Bullpen gives away Bannister's lead

Bullpen gives away Bannister's lead

CLEVELAND -- Mike Sweeney was limping from a groin pull and hurting from a loss.

"I've read this book," Sweeney said. "I've seen this story before at The Jake."

It was another late lightning strike -- Casey Blake's ninth-inning home run -- that gave the Indians a 5-4 victory over the Royals on Friday night. The first-place Indians reduced their magic number for clinching a playoff spot to 10.

"It seems like every game we play here is like this. We're one pitch, or they're one hit away from a win, in our case," manager Buddy Bell said.

It was David Riske's first pitch of two different innings that enabled the Indians to rally for this victory.

The 35,230 fans were roaring after Riske's first pitch of the Indians' eighth inning. Victor Martinez launched a high drive that right fielder Mark Teahen leaped for, but it was just out of his reach. That gave the Indians a 4-4 tie.

Riske went out for the ninth and threw one pitch. Blake smashed it high and well over the left-field wall to end the game.

"It was just two pitches I wasn't really aggressive on, and both of them were up and out," Riske said. "One wasn't hit very good, and one was hit really good.

"But that's how it is."

Martinez's ball looked as though it might stay in the park, but the wind was wafting toward right. The ball banged off the top of the wall for a 362-foot homer, Martinez's 22nd.

"He's a great hitter. I love him to death, but I think he got a little help there," said Riske, an ex-Indian.

In the top of the ninth inning, Indians closer Joe Borowski walked Teahen and gave up a two-out single to Tony Pena, but he retired Alex Gordon on a long fly.

To the mound went Riske, to the plate went Blake.

"I was trying to throw a strike down and away, and I left it up in the middle of the plate, missed completely with it, and he made me pay," he said.

This all began as a duel between an American League Cy Young Award candidate, Indians left-hander C.C. Sabathia, and an AL Rookie of the Year candidate, Royals right-hander Brian Bannister.

When the two pitchers were finished, Sabathia had an impressive 13 strikeouts -- a career high -- in seven innings. But Bannister, who went six innings, held the lead at 4-1.

A shaky 29-pitch first inning by Bannister ended with the Indians ahead, 1-0. Grady Sizemore led off with a walk, stole his 33rd base and raced home as Travis Hafner's line drive had Bannister ducking for safety.

"I thought I got Sizemore on a couple of checked swings -- it was close," Bannister said. "It really wasn't much that manufactured the run. He stole the base and they hit up the middle, and it almost killed me."

From then on, Bannister sailed. And the Royals, after four innings of meek surrender, charged to four runs in the fifth. Emil Brown and Pena, who singled, were on base with two outs.

Then it was off to the races. David DeJesus singled in a run, Mark Grudzielanek singled in two, Sweeney doubled in another. On Grudzielanek's hit, DeJesus gambled and scored from first base, sliding past a tag. Sweeney's drive barely outdistanced center fielder Sizemore.

But as Sweeney was running the bases, he suffered a pull in the right groin area and was limping. When the time came for his next at-bat as the DH, Shane Costa stepped in for him.

"They say I'm day to day," Sweeney said, eating a postgame snack and moving slowly. "It's the upper groin on the right side. It just hit while I was running."

Bannister was relieved by Joel Peralta in the seventh. Almost immediately, on Kenny Lofton's single and Franklin Gutierrez's home run, the Indians shrank the Royals' lead to one run.

"They got three swings of the bat and got four runs and won the game," Bell said. "We score four, and we need to have a guy score from first base on a single. At some point, it'd be nice to just make it easy.

"This [Indians] team, the way they're playing, the way they're winning all year, it just seems like everything just falls into place."

That's chapter and verse for the Indians. Sweeney has read that book.

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.