Elarton pitched five-hit ball into the eighth inning and Hafner
homered twice, leading the Indians to an 8-0 victory over
first-place Chicago on Wednesday night. Cleveland took two of three
in the crucial series, helped by Hafner's four home runs.
"Probably in my dream we would have won all three," Hafner
said. "I was able to get in a pretty good groove and put some good
swings on some pitches."
The Indians, who trailed by 15 games on Aug. 1, won for the 14th
time in 16 tries and bounced back from a 10-inning loss Tuesday
night when Joe Crede hit a game-winning homer.
"Every game from here on out is big. To push it back to 2½ was
big," the 6-foot-8 Elarton said. "We think that we can still
shoot for it. If it doesn't happen, so be it. We just want to make
Hafner, who has homered in four straight games overall, hit a
long, three-run shot to center off Jon Garland in the eighth to
quiet a loud sellout crowd of 36,543. He added a two-run shot off
Jeff Bajenaru in the ninth, giving him a career-high 30 for the
season and 100 RBI.
"I really didn't feel like I was able to get any good swings
off Garland all night, just had trouble getting anything timed,"
Hafner said. "I was just able to get a pitch and stay inside of
Garland left the clubhouse without talking to reporters, telling
a team spokesman "tell them I didn't have it."
The Indians pushed their wild-card lead to one game over Boston
while also putting more pressure on the White Sox, who've been in
first place every day this season, but have lost nine of 13.
And on paper, at least, the Indians have an easier schedule over
the final 11 days of the season -- four games at Kansas City, an off
day, three home games against Tampa Bay and then a three-game
finale at home against the White Sox.
Before the White Sox go to Jacobs Field, they must play four
games at home against the Twins and then four in Detroit.
"It's tough to tell with baseball. We've been playing pretty
well and hopefully we can continue to win games," Hafner said.
"Hopefully, that series at the end of the year means something, it
would be pretty exciting."
Facing Elarton for the third time this season, the White Sox
couldn't generate a rally and spent most of the night hitting
popups and fly balls.
"They are definitely playing the best of any team in baseball.
And we wanted to take two out of three, so it's disappointing,"
Chicago's Paul Konerko said.
"I said before the series it was not the end of the season for
any team, if they swept us or we swept them. ... It's still up for
grabs, everything is up for grabs. But we are still 2½ games up,
and I like having the lead."
Winning his fourth straight start, Elarton (11-7) allowed a
third-inning single by Tadahito Iguchi and then not another hit
until Aaron Rowand singled to lead off the eighth. After giving up
another single to Crede, he was replaced by Bob Howry.
Garland (17-10), who started the season 8-0 and was 13-4 at the
All-Star break, has just two wins in his last 10 starts. He gave up
five runs and seven hits in 7 1-3 innings.
Blake homered for the second time in two games, a solo shot to
right to give Elarton a 1-0 cushion in the third.
When Garland's pitch went behind the shoulder of Jhonny Peralta
and got past catcher A.J. Pierzynski, Sizemore raced home, beating
a throw to Garland with a good slide after Pierzynski made a quick
retrieval and tossed to the plate.
Garland pitched out of a tough jam in the seventh after Victor
Martinez singled and Ronnie Belliard doubled with none out. After
getting a groundball for the first out with the runners holding, he
intentionally walked Aaron Boone before Blake hit into a double
But in the eighth, Sizemore singled and, after another sacrifice
by Crisp, Peralta walked. After getting in an 0-2 hole and then
fouling off several pitches, Hafner connected on a full count.
Hafner, hit in the face by a pitch from Chicago's Mark
Buehrle in July, has eight career multihomer games, including three
this year. ... Elarton's only major league shutout came on Aug. 29,
2004, when he pitched a two-hitter against the White Sox in