying double. "Soria threw [Peralta] a breaking ball," Wedge said. "Jhonny stayed with his approach and hit it good." Kerry Wood and Matt Herges held the Royals scoreless in the ninth and 10th innings, and the Indians put themselves in a position to win against Farnsworth in the 10th when DeRosa led off with a single and Martinez followed with a walk. "DeRosa was on base all night," Wedge said. "That was no small task with the pitching we faced." Mounting this late rally was no small task for an Indians team that came in with a 3-25 record in games they trailed after seven innings. But Choo completed the comeback win when he ripped a line drive up the middle. The ball kicked in the outfield grass before striking the seagull and rolling all the way to the center field wall. "I saw in the video that I hit the bird," Choo said. "The bird helped. I'll take it." The stunned bird wobbled around for a little while in the outfield grass before finally taking flight again. The Indians, who endured the roughest of starts to the season, hope to follow a similar path.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.