Cliff Lee was in fine form early.
Jose Hernandez delivered a pinch-hit single to drive in the go-ahead run in the eighth inning as the Indians bounced back to beat Seattle, 6-5, Thursday night. The Indians' bullpen nearly blew its second game in a row, allowing the Mariners to come back from a 5-2 deficit to tie the score.
Jeff Liefer opened the Indians' eighth with a double and was replaced by pinch-runner Brandon Phillips, who was bunted over to third by Aaron Boone. After Casey Blake struck out, Mariners manager Mike Hargrove called on left-hander Ron Villone to face lefty-swinging Ben Broussard. Tribe skipper Eric Wedge countered with right-hander Jose Hernandez, who strode to the plate hitting .330 against lefties this year and promptly stroked an RBI single.
Bob Howry (6-2) got the last out of the seventh inning, worked a perfect eighth and turned it over to Bob Wickman, who had blown a save the previous day in Oakland.
This time, the right-hander got his 26th save, allowing only one runner to reach -- on a throwing error by shortstop Jhonny Peralta. But he got Ichiro Suzuki to hit into a double play to end it -- only the second time all season that the Mariners' star outfielder grounded into a twin-killing.
Scott Sauerbeck relieved starter Cliff Lee with two on and two outs in the seventh and Cleveland leading, 5-2 -- but yielded a three-run homer to Raul Ibanez to tie it, 5-5.
Cleveland took a 3-0 lead in the third inning. Ron Belliard doubled, Peralta walked and Victor Martinez hit a 1-2 pitch for his 12th homer. Martinez had three of Cleveland's 11 hits.
Lee held Seattle scoreless for the first 4 1/3 innings. Then Mario Olivo, hitting only .143 (21-for-147) hit his fifth homer. Suzuki followed with a triple and scored on a groundout to cut the Indians' lead to 3-2.
Belliard hit a two-run single in the seventh to make it 5-2. Broussard and Jason Dubois each singled and both were bunted over by Grady Sizemore to set up Belliard.
Cleveland got consecutive singles by Martinez and Peralta with one out in the ninth, but Phillips swung and missed at three pitches and Boone struck out on five pitches to end the chance to pad the 6-5 lead.
Yuniesky Betancourt, called up from the minors before the game by Seattle, hit a second-inning triple off Lee in his first at-bat in the majors. Betancourt is no relation to Indians reliever Rafael Betancourt, who hails from Venezuela. The Mariners' 23-year-old infielder fled Cuba on a raft in 2003 and lived in Mexico before signing a $2.86 million contract with Seattle in January.
CLASS AAA BUFFALO (60-47) lost at home to Pawtucket, 3-2, as Fernando Cabrera (6-1, 1.12 ERA) gave up a tiebreaking ninth-inning homer. It was the only hit allowed by the right-hander in three innings. He struck out three without a walk. Starter Jeremy Guthrie (5.40 ERA) struck out eight without a walk over six innings, giving up two runs and seven hits. Mike Kinkade (.277) went 3-for-4 and Jose Morban (.288) had two hits including a solo homer, his second, for the Bisons.
CLASS AA AKRON (58-45) edged visiting Harrisburg, 4-3, as Ryan Mulhern (.259) hit a two-run homer, his sixth, in the bottom of the eighth inning. Eider Torres (.261) also had two hits for the Aeros. Mariano Gomez (2-2, 6.38 ERA) gave up one unearned run over two innings, but got the win. Starter Dan Denham (3.05 ERA) gave up two runs (one earned) over seven innings. He allowed fives hits and no walks, striking out seven.
CLASS A KINSTON (14-19) got only one hit, a fourth-inning single by Rodney Choy Foo, in a 6-0 loss at Wilmington. Tom Mastny (5-3, 2.47 ERA) gave up only one run over 5 2/3 innings. Chris Niesel (4.95 ERA) allowed five runs, though only two were earned, over 1 2/3 innings. First baseman Stephen Head (.360), who was hit in the back of the head with an errant pickoff throw while on base Wednesday night, did not play. Team officials said he was available and should soon return to the lineup, possibly as early as Friday.
CLASS A LAKE COUNTY (15-17) edged visiting Delmarva, 7-6, as Brian Finegan (.299) singled home the go-ahead run in the bottom of the eighth. Tim Montgomery (.286) had two hits, including a two-run homer, his fourth, while Josh Noviskey (.252) hit a solo shot, also his fourth, and drove in two runs. Matt Whitney (.229) had three hits and Finegan, Montgomery, Ricardo Rojas and Trevor Crowe all had stolen bases for the Captains. Jesus Soto (1-0) pitched one perfect inning for the win and Kieran Mattison (3.50 ERA) worked a scoreless ninth for his 18th save. Captains starter Aaron Laffey gave up six runs over 5 1/3 innings to hike his ERA from 2.54 to 2.90 and T.J. Burton (3.56 ERA) worked a scoreless 1 2/3 innings.
CLASS A MAHONING VALLEY (20-17) blanked visiting Auburn 5-0 as Ryan Edell (1-1, 2.17 ERA) gave up six hits without a walk and struck out six over 5 1/3 innings. Jason Stanford made his second rehab start for the Scrappers and gave up one hit in one inning. Matt Loberg (2.30 ERA) allowed one hit over the final 2 2/3 innings for his fourth save. Derrick Peterson (.267) had two hits and two RBI, while Jose Constanza (.256) and Andy Lytle (.222) also had two hits apiece. Constanza also had two stolen bases, giving him 13 in 14 attempts for Mahoning Valley.
ROOKIE LEAGUE BURLINGTON (15-21) beat Bluefield, 4-1 at home. Christopher Hicks (1-3, 4.01 ERA) pitched five scoreless innings, giving up two hits, two walks, and striking out eight. Albert Vargas (1.02 ERA) yielded one run over three innings and Mike Finnochi (1.84 ERA) struck out two in a perfect ninth for his first save. Nick Petrucci (.233) hit a solo homer, his sixth. Jansy Infante (.273), Niuman Romero (.271) and Petrucci all had two hits apiece.