Sabathia pitches, hits Tribe by Reds

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 29, 2005

CINCINNATI (AP) - Left-hander C.C. Sabathia pitched six innings and put a spark in the Cleveland Indians' listless offense Saturday night, hitting his first career home run for a 5-3 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.

Sabathia's two-run shot off Elizardo Ramirez (0-2) put the Indians ahead to stay in the fourth inning and upheld the pitching staff's tradition of swinging like a DH whenever it faces the Reds.

Seven AL pitchers have homered since interleague play began in 1997, four of them Indians. Sabathia, Dwight Gooden and Dave Burba have homered against their intrastate rival, and Jason Davis homered off Atlanta's Russ Ortiz on June 20 last year.

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With one swing, Sabathia matched Cleveland's entire run production in its two previous games. Cleveland was batting a league-low .237 and had scored 154 runs, also the worst in the AL, after losing the series opener 2-1 on Friday.

Sabathia (3-3) also emerged from a personal three-game losing streak, getting his first victory since April 29. He gave up seven hits and three runs, two of them earned.

Bob Wickman pitched the ninth for his 12th save in 14 chances. Wickman has converted his last eight save opportunities, and hasn't allowed a run during eight appearances in May.

The Reds have lost 17 of their last 22 games, tumbling into last place in the NL Central during a month of misery. They haven't won consecutive games since April 17-18.

Ken Griffey Jr. drove in a pair of runs with a single and a groundout in his first two at-bats, helping the Reds pull ahead 3-1. He also had an over-the-shoulder catch on Aaron Boone's drive to the warning track in center field in the second inning.

All Griffey could do was watch Sabathia's ball clear the wall in the fourth, drawing a huge cheer from a vocal contingent of Indians fans in the crowd of 31,083.

Sabathia watched Griffey - his favorite athlete as a boy growing up in California - give chase and then give up as the ball landed a scant 5 feet beyond the wall. Sabathia dropped his head in respect for the opposing pitcher and rounded the bases without a hint of celebration.

Sabathia was 5-for-20 career when he connected off Ramirez, who fell behind 2-0 in the count and was just trying to throw a strike. Ramirez grabbed the rosin bag, squeezed it angrily and threw it at the ground while Sabathia completed his 360-foot trot.

Sabathia made contact in all three at-bats, hitting a fly ball and a groundout. Manager Eric Wedge let him bat in the top of the seventh instead of sending up a pinch-hitter, then went to the bullpen in the bottom of the inning.

Notes: Cleveland leads the intrastate series 20-15. … Alex Cora, who had a double and scored in Cleveland's loss Friday, started at 2B in place of Ronnie Belliard, the latest move by Wedge to shake up a slumping lineup. Cora had a double in three at-bats. … C Victor Martinez snapped an 0-for-17 slump with an RBI single in the first. … LF Jody Gerut has hit safely in each of his first three games since returning from reconstructive knee surgery last September. … Reds pitchers have hit four batters during the series. … Sabathia's homer was the 63rd off Cincinnati pitching, the most in the majors.