Hafner homers in sixth straight game

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Cleveland players had seen the scores.

Chicago had won, and so did Boston and New York.

The Indians needed another big victory, and once again they came through.

Travis Hafner homered in his sixth consecutive game and the Indians scored an unearned run in the ninth inning to defeat the Kansas City Royals 7-6 on Friday night, remaining 1½ games behind the first-place White Sox in the AL Central.

"It's fun," closer Bob Wickman said. "When we win, we don't have to look at the standings. When we lose, we have to hope that someone else lost."

Cleveland recovered after wasting a 6-2 lead and won for the ninth time in 10 games, maintaining a 1½-game lead over the Red Sox in the AL wild-card race. The White Sox, who led the Indians by 15 games in the division on Aug. 1, beat Minnesota 3-1.

"The bullpen and starters have been strong all year," Wickman said. "This series the hitters are picking us up."

With the score 6-all in the ninth, Grady Sizemore reached on a one-out error by second baseman Andres Blanco, who failed to come up with a routine grounder.

"I just missed it," Blanco said. "I was just trying to make a play and it took a little hop. It wasn't hit too hard. Those things are going to happen."

Sizemore was running full speed down the line.

"That's the way I play," he said. "It is nothing new. I want to put the pressure on the defense to get rid of the ball quick. At the end of the year all games are big. Kansas City is trying to be a spoiler."

Coco Crisp followed with a high bouncer that pitcher Mike MacDougal (4-6) threw wildly over the head of first baseman Joe McEwing for another error, and Jhonny Peralta hit a run-scoring single. With the bases loaded and two outs, Ronnie Belliard popped out.

"He's a fast guy and I was trying to make the play," MacDougal said. "We battled back. I gave up a run at the wrong time."

Bob Howry (7-3) won despite allowing a two-out homer in the eighth to Mark Teahen that tied the score at 6-6. Wickman pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his league-leading 45th save in 50 chances.

Hafner hit a two-run homer off Jose Lima in the third inning and is one short of tying the Cleveland record for consecutive games with home runs, set by Jim Thome from June 25-July 3, 2002.

"He's making them count. He's done a good job of carrying this offense, being in the middle part of the order," Sizemore said. "He's been a big guy for us. What he's going through now, he's doing what we all know he can do. It's nice to have a hitter like that hot at this time of year."

Hafner's last 10 hits have been for extra-bases.

"Two weeks ago, I couldn't hit anything," he said. "I've been working hard, trying to get a good pitch to hit to try to help the team. Our whole lineup, one through nine, there are no easy outs. If you walk a guy, we've got guys up and down the lineup who can drive the ball."

The game was delayed for 14 minutes in the bottom of the eighth because of a power outage that caused the left field lights to go dark. Cleveland led 6-5 at the time, and Teahen homered after play resumed.

Kansas City is 5-12 against the Indians this year, losing its last nine games. The Royals dropped to 52-101, three shy of the franchise record for losses set last year.

Cleveland's C.C. Sabathia, 8-1 in his previous nine starts, allowed five runs and seven hits in five innings, leaving with a 6-5 lead.

"He was not quite like has been, but he still gave us a chance to win," Cleveland manager Eric Wedge said.

Lima gave up five runs and five hits in 2 2/3 innings and has a 7.11 ERA, the highest in major-league history for a pitcher with 30 or more starts. He has yielded 31 home runs, third in the AL.

Chip Ambres led off the Royals' first with a home run -- the second leadoff home run by the Royals this season and third first since David DeJesus connected on April 23 against Chicago.

Jose Hernandez's RBI single tied the score in the second, and the Indians opened a 5-1 lead in the third on Peralta's run-scoring infield single, Hafner's homer and Belliard's RBI single that chased Lima.

Sabathia's run-scoring wild pitch cut the lead in the bottom half, and Victor Martinez made it 6-2 in the fifth an RBI double.

Kansas City closed within a run in the bottom half on Emil Brown's run-scoring single, Matt Stairs' sacrifice fly and John Buck's RBI single with two outs.

Game notes
The Indians have homered in 27 of their past 30 games. ... The Royals are 39-64 since Buddy Bell became manager.